1

Lionel Messi
Position: Forward Age: 22

Country: Argentina Club Team: Barcelona

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 41 appearances, 13 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 3 app, 1 goal

Lionel Messi is the best pound-for-pound soccer player in the world, and perhaps of all time. At 22, Messi has won just about everything there is to win, both individually and in club soccer. Missing is any sort of hardware with Argentina, aside from an Olympic gold medal. Messi's game relies on its unpredictability and magnificent control of the ball, which seldom demurs to anything Messi asks it to do. Listed at a charitable 5-foot-7, he's even a good header. While transcendent with his club, Barcelona, in the last few years (his 17 goals this season are tied for the most in Spain), the knock on Messi has been that he doesn't match that dominance for Argentina. For the most part, this is blamed on Argentina manager Diego Maradona's refusal to deploy him in his natural position -- on the right, allowing him to cut in -- and posting him behind a deep striker instead. Maradona, one of the best of all time as a player, has named Messi his successor as Argentina's soccer savior, a label that has proved disastrous for all others so designated previously by Maradona. Scouting thumbnail: Technical genius with a low center of gravity and pace who can break down any defense off the dribble and conjure something out of nothing. Struggles when used as a striker and prefers playing out wide and cutting in on his left foot.
Rank Player

2

Cristiano Ronaldo

Country: Portugal

Position: Midfielder Age: 25

Club Team:

Real Madrid

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 68 appearances, 22 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 6 app, 1 goal

"Buy that kid," Manchester United players told manager Alex Ferguson after an 18-year old Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, whose middle name allegedly honors Ronald Reagan, had torched Man U in a friendly in the summer of 2003. Ferguson obliged his players' wishes, shelling out some $20 million and handing Ronaldo the No. 7 jersey, previously worn by legends George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. Ronaldo responded by outdoing all of the aforementioned in a six-year romp during which he scored 118 goals and won three Premier League titles, one Champions League and one Club World Cup, swiping 42 individual prizes, including the 2008 FIFA World Footballer of the Year, along the way. Last summer, Ferguson sold him to Real Madrid for a record $132 million. Ronaldo has become a lethal dribbler, superlative header and long-distance shooter and one of the better free-kick takers on the planet and will anchor an aging Portugal looking to shine one last time. Scouting thumbnail: Explosive, pacy and an astonishingly prolific goal scorer for a winger. Specializes in long-range free kicks and shows the ability to shoot from anywhere.

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Player

3

Wayne Rooney
Position: Forward Age: 24

Country: England Club Team: Manchester United

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 57 appearances, 25 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 4 app, 0 goals

When Wayne Rooney broke through internationally at just 17 years of age and took his place next to then-England striker Michael Owen, a British journalist referred to them as "the babyfaced assassin and the assassin-faced baby," with Rooney accounting for the less flattering of the descriptions. An England side without him has become unimaginable, as the Liverpool-born Rooney developed into a world-class striker in a country starved for them. The highly athletic Rooney has reinvented his position, swerving all over the attacking half of the field to drop back into midfield when needed or provide the final tap on a goal. With former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo now in Spain, Rooney has carried the scoring load for Man U, leading the Premier League with 23 goals. Rooney sports a tattoo that says, "Just Enough Education To Perform." While this may be generous, his on-field intelligence is off the charts. One half of another British power couple, Rooney and his wife Colleen have taken England by storm, he as a soccer player and she as a fitness guru/fashion commentator of some sort. Scouting thumbnail: Complete striker who can play anywhere across the front three. Powerful build and aggressive attitude poses problems for any defense. Can score any type of goal and has improved his finishing skills.
Rank Player

4

Kaka
Position: Midfielder Age: 27

Country: Brazil Club Team: Real Madrid

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 73 appearances, 26 goals WORLD CUP 2002, '06: 6 app, 1 goal

Kaka belongs to Jesus. The T-shirts he has shown underneath his jersey say so. An oxymoronic principled soccer player, Kaka also happens to be the rare Brazilian star who comes from an upper-middle-class background. Money couldn't tear him away from Milan and its fans. Kaka said he wasn't interested in the heaps of money offered him by Manchester City and Real Madrid. So long as Milan would have him, he would be staying. Milan needed his transfer fee to stay afloat though, so after Kaka won everything there is to win for club and self, Milan sold him to Real Madrid for about $95 million in June. So now Kaka also belongs to Real Madrid. Kaka has become a central figure in manager Dunga's new Brazil, masterminding its lethal counterattacks, which have made a Brazil team not as deep in world-class players as in past years still one of the world's best. Scouting thumbnail: Knee injuries have sapped some of his speed and he no longer goes on galloping dribbles the entire length of the field. Artistic playmaker who can break down defenses via dribble or pass.

