Players to Watch in the 2010 FIFA World Cup

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The 2010 FIFA World Cup, kicking off in South Africa this month, offers numerous chances for intrigue and upsets. With South Africa being the first African nation to host the Cup, many are hoping that an African nation may take the cup for the first time. Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa all fall in this category. Other teams thought to be strong contenders include Italy, France, Germany, England, Brazil, and Argentina.

But none of these teams will go far if their top players can’t step up. This year’s tournament has a particularly strong group of players who promise to unleash lots of fireworks on the world stage. Here are some of the most exciting players to watch this year.

1. Lionel Messi, Argentina: Messi is arguably the greatest player in the world, but he’s still never been on a World Cup-winning team. He’s coming off of a stellar season at La Liga in which he scored 34 goals, and he’s likely to enter the tournament hungry for victories. The Argentina team is hot off it’s 2008 Beijing win, and they’ll be looking to Messi to lead them to greatness.

2. Landon Donovan, United States: L.A. Galaxy star Landon Donovan is widely considered to be one of the best players in Major League Soccer, and he is already the U.S. national team’s all-time leader in scoring and assists. At 28, Donovan has already had two great World Cups, and he’ll be looking to improve his record even further. When Donovan is on, the Americans expect to win.

3. Wayne Rooney, England: After many had speculated that injuries would keep him out of this year’s Cup, Wayne Rooney has something to prove. Coming off of the best season of his career, he’ll lead a powerful pack of English attackers who promise to score a lot of goals. Rooney’s knack for amazing shots may also provide some of the tournament’s best highlights.

4. Sami Khedira, Germany: Now that Michael Ballack is officially out due to injury, Germans need someone to step up and try to fill Ballack’s large shoes. There are many contenders for this role, but some are speculating that Khedira has the best chances of putting in a breakout performance in the tournament. Will he or one of his teammates rise to the challenge, or will this be a World Cup for Germans to forget?

5. Kaka, Brazil: Kaka shined in the 2006 tournament, and with Ronaldinho no longer on the roster, Kaka will now have the chance to show the world everything he can do. As a great all-around midfielder, Kaka may not provide the highlight-reel goals, but he should provide a powerful catalyst to help get Brazil far in this year’s tournament.

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