Top 10 Impact Players To Watch At The 2010 World Cup

May 12, 2010

The World Cup is just weeks away, the stage is set, and inevitably this year’s competition will bring some unpredictable results and astonishing team play. As with any World Cup, one can expect upsets, off-the-pitch shenanigans, internal meltdowns, and some host nation drama.

But what is also expected are some incredible individual performances from a select group of standout stars.

This list of the Top 10 Impact Players to Watch could have simply repeated some of the 20 or 30 big names typically found in the gazillion or so other lists floated out there by the mainstream media. Instead, we aimed to break things down a little deeper, get realistic, and review the competition based on groups.

In other words, this list ultimately boils down to who is in a position to shine, and who is not. Besides, true soccer enthusiasts all know that even though many great players will show up to the World Cup, only a handful will play to their potential. Even fewer will actually break out and make a name for themselves.

It is for this reason that a unique mix of players was chosen - some known, and some who will be known when all is said and done.

Here are TheDailySportsHerald's Top 10 players to watch next month at the World Cup:

1. Wayne Rooney - England

The ever-hopeful and always-present supporters of England's national team would argue that their Rooney-led squad appears to be fine-tuned and playing good team ball - two qualities that are necessary to win a World Cup. Indeed, it is true that many countries with quality players are having trouble attaining England’s current level of cohesiveness. However, this is not why we put Rooney at number one.

In our view, he is #1 because there is perhaps no other player who means as much to his country as Rooney does to England. Rooney does not mind carrying the load on well-oiled teams, and furthermore, he is good at it. Words that come to mind when describing this bloke? How about “sheer determination,” “talent,” or “you’re kinda-hot right now Tommy.”

2. Didier Drogba - Ivory Coast

This dominating, 6’3’’ force of nature is fresh off a 29-goal EPL scoring title, in which he added another hat trick to his resume in the final game of the season. That hat trick beat out Wayne Rooney, who was runner-up.

With the Ivory Coast fixed to play Brazil and Portugal, Drogba is sure to seize the opportunity to showcase his ability, charisma, and intensity on the international stage. Drogba is hands down the most athletic player at the World Cup, and thus, he will have a dominant influence on the pitch regardless of whether his team shows up or not.

Drogba was injured during much of the 2006 World Cup, as he played in only 2 games and scored one goal. However, this 31-year old isn’t just getting older - he is also getting better. A true late bloomer, it is both rare and interesting to see a player at his age only now getting a healthy chance at a World Cup. Didier Drogba scores spectacular goals and is always a pleasure to watch.

3. Lionel Messi - Argentina

At only 22 years of age, Messi is very arguably "THE" best player in the world, but admits himself that national team play is different from club soccer, where players have a whole year to find themselves and showcase their talents.

Well, Messi serves as his own case in point, as he has certainly struggled to duplicate his Barcelona-like form in the limited number of games that he has played for his national team. In the 2006 World Cup, Messi netted one goal in three appearances, and more recently, he barely scored during team qualifying. That alone should provide him with all the motivation he needs to have a break out performance next month.

Despite Argentina's qualifying difficulties, we predict Diego Maradona’s squad will be a sleeping giant capable of finding its form when it counts. With loads of quality players, this group from Argentina - already dismissed by so many - is likely to make a deep run behind Lionel Messi’s determination and dominance.

4. Cristiano Ronaldo - Portugal

No David Beckham means that this soccer pop icon will have all the paparazzi to himself. As such, the spotlight will be on Ronaldo, making him fully aware that his one-goal performance in 2006 (when he was only 21) just is not going to cut it. Ronaldo has accomplished a lot since then and has come of age as a player, but similar to Messi, he will be relying on his Portuguese teammates to play up to his level. Unfortunately, Ronaldo has fewer quality players around him, landing him fourth on our list.