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Player

5

Xavi
Position: Midfielder Age: 30

Country: Spain Club Team: Barcelona

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 83 appearances, 8 goals WORLD CUP 2002, '06: 7 app, 0 goals

Every soccer team needs a Xavi, a savvy midfielder whose organizational skills are the glue that held both Barcelona and Spain together in their respective runs to glory. Along with Andres Iniesta he makes up the superb engine room for club and country, connecting the dots between those around him with his infallible short passes. The natural successor to Pep Guardiola, now Barcelona's manager, Xavi has been a mainstay in Barcelona's lineup since 1998 after joining the club's academy in 1991. With a contract running through 2014, he isn't liable to be leaving the only employer he has ever had anytime soon. His Player of the Tournament award for Spain's EURO 2008 triumph was justified. Perhaps the best illustration of the force that is Xavi was his performance against archrivals Real Madrid in May 2009, when he notched four assists in a 6-2 Barcelona win. Scouting thumbnail: Intelligent playmaker who combines precise passes and artistic vision in both the final third and from a deep lying position. The pulse of the Spanish team. Superb ability to keep the ball.
Rank Player

6

Didier Drogba
Position: Forward Age: 31

Country: Ivory Coast Club Team: Chelsea

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 65 appearances, 43 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 2 app, 1 goal

When Chelsea splashed out $37 million for him in 2004, Didier Drogba seemingly came out of nowhere, uncommonly late in arriving on the world scene at 26. Now 31, he nonetheless has become one of the world's foremost strikers, and probably the most athletic one. Both captain and all-time leading scorer of Ivory Coast, he will be relied upon to debunk the stereotype that for all their ability, African teams never perform. This robust striker both takes up and covers a lot of real estate, often requiring several opposing defenders to keep him in check -- although Premier League opponents haven't been too successful at that this season, as Drogba ranks second to Wayne Rooney with 19 goals. Known for his big personality and intense looks, Drogba is spectacular to the eye. Scouting thumbnail: Talismanic striker and physical specimen whose power makes him practically unplayable when he puts his mind to it. Can score all types of goals and excels as a lone front man.

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Player

7

Andres Iniesta
Position: Midfielder Age: 25

Country: Spain Club Team: Barcelona

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM

39 appearances, 6 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 1 app, 0 goals

There's a reason they call him "El Illusionista" -- "The Illusionist." Andres Iniesta is a whimsical playmaker who transcends position and role to create a steady flow of chances for whoever is lucky enough to be playing in front of him. So multifunctional as to be capable of slotting into just about any midfield or attacking job, Iniesta is the creative counterpart to Xavi's pragmatism in Barcelona's and Spain's golden tandem. Coming up as Ronaldinho's understudy, Catalunya and all of Spain now shudder at the thought of life without Iniesta. Luckily, lithe as he may be, he has an uncanny ability to play through injury. Scouting thumbnail: Small, technical playmaker with low center of gravity and tremendous ball control and creative vision, regarded by some peers as the best player in the world. Very difficult to dispossess and can also run at defenders and take them off the dribble. Sometimes overpasses when he should take the shot himself.
Rank Player

8

Fernando Torres
Position: Forward Age: 25

Country: Spain Club Team: Liverpool

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 71 appearances, 23 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 4 app, 3 goals

Fernando Torres was born to score goals. He was converted from a goalkeeper to a striker at age 7 and scored 55 goals as a 10-year-old, which caught the attention of his beloved Atlético Madrid, which had relaunched its academy after disbanding it a few years earlier (sending

superstar Raul into the arms of Real Madrid). The club wouldn't make that mistake a second time. Torres broke into Atlético's starting lineup at 17 and never did stop scoring goals, earning him a transfer to Liverpool in 2007. At 25, Torres, the embodiment of the modern striker, already has 132 competitive league goals under his belt. Scouting thumbnail: Well-rounded, pacy striker with tremendous technique who draws much support as the best in the world. Likes to play off the shoulder of the last defender and can finish with aplomb with either foot and is also superb in the air. Can sometimes be thrown off his game if defenders dish out the rough treatment and the referees are lax in calling fouls.

