And the top ten players, most of them uncelebrated (or under-celebrated), who rocked the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
David Villa: He is addicted to goals! The favourite player of the tournament has netted 43 goals in 63 appearances for Spain, one shy of Raul’s record. The striker’s sophistication inside the penalty area makes him implausibly gifted. The goal machine helped Spain convert their ability into accomplishment in South Africa. The quick and voracious striker has the knack of scoring whenever he wants with threatening impudence. Spain’s most valuable striker besides Fernando Torres has netted five times this World Cup.
Wesley Sneijder: The clever Dutchman always comes up with a little bit extra to shock his opponents. After leaving Real Madrid for Inter Milan last summer, Wesley Sneijder has developed immensely under Jose Mourinho helping his team win the treble. The gifted playmaker’s dangerous cross and his ability to slip into any defence helped Netherlands make its way to its third World Cup final. Sneijder, with five important goals in the tournament, displayed several moments of brilliance in Oranje’s success at the 2010 World Cup.
Diego Forlan: Uruguay’s talismanic hitman Diego Forlan has had a memorable season for his country at the 2010 World Cup. The former Manchester United striker, with four goals, came into the tournament after helping his club Atletico Madrid to the Europa League title. Forlan’s ability to score from the set pieces made him the most sought-after name in South Africa. He was devastated after Uruguay failed against Netherlands in the semi-finals;, however he can look back on the memorable year of his career with pride.
Thomas Mueller: Germany striker Thomas Mueller enjoyed an incredible run at the World Cup. Mueller scored four goals in his first World Cup, grabbing a starting spot throughout the tournament after winning his first cap in March. He missed the biggest game where Germany missed him dearly after he was suspended for the semi-final and had to watch his team-mates lose to Spain from the sidelines. The young striker took the World Cup by storm with free-flowing football and became a household name in South Africa.
Luis Fabiano: The Brazilian striker has developed a knack scoring in that yellow jersey. Luis Fabiano has been a regular starter for Brazil since 2008 and has blossomed as a player with trademark approach and elegance. He grabbed headlines during their match against Ivory Coast where he twice handled the ball for a beautiful one. The Samba star’s strike rate in the national team is quite noteworthy and he’s quick to take advantage of every crack in the opposition’s defence.
Asamoah Gyan: The Ghanaian forward came into the public eye after a string of fine performances at the 2010 World Cup. Asamoah Gyan, who scored three goals for Ghana, was instrumental in driving the Black Stars to the quarter-finals. The belligerent midfielder, however, missed a penalty kick in the closing seconds of extra-time against Uruguay, which would have pushed the African nation into the semi-finals. Gyan’s ability to lead the attack with distinction also saw him running for the Golden Ball award.
Lionel Messi: For Argentina’s Lionel Messi, it was another tough World Cup. The dreaded striker, who has won everything possible for Barcelona, failed to drive Argentina in South Africa. He displayed flashes of his brilliance during the initial stage of the tournament, but failed to deliver in the all-important quarter-final against Germany, which they lost 0-4. Despite failing to get himself on the scoresheet, the nifty striker kept fans teetering on the edge of their seats with his genius.
Eduardo: The first-choice Portugal keeper earned widespread praise for his exploits before the net. Eduardo was part of the Portuguese plan in all their four matches conceding only one goal. He made more than a few exceptional saves against Spain, which Portugal lost 0-1. The reliable glovesman played a prominent role in pushing Portugal to the knock-out stage. Just after the World Cup, Eduardo was signed by Serie A side Genoa from Braga for 4.5 million euros.
Alexis Sanchez: If you go by Sir Alex Ferguson’s words, Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez could grow to the level of Cristiano Ronaldo in a few years. The Udinese ace proved a handful for Honduras and Switzerland in Chile’s opening matches. Making his debut at the age of just 17, Sanchez caught the eye of several big European clubs, Manchester United being one of them, for his admirable shooting and crossing ability. Watch out for this ‘Wonder Boy’.
Robert Vittek: His superb brace sent former champions Italy crashing out of the 2010 World Cup. Slovakia forward Robert Vittek ended his barren spell in the qualifiers, by heading a equaliser in their match against New Zealand and came back to haunt holders Italy for the knock-out stage. The 28-year-old unheralded striker, with four goals in the tournament, showed he still has goals in him.