5. David Villa - Spain

Villa scored 3 goals in 4 appearances at the last World Cup, and had an outstanding European Cup as well. At 28-years old, this goal-scoring ace is already Spain’s second all-time leading scorer, trailing only Raul by a mere 8 goals. The attention that Fernando Torres draws allows him to shine, and it is rare to see him miss an opportunity. Together they make a potent combo.

6. Arjen Robben - Netherlands

We predict that Robben will be coming fresh off a Bayern Munich Champions League Championship run, where he has been an instrumental and impressive player. Although it is easy to quantify the number of goals that this guy has been scoring, it is much more difficult to measure the intangible contributions that he brings. Not only does Robben look like he is having the time of his life every time he plays, but he also always performs well on a big stage.

Look for this 26-year old to complete a winning year, winning the Bundesliga, and quite possibly the Champions League and an MVP with Bayern Munich. Afterward, expect Robben to then bring his A-game to South Africa.

7. Luis Fabiano - Brazil

At both Sao Paulo and Sevilla, Fabiano has shown that he can ball, and that he is worthy of being Brazil’s top striker. Temperamental but streaky, this 29-year old is an explosive finisher who only needs half a chance to score, so look for him to be in the hunt for the Golden Boot award if Brazil plays well.

With Dunga's shocking omission of Alexander Pato from the team, Fabiano now becomes that much more important to Brazil. Known to engage in bare knuckle on-field boxing, Fabiano is a fierce and necessary component for a Brazilian team lacking offensive toughness and presence.

8. Gonzalo Higuain - Argentina

Higuain was the runner-up to fellow countryman Lionel Messi in the Spanish La Liga this year with 27 goals. Although Higuan is only 22-years old, his impressive numbers have forced Diego Maradona to respect his game. Most mainstream journalists would not rank him anywhere near their top 10 list, but we peg Argentina to blossom at the right time, and largely because of this guy. With all eyes on Messi, Higuain will be forced to deliver, and he has proven that he can do so.

9. Michael Ballack - Germany

At 6'3", this German captain has improved with age and his teams never seem to underperform. Finishing up an EPL Championship season with Chelsea, and having already led Germany to the World Cup Finals in 2002, this fluid and charismatic winner is sure to lead a younger, more energetic German national team to at least the final 16 team knockout stage. Ballack is a real class act.

10. Robinho - Brazil

Although he has taken heat for not living up to the 32 million pound transfer fee that Manchester City paid for him, Robinho is now tearing it up like Pele did for Santos. Entering the World Cup, he is now intent on salvaging some of that lost respect from the soccer world.

In truth, his return to Brazil was made just so that he could fine tune his game and prepare for the World Cup.

With the spotlight somewhat off of him, a more relaxed Robinho has been logging minutes, scoring goals, and genuinely appearing ready to show the world his fancy footwork and scoring prowess. The lowered expectations, coupled with a Brazilian roster missing those senior veterans who once took away Robinho's playing time (Ronaldo, Ronaldihno, Adriano, etc.), should equate to quality performances from this 25-year old baller.

Nevermind that he is a whiner who preferred his family, homeland, and playing time to the cold bench and rainy, brick-laden walls of Manchester City. Robson de Souza is on the right path and ready to dazzle the World Cup with his presence. Look for him to once again attract the eyes of European clubs, after proving this summer that he can score goals and be a high value teammate on soccer's grandest stage.

Honorable Mention:

Samuel Eto, Cesc Fabregas, Kaka, Landon Donovan, Frank Ribery, Alberto Medina, Javier Hernandez, Michel Essien, Fernando Torres, Wesley Sneijder, Robin Van Persie, Dani Alves, Gilardino, Carlos Vela, Nicolas Anelka, Giuseppe Rossi, Lukas Podolski, Stephan Gerrard, Jermaine Defoe, Carlos Vela, Park Ji-Sung, Takayuki Morimoto, Xavi, Deco.

By Adrian Yeung
Staff Reporter for


  1. If Robben is on his game, this could be our year!

  2. Drogba will bring us the 1st championship for Africa!

  3. Black Power,

    You are crazy. Ivory Coast will get killed in group play.


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