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9

Steven Gerrard
Position: Midfielder Age: 29

Country: England Club Team: Liverpool

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 77 appearances, 16 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 5 app, 2 goals

Dismissed as too slight for professional soccer as a child, Gerrard went on to be voted the secondbest Liverpool player of all time by the club's fans and is even a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Several clubs passed on him when he was in his teens, before his hometown Liverpool finally committed to him. Regret it they did not, as Gerrard emerged as a superb attacking midfielder, who also operates as a second striker or as a winger. Gerrard is a nine-year veteran of England, pairing with Frank Lampard to form the best duo of attacking midfielders in the world. Scouting thumbnail: Complete player who can play virtually anywhere on the field, but excels

at club level with his own unique English interpretation of the trequartista role. Combines an explosive long-range shot with aggressive tackling, but struggles at times to shed man markers.
Rank Player

10

Michael Essien
Position: Midfielder Age: 27

Country: Ghana Club Team: Chelsea

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 74 appearances, 10 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 3 app, 0 goals

An elite defensive midfielder who doesn't shy away from attacking, Ghana's Michael Essien is one of Africa's finest. With the help of fellow midfielders Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah, Essien led Ghana to the second round in Germany in 2006. Beating the Czech Republic 2-0 and the U.S. 2-1, Ghana's surprise run made it the only African country to survive the group stage. Essien, a two-time African Player of the Year, now has four more seasons as a regular at Chelsea under his belt. His versatility, energy and defensive pedigree make him one of the most consistent and reliable players in the world. Out since mid-January with a knee injury, Essien is expected to return by the World Cup but will need to prove he's fit. Scouting thumbnail: The world's most dominant defensive midfielder. Covers an incredible amount of territory with boundless energy and the ability to contribute box to box. Possesses a powerful long-range shot.

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David Villa

Country: Spain Club Team: Valencia

Position: Forward Age: 28

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 54 appearances, 36 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 4 app, 3 goals

Where David Villa goes, the goals inescapably follow. At 28, the son of a miner has already accumulated the second-most goals for Spain of all time, trailing only Raul, who has eight more goals but in 48 additional games played. That's not all; Valencia's Villa is also 11th on the alltime Primera División top-scorer charts (and is tied for the top with Lionel Messi this season with 17) and was the most prolific scorer in the world between 2005 and 2009. Strongest when running on to through balls threaded past defenders by Spain's midfield, the perfectly ambidextrous Villa is the ideal complement to Fernando Torres, a taller target man. Scouting thumbnail: Elite finisher who's comfortable with either foot. Instinctive, predatory goal scorer who constantly finds openings in the defense and penalty box.
Rank Player

12

Franck Ribery

Country: France Club Team: Bayern Munich

Position: Midfielder Age: 26

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 41 appearances, 7 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 7 app, 1 goal

A man who once pronounced himself ugly and OK with that, Franck Ribery led a nomadic soccer existence until the day his Turkish club Galatasaray could no longer pony up his salary and Ribery moved to Marseille. There he became a star and was appointed the successor to France star Zinedine Zidane, even though Ribery is more a winger than a playmaker. Establishing himself as one of the finest of his craft at Bayern Munich, the bite-sized and injury-prone Ribery has yet to confirm that status with France, for which he has been a regular since its surprise run to the final of the 2006 World Cup. Scouting thumbnail: Clever playmaker who operates anywhere behind the striker but prefers the wing. Direct player who loves to run at defenders and get to the byline. Impressive work rate.

