Top 10 World Cup Teams + Their Hottest Players
Football (or soccer, as we call it) is not the country’s favorite game, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get into it.
Football (or soccer, as we call it) may not be the most popular game in the Philippines. But the 2010 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup in South Africa, which kicked of on June 11, brought out all the Pinoy football freaks in full force. Though they’re still a minority, it doesn’t mean their game is less exciting. Thus, SPOT.ph lists 10 World Cup teams to watch out for and bet on. (And, for the girls, we’ve picked out the eye candy offerings of each team. If you like what you see, it’s always easier to get into the game.)
We won’t cry for Argentina. Argentina’s funny and hip ad showcases its strengths, as well as top eye candy Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez.
1. Argentina - La Albiceleste (Blue and White)
Field report: Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to its second World Cup crown in 1986, returns as the coach of La Albiceleste. He now has the chance to duplicate what he did as a player and give the seventh ranked squad its third title to end a 24-year drought. Lionel Messi, regarded as one of the world’s best players, leads the star-studded roster tasked to win the country’s first international trophy since the 1993 Copa America. Argentina opened their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Nigeria.
Star players: Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, Javier Zanetti, Gabriel Batistuta, and Juan Sebastian Veron.
The boys from Brazil. Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, better known as Kaka, is one of Brazil’s best (and most good-looking) players.
2. Brazil - Auriverdes (Gold and Green)
Field report: Brazil’s strong football roots, its one-named players (with Pelé being the famous of them all), and their rhythm on the field makes the team a perennial World Cup favorite. Brazil, a country which has turned football into a religion, has 14 one-named players in its roster. It’s the only country that has participated in all 19 World Cup games and has won a record five titles with a 64-14-14 win-draw-loss record out of the 92 games they played. Though the team’s performance was not that impressive in its first, they still managed a 2-1 victory over North Korea.
Star players: Kaka, Maicon, Lucio, Robinho, Michel Bastos, Luis Fabiano, Dani Alves, and Julio Cesar.
England’s finest. Dashing Frank Lampard talks shop.
3. England - Three Lions
Field report: Fabio Capello’s appointment as England’s second non-English team manager (the other being Steve McClaren’s predecessor Sven-Göran Eriksson of Sweden) has strengthened the Wayne Rooney-led squad’s chances in the 19th World Cup. Ironically, Capello is a former Italian player best remembered for scoring the lone goal when Italy defeated England for the first time. Capello hopes to use his success in the domestic leagues in leading the Three Lions’ quest for the World Cup trophy. The last time they won it was on home ground in 1966. Even without injured former captain David Beckham, England remains a dangerous opponent with leading scorer Rooney around. A Robert Green fumble cost England a win as they settled for a 1-1 draw with the United States in its opening match.
Star players: Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, John Terry, and Ashley Cole.
French connection. Football star Thierry Henry is one of the team’s most-watched players-for more reasons than one.
4. France - Les Blues (The Blues)
Field report: France has produced some of the greatest football legends such as Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Luis Fernandez, and Jean Tigana. But it was only in 1998, when they hosted the 16th World Cup, that Zinedine Zidane led his team to snag a Word Cup title. This year, they hope to win again with Thiery Henry leading the team. France came close to repeating its 1998 feat in 2006-but ended up losing to Italy in a penalty shootout. After a scoreless draw against Uruguay in its opening Group A match, France hopes to earn a needed win against Mexico.
Star players: Thierry Henry, Patrice Evra, William Gallas Jeremy Toulalan, Lassana Diarra, Yoann Gourcuff, Franck Ribery, Nicolas Anelka, Karim Benzema, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Florent Malouda and Loic Remy.
Made in Germany. One of the best reasons to root for Germany is Philipp Lahm.
5. Germany - Die Mannschaft (The Team)
Field report: Brazil prevented three-time champion Germany from winning its fourth World Cup crown in 2002. Germany tries to redeem themselves in South Africa after placing third in the 2006 edition and another runner-up finish in the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship. Captain Michael Ballack hopes to lead his team back on top with no less a victory in South Africa allowing him to join legends Fritz Walter, Franz Beckenbauer, and Lothar Matthaus in German football. Germany had an easy 4-0 win over Australia but expect tough opposition when they meet Serbia for its second game.