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1 3

Samuel Eto'o

Country: Cameroon Club Team: Inter

Position: Forward Age: 28

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 94 appearances, 44 goals WORLD CUP 1998, 2002: 4 app, 1 goal

Ever since Real Madrid, which had signed him at 16, deemed him unfit for its ranks four years later, Samuel Eto'o has played soccer with a meteorite-sized chip on his shoulder. Eto'o's wrath led him to score 108 league goals for Barcelona in just five seasons, helping Barca win the league three times in that span. Incredibly, Eto'o (pronounced ay-TOH-oh, not ay-TOO) made his debut for Cameroon's senior team when he was 14 and, had Cameroon qualified in 2006, would be making his fourth World Cup this summer, despite still being younger than 30. Scouting thumbnail: Lacks the searing pace of earlier years, but still one of the world's finest goal scorers. Often glides into the box and finishes calmly. Presses defenders high all across the field.
Rank Player

14

Luis Fabiano
Position: Forward Age: 29

Country: Brazil Club Team: Sevilla

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM

36 appearances, 25 goals WORLD CUP No experience

It's rather a good thing that Luis Fabiano kept being given chances, even after failing at Stade Rennes and FC Porto. His successes at São Paolo, where the left-footed striker had scored 62 goals in just 84 games, kept enticing clubs to give him a shot, in spite of his bad reputation, earned due to a flair for unlicensed bare-knuckle on-field boxing matches. When Sevilla took him on in 2005, everything came together for Fabiano, allowing him to return to the Brazil team in late 2007, which had given up on him three years prior. He has since established himself as Brazil's top striker, beating out more talented players. Scouting thumbnail: Temperamental Brazilian who can score in bunches. Work rate is suspect but an explosive finisher who needs only half a chance.

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Iker Casillas

Country: Spain Club Team: Real Madrid

Position: Goalie Age: 28

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 101 appearances WORLD CUP 2002, '06: 8 app

Iker Casillas showed what he was about when, after having established himself as Real Madrid's starting goalkeeper at barely 18, he didn't bother to upgrade his dinky secondhand car. Indeed, Casillas is what anyone would like their goalie to be: boring and reliable. After he joined the club when he was 9 years old and made his senior debut at 16, it's difficult to imagine Real without Casillas, who doubles as Spain's captain. Just how good Casillas, an unrivalled shot-stopper, really is best is illustrated by the buyout clause in the "contract for life" he signed in 2008 -which actually runs out in 2017 -- which is set at $186 million. Scouting thumbnail: Lacks the physical presence of other top goalkeepers but possesses superior reflexes and positioning. Composed and deals solidly with aerial crosses.
Rank Player

16

Cesc Fabregas
Position: Midfielder Age: 22

Country: Spain Club Team: Arsenal

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 47 appearances, 5 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 4 app, 0 goals

It was the world's most blatant case of robbing the cradle. Cesc was 16 when Arsenal swooped in and signed him away from Barcelona, whose academy he had come through and whose games he had attended since he was 9 months old. Cesc, for all his ability as a classic Spanish control-themiddle-or-die-trying midfielder, is not a regular in Spain's lineup, although he does come on regularly as a substitute, Just 22, Cesc became a regular for Arsenal at 17, benefiting from injuries, and has starred this season, leading the EPL with 13 assists and tied for sixth with 13 goals. He's not yet been that lucky for Spain, and seems perennially stuck behind Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Scouting thumbnail: Dynamic playmaker who can score, create and beat defenders on the dribble. Always demands the ball, can be a little careless with turnovers at times.

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Gianluigi Buffon

Country: Italy Club Team: Juventus

Position: Goalie Age: 32

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 100 appearances WORLD CUP 2002, '06: 11 app

The transfer fee record for a goalkeeper set when Buffon was sold by Parma to Juventus in 2001 may never be broken -- perhaps because no goalie may ever again be so dominant at such a young age. The stylish Buffon, who needed a little time to cement himself as Italy's undisputed No. 1, embodies the very essence of Italian soccer: rock-solid defending with a superlative goalkeeper as a backstop. During the 2006 World Cup, Buffon conceded only two goals -- a penalty and an own goal -- to bookend a 453-minute goalless streak. Scouting thumbnail: Veteran Italian goalkeeper with sound positional sense. Solid shot stopper, rarely makes a mistake. Vulnerable to low shots.
Rank Player

18

Dani Alves

Country: Brazil Club Team: Barcelona

Position: Defender Age: 26

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 32 appearances, 3 goals WORLD CUP No experience

As key member of Barcelona's stunning run to six trophies last year, Daniel Alves, a hybrid right back/right winger, turned heads with his ability. As good a defender as he is a winger when in possession, Alves frequently covered the wing when Lionel Messi was off cutting inside. Alves has come a long way from the destitute Brazilian countryside where he grew up. His family gambled what little money it had on Dani and won. Stupefyingly, Alves is not a regular for Brazil, having to cede the spot to Maicon for reasons known only to coach Carlos Dunga. Scouting thumbnail: Attacking fullback who's brilliant going forward as a pseudo-winger. Combines pace, vision and playmaking skills as well as superior set-piece delivery. Defensively vulnerable at times and can be caught out of position or muscled off the ball.

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Nemanja Vidic

Country: Serbia Club Team: Manchester United

Position: Defender Age: 28

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 44 appearances, 2 goals WORLD CUP No experience

The most uncompromising of defenders, Nemanja Vidic is from the old school, where keeping your man in front of you is a matter of honor and professional pride. After being plucked from Spartak Moscow for a modest $11 million by Manchester United four years ago, Vidic emerged as one of the very best central defenders in the world, and without a doubt the most dutiful one. The 2008-09 Premiership Player of the Season and his laser-guided tackles and incontestable headers had a lot do with the record 14 straight shutouts United recorded that year. Scouting thumbnail: Powerhouse central defender who owns the box with his aerial ability, both defensively and on offensive set pieces. No-nonsense enforcer, but can be vulnerable to pacy forwards with strong dribbling skills.
Rank Player

20

Wesley Sneijder
Position: Midfielder Age: 25

Country: Netherlands Club Team: Inter

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM

56 appearances, 12 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 4 app, 0 goals

While his stature leaves him likely to trip over a postage stamp, his ego is not so encumbered. Wesley Sneijder, while fabulously talented, is as likely to deliver an inch-perfect pass from 80 yards away as he is to hurl abuse at his coach. Suspected of being a clubhouse cancer in his native Netherlands, whatever psychological defect he has that makes him act like a spoiled teenager is tolerated for the positive effect he has on a team's play. On the field, Sneijder's world-class passing game does provide the glue that will hold together the 10 players surrounding him. Scouting thumbnail: Short, squat playmaker with vision and impressive long-range shooting ability, harnessed with precise set-piece delivery. Can play anywhere in midfield but prefers to operate centrally in the final third.

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2 1

Maicon

Country: Brazil Club Team: Inter

Position: Defender Age: 28

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 55 appearances, 5 goals WORLD CUP No experience

That the tide had turned for Brazil became apparent when head coach Dunga refused to drop Maicon for Dani Alves after the latter emerged as a superstar. Preferring to stick with the more defensive-minded Maicon, who by no means fears the other half of the field, it became obvious that the glory days of the all-out attack happy-go-lucky Brazil teams were over. Nonplussed by any such suggestions, Maicon has done an admirable job of filling the giant shoes left by the retirement of Cafu, one of the greatest right backs of all time. Scouting thumbnail: Probably the most well-rounded fullback in the world, providing strong defensive play with powerful surging runs down the right flank. Doesn't have a lot of flair but has no real weaknesses.
Rank Player

22

Frank Lampard
Position: Midfielder Age: 31

Country: England Club Team: Chelsea

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 76 appearances, 20 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 5 apps, 0 goals

One of several of today's English internationals to emerge from the West Ham United academy, Frank Lampard plays with a versatility that belies his English roots. The son of West Ham legend Frank Lampard Sr., Lampard is a majestic central midfielder with a superb understanding of the game and rapport with the ball. One of the world's finest penalty takers and long-distance shooters, Lampard is also reliable on the other side of the ball. Neurological research showed that Lampard has an unusually high IQ -- among the highest ever recorded by the testing company, not just among soccer players. England can only hope he produces like he has for Chelsea, where he has 12 goals and 10 assists this season. Scouting thumbnail: Well-rounded central midfielder with impressive work rate and a nose for the goal. Doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well but is above average in all areas and an

impressive finisher for a midfielder.