Star players: Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski.
Italian stallions. It’s not just Fabio Cannavaro who looks great-the entire team looks so sinfully good that they even have a racy Dolce & Gabbana ad.
6. Italy - Il Azzurri (Blue Team)
Field report: The defending champions are hoping to duplicate their back-to-back victories in 1934 and 1938. Italy and Brazil are the only teams that have won consecutive World Cup titles. Despite the fact that goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon remains a doubtful starter, the team still has enough firepower to win. Aside from its four FIFA World Cup titles, Italy has won the Olympic gold medal in 1936 and the 1968 UEFA European Championship. Italy aims to get the needed three points when they face New Zealand after being held to a 1-1 draw by Paraguay in its opening Group F match.
Star players: Alberto Gilardino, Fabio Cannavaro, Gennaro Gattuso, Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Danielle De Rossi, and, Giorgio Chiellini.
Ivory Coast sensations. With his killer bone structure, it’s no wonder that Salomon Kalou also shines off the field.
7. Ivory Coast or Côte d’Ivoire - Les Éléphants (The Elephants)
Field report: Among the six African teams that qualified in the 2010 World Cup, Ivory Coast is considered to have the most impact. They definitely have world class talent since most of its players are competing in various top European clubs. Their grit will be put to the test when they face five-time titlists Brazil on June 20. Chelsea forward Didier Drogba and company are also hoping to bounce back from their dismal campaign four years ago where they were eliminated in the first round.
Star players: Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Didier Zokora, Yaya Toure, Bakary Kone, Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure, and Arthur Boka.
Surprise from the Netherlands. Isn’t Rafael van der Vaart divine?
8. The Netherlands - Oranje (The Orange)
Field report: Based in the first two games in Group E, the Netherlands (along with Japan) is in a good position to get past the group stages and earn spots in the Last 16. After all, the Dutch are aiming for no less than a finals seat. They came close to winning in 1974 (foiled by the former West Germany, 2-1) and 1978 (foiled by Argentina, 3-1). Being knocked out by Russia in the quarterfinals stage of the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship, after sweeping its three Group C matches, seemed to add to the Netherelands’ desire to prove themselves this year. The Oranje placed fourth in France in 1998 and are hoping to add a World Cup trophy to their UEFA European Championship in 1988.
Star players: Arjen Robben, Joris Mathijsen, Andre Ooijer, Dirk Kuyt, Mark van Bommel, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Rafael van der Vaart, Robin van Persie, Nigel De Jong, and Wesley Sneijder.
9. Portugal - A Selecção (The Selection)
Field report: Despite being finalists in UEFA Euro 2004, Portugal has only qualified five times in the World Cup. Its highest finish was third in 1966 while advancing to the Final Four in Germany two years ago. Hopes are high for Portugal to finally win football’s top prize with two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo leading the team. Aside from Brazil, Portugal is also the other national team that has a number of one-name players with 12. They will face an unpredictable North Korea side in its second game after being held to a scoreless draw by Côte d’Ivoire. Portugal will close out its Group G matches against five-time champions Brazil.
Star players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Deco, Bruno, Ricardo Carvalho, Simao, and Paulo Ferreira.
Spanish seduction. This team could give the Italians a run for their money in the looks department, as Gerard Pique isn’t the only one who qualifies as eye candy.
10. Spain - La Roja (The Red)
Field report: A stunning 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in its first game pushed the 2008 UEFA European champions to a must win situation with their remaining two Group H matches. The loss was the first for La Roja against the Swiss in 19 international matches putting the Spaniards, who don’t want to waste their 12th World Cup appearance, in a must win situation against Honduras and Chile in order to advance in the Last 16 and finally surpass their fourth place finish in 1950. Despite its 15-match winning streak ending, Spain remains a formidable opponent with nine members of its national team among the World Cup’s Top 50 players. The loss was also Spain’s second in 50 games, the other against the United States in last year’s Confederations Cup.
Star players: Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez, David Villa, Fernando Torres, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique, David Silva, and Carles Puyol.
Art by Warren Espejo.
Image credits: Screen caps of Messi, Casillas, Henry, Cannavaro, and Ronaldo from YouTube.