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Andrea Pirlo

Country: Italy Club Team: Milan

Position: Midfielder Age: 30

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 64 appearances, 8 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 7 apps, 1 goal

It took megatalent Andrea Pirlo, now 30 years old, a few years to find his feet. Pirlo, who has gypsy roots, had made his pro debut just two days after his 16th birthday. After being picked up by Internazionale soon after, it took three fruitless years at Inter, including two loan spells, for the Nerazzurri to give up on him and sell him to city rival AC Milan, where he became a star. As Pirlo pulls the strings from a deep position as playmaker, his superb long ball decides games, whether with Milan or Italy. His ability to set a game's pace was a key ingredient to Italy's 2006 World Cup win. Scouting thumbnail: Deep-lying playmaker with subtle skill and vision. Can control the tempo of a game and generally delivers superb set pieces.
Rank Player

24

Carlos Tevez
Position: Forward Age: 26

Country: Argentina Club Team: Manchester City

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 51 appearances, 8 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 4 apps, 1 goal

We knew the world had changed when West Ham United bought a player owned by an investment company. When Carlos Tevez moved from Boca Juniors to Corinthians in 2005, a shady deal saw his rights go not to the latter club but to Media Sports Investments, which would go on to rent Tevez to several clubs during the coming years before he was sold to Manchester City for a reported $70 million this past summer, a tidy profit on MSI's $20-odd million investment. (Manchester City isn't complaining as Tevez has tallied 15 goals in the EPL.) While putting off numerous interested clubs with his complex contract situation, the multifunctional forward did become an important player for Argentina. Scouting thumbnail: Whirling buzzsaw of nonstop hustle and energy who can play anywhere across the front line. Capable of scoring spectacular goals, but is a streaky finisher.

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Robin van Persie

Country: Netherlands Club Team: Arsenal

Position: Forward Age: 26

STATISTICS NATIONAL TEAM 41 appearances, 14 goals WORLD CUP 2006: 4 apps, 1 goal

The son of a painter and a sculptor, Robin van Persie developed a reputation as a prodigy almost as quickly as that of a brat. He was impossible to handle in the early stages of his career. That led to a never-ending conflict with then-Feyenoord manager Bert van Marwijk, who is now his manager with the Netherlands, and van Persie took a shortcut to an early exit from the professional ranks. Scooped up by Arsenal for a fraction of his worth in 2004, van Persie settled down with his Dutch-Moroccan wife, purportedly converted to Islam and grew into a superb attacker, capable of playing on either wing, up front or behind the striker. Scouting thumbnail: Clever, lithe attacker who can play as a striker or in the hole. Needs work on his heading ability but possesses every other tool in pace, finishing and long-range shooting. • Click here for players 26 through 50

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WORLD CUP 101 ARCHIVE

Use the archive to find features and learn more about the 2010 World Cup
March • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Top 50 players of the World Cup Ten must-see games of the group stage How predictive are qualifying results? Five U.S. storylines to watch Five surprising World Cup runs Most exciting player in the world OTL reports from South Africa Best World Cup jerseys of all time Worst World Cup jerseys of all time Should Beckham make England's squad? Ten World Cup storylines to watch Is this the year the Dutch finally win? Which player is most overrated? Top five surprise early exits The goal that changed U.S. soccer How many points are needed to advance? New Zealand's American connection Portugal-Brazil rivalry heats up with cultural controversy The Eliminator: Who will win the World Cup? Who is the most important goalie of the tournament? Venues, light travel schedule could help U.S. Dual-nationals like Jose Francisco Torres face tough decision World Cup players in the MLS Ten most controversial moments

• • • • • • • April • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

How do reigning continental champs do in the World Cup? Best striker duos Why the World Cup is better than the NCAA tournament How important is winning your group? Word Cup: Best soccer books From friends to foes: Top 10 tussles involving club teammates How soccer's young stars have been doing Why Messi's hot streak is good news for Argentina Players whose transfer value could increase Introducing the World Cup Weekly podcast South Africa travel tips Three breakout players to watch Reviewing "2010 FIFA World Cup" video game How important is winning your first game? Update on some key injured players The hairy history of the World Cup Which team could disappoint? Which team could surprise? Assessing South Africa's chances Group A analysis and breakdown Why scoring will go up this World Cup Best performances by young players Best old-player performances Our favorite World Cup memories Cooler weather could lead to more exciting tournament Do age and experience matter? Clint Dempsey profiled on 'E:60' Group B analysis and breakdown Injuries, poor play and scandals have France in disarray The butterfly effect: A game of skill ... and luck Which is the best rivalry? The ultimate World Cup playlist Three reasons England could win ... three reasons it won't Wright Thompson: A trip to Haiti Group C analysis and breakdown

• • May • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • June •

Which is more important, scoring goals or preventing them? Ten most lunatic managing decisions Who will lead the World Cup in scoring? Why the World Cup may be disappointing for African teams World Cup history lessons Group D analysis and breakdown Who starts at left back for United States? Italy looks to defend title with aging roster Thirty-four things to be excited about 1994 U.S. squad: Where are they now? Mexico's defense looks strong, but offense still a question Group E analysis and breakdown Watch: Team vignette preview videos Breaking down the U.S. midfield situation Video: What do the players think about the big questions? Ruud Gullit picks his all-time top 10 No. 10s What's your dream matchup? World Cup predictions from former U.S. players Group F analysis and breakdown In Honduras, soccer defines life I Scored A Goal video feature All-Star team of players missing from the World Cup How do players who led top European leagues in scoring do? Underrated players who will play a vital role in their teams' success Ronaldo, Drogba and other divers the refs will be watching Whistle-blowers: Five refs to keep an eye on Group G analysis and breakdown How to sound smart about the World Cup Ronaldo, Drogba, Eto'o and Pienaar: Four players who must carry their teams Germany facing problems up front Play fantasy football -- World Cup style, that is Video: A goal, a ghost -- the story of Joe Gaetjens Group H analysis and breakdown Team previews: Group A and Group B

Team previews: Group C and Group D

TOP 50 PLAYERS IN THE WORLD CUP

Click on a player's name to go to his individual profile:
NO . 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 PLAYER Lionel Messi, Argentina Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal Wayne Rooney, England Kaka, Brazil Xavi, Spain Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast Andres Iniesta, Spain Fernando Torres, Spain Steven Gerrard, England

10 Michael Essien, Ghana 11 David Villa, Spain 12 Franck Ribery, France 13 Samuel Eto'o, Cameroon 14 Luis Fabiano, Brazil 15 Iker Casillas, Spain 16 Cesc Fabregas, Spain 17 Gianluigi Buffon, Italy 18 Dani Alves, Brazil 19 Nemanja Vidic, Serbia 20 Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands

NO .

PLAYER

21 Maicon, Brazil 22 Frank Lampard, England

23 Andrea Pirlo, Italy 24 Carlos Tevez, Argentina 25 26 Robin van Persie, Netherlands Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina

27 Diego Forlan, Uruguay 28 Thierry Henry, France 29 30 Sergio Aguero, Argentina Michael Ballack, Germany

31 Julio Cesar, Brazil 32 Arjen Robben, Netherlands

33 Gerard Pique, Spain 34 Miroslav Klose, Germany

35 Lucio, Brazil 36 Javier Mascherano, Argentina

37 John Terry, England 38 David Silva, Spain 39 Carles Puyol, Spain 40 Nicolas Anelka, France

NO .

PLAYER

41 Ashley Cole, England 42 Patrice Evra, France 43 Marek Hamsik, Slovakia 44 Karim Benzema, France 45 Yoann Gourcuff, France 46 Daniele De Rossi, Italy 47 Philipp Lahm, Germany 48 Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast 49 Giorgio Chiellini, Italy 50 Landon Donovan, United States

SOUTH AFRICA WORLD CUP 2010 GROUP A • • • • France | History Mexico | History South Africa | History Uruguay | History

Group A Home »
GROUP B • • • • Argentina | History Greece | History Nigeria | History South Korea | History

Group B Home »
GROUP C • • • • Algeria | History England | History Slovenia | History United States | History

Group C Home »
GROUP D • • • • Australia | History Germany | History Ghana | History Serbia | History

Group D Home »
GROUP E • • • • Cameroon | History Denmark | History Japan | History Netherlands | History

Group E Home »
GROUP F • • • • Italy | History New Zealand | History Paraguay | History Slovakia | History

Group F Home »
GROUP G • • • • Brazil | History Ivory Coast | History North Korea | History Portugal | History

Group G Home »
GROUP H • • • • Chile | History Honduras | History Spain | History Switzerland | History

Group H Home » History:

Venues

• • • • • • • • • •

Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town Durban Stadium, Durban Ellis Park, Johannesburg Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

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HOME NEWS & OPINION VIDEO FIXTURES & RESULTS TEAMS & GROUPS ABOUT GAMES
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SPECIALS • Jon Carter Goals and gaffes in the opening games • John Brewin Northern exposure a real treat

REGULARS • Fifth Official No knockout blows • On This Day Argentina score a dream team goal - June 16

Ask Norman How Bobby Moore nearly missed '66

BLOGS • South Africa Daily • Destination South Africa WRITERS • Andrew Warshaw The Power of Diego • • • • Phil Ball It's a funny old game Norman Hubbard Teams prepare for tactical tinkering Andrew Hush Stuttering start for African challengers Ernesto Garrido Dunga needs to turn over a new leaf

HEADLINES • • • • • • • • RSA 0-3 Uru: Parreira slams ref Esp 0-1 Sui: Del Bosque unhappy at tactics Honduras 0-1 Chile Italy's Buffon reportedly out of World Cup Diego lashes out at Pele and Platini Team-mate backs Kaka to shine for Brazil Campbell 'hurt' by England snub FIFA file charges against beer company

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Galleries Archive » | News Archive »

SCORES & SCHEDULES - Group Stage View Scoreboard »
June 15, 2010

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Full Time Group F

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NZL 1-1 SVK Full Time Group G CIV 0-0 POR Full Time Group G BRA 2-1 PRK

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June 16, 2010

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Full Time Group H HON 0-1 CHI Full Time Group H ESP 0-1 SUI Full Time Group A

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RSA 0-3 URU

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June 17, 2010

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11:30 GMT Group B ARG v KOR 14:00 GMT Group B GRE v NGA 18:30 GMT Group A FRA v MEX

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PreviewGameCast June • • • • • • • • • 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

• • • • • • • • • • July • • • • • •

20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 2 3 6 7 10 11

Scores » | Fixtures » | Wallchart »

Featured Videos South Africa Nightly D... A look at day five of the World Cup Watch »

World Cup Podcast: Did... A scorcher from the full back sets Brazil’s campaign alig... Watch »

Rooney: 'No problem wi... Wayne Rooney believes England played well against the USA... Watch »

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Gary Bailey discusses ... Dan Williams sits down with Gary Bailey and discusses the... Watch »

Bafana Bafana fans react Dan Williams gets fan reaction to South Africa's loss to ... Watch »

South Africa Nightly: ... After losing 0-3 to Uruguay, Bafana Bafana has reason to ... Watch »

ON TV

South Africa Nightly Ray Stubbs offers a nightly preview to the next day's action (ESPN globally). More »

Press Pass The tournament's hottest talking points under the microscope (ESPN globally). More »

ESPN Classic Watch the best all-time World Cup moments from the last 40 years (Across Europe). More » Video Archive »

• • • •

Algeria (Group C) Argentina (B) Australia (D) Brazil (G)

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Cameroon (E) Chile (H) Denmark (E) England (C) France (A) Germany (D) Ghana (D) Greece (B) Honduras (H) Italy (F) Ivory Coast (G) Japan (E) Mexico (A) Netherlands (E) New Zealand (F) Nigeria (B) North Korea (G) Paraguay (F) Portugal (G) Serbia (D) Slovakia (F) Slovenia (C) South Africa (A) South Korea (B) Spain (H) Switzerland (H) United States (C) Uruguay (A) View Groups: Group A Group B Group C Group D Group E Group F Group G

• •

Group H Table

Complete World Cup Fixtures »

2010 VENUES

Soccer City, Johannesburg Capacity: 91,700 | Built: 1989
• • • • • • • • • Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town Durban Stadium, Durban Ellis Park, Johannesburg Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit Peter Mokab Stadium, Polokwane Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

KEY DATES • • • • • • Group stage: June 11-25 Second round: June 26-29 Quarter-finals: July 2, 3 Semi-finals: July 6, 7 Final: July 11 World Cup 2014: Brazil

STATS & RECORDS • • Current tournament stats » World Cup records »

WORLD CUP HISTORY • • • • • • Germany 2006 Korea / Japan 2002 France 1998 United States 1994 Italy 1990 Mexico 1986

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Spain 1982 Argentina 1978 West Germany 1974 Mexico 1970 England 1966 Chile 1962 Sweden 1958 Switzerland 1954 Brazil 1950 France 1938 Italy 1934 Uruguay 1930

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