Monday, March 27, 2006

Remember the Name(s) - Midfielders
By Imtiaz Mussa

Keep it here at Sportszilla as in the coming months, we will get you prepared for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The first match takes place on June 9th.

About a month ago, I previewed the strikers that could make a name for themselves at the World Cup, now I proceed to the midfielders.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Country: Portugal
Club Team: Manchester United

United’s number 7 possesses a ton of flashy moves that make people compare him to Brazilian stud Ronaldinho. Since coming to United in 2003, he has learned to better use his skills on the pitch and has cut down on the diving. He had a solid Euro 2004 and will look to build on that as he is set to take the torch from Luis Figo as Portugal’s top footballer.

Park Ji-Sung
Country: South Korea
Club Team: Manchester United

It has not taken long for the Old Trafford faithful to love the South Korean. Park is extremely versatile though his preferred position is on the wing. He brings limitless energy to the game and has earned the nickname “Three-Lung Park” because of it.

Kaka
Country: Brazil
Club Team: AC Milan

It’s hard to get noticed when you’re playing alongside Ronaldinho but Milan fans can tell you he is every bit as solid. Kaká suffered an accident when he made a faulty jump off a diving-board, resulting in a vertebra fracture. This could have meant the end of his football career, but he believes that Jesus allowed him to recover and become the successful footballer he is now. He is much more humble and probably has less flair than Ronaldinho but can do many of the same things. One of his more famous goals was the one against Fenerbahçe SK, in AC Milan's first game in the 2005-06 Champions League, won 3-1 by the Milan. Kakà started his run from midfield and skipped past three tackles before entering the area and finishing with a low shot under the goal-keeper.

Michael Essien
Country: Ghana
Club Team: Chelsea

He was Chelsea’s £24.4 million signing from Lyon over the summer. As the United States will find out when they play Ghana, he was well worth it. Essien is a tough tackling defensive midfielder who has the ability to make up for Ghana lack of presence on the backline. And if the referees are not watching, he will get away with a few cheap tackles.

Harry Kewell
Country: Australia
Club Team: Liverpool

Kewell moved to Liverpool for the start of the 2003-04 season, reportedly snubbing an offer from Manchester United. The transfer was highly controversial, with claims that Liverpool paid Kewell's manager a substantial fee to ensure that he ended up at Anfield. (It is alleged that, of the £5 million that Liverpool paid for Kewell, £2 million went to his non-FIFA registered agent.) Since getting to Liverpool, Kewell has been unable to stay on the pitch due to injuries or poor form. The left sided midfielder has improved this season, getting back to being the highly skilled left midfielder that people saw when he was a teenager.

Tomáš Rosický
Country: Czech Republic
Club Team: Borussia Dortmund

Widely considered to be Pavel Nedved’s heir apparent as the star in the Czech midfield, he scored six goals during the qualifying campaign. He played through the pain barrier in the play-off final against Norway and was rewarded with the winning goal. Having recently turned 25, Rosický is fast becoming one of the finest midfielders not only in the Bundesliga, but in all of Europe.

Ali Karimi
Country: Iran
Club Team: Bayern Munich

He is arguably the best dribbler in Iran and his ball skills are amongst the best in Asia. His skills are often compared to those of Maradona and therefore received the title of Persian Maradona from world newspapers. On May 3, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich's website announced that they signed a one year contract with Ali Karimi who becomes the third Iranian after Ali Daei and Vahid Hashemian to try his luck with Bayern. Despite initial skepticism, due to the overwhelming uncertainty regarding Karimi's physical aptitude and feelings that his transfer was nothing but a marketing gag, Karimi did not waste any time in proving his critics wrong. On August 14, for the first time, Felix Magath put Karimi on the starting line-up of a 5-2 victory against Bayer Leverkusen on the 2nd day of Bundesliga. Karimi's assist to Roy Makaay for Bayern's second goal followed by his first goal of Bundesliga capped a great performance that earned him a spot on Kicker's team of the week.

Darijo Srna
Country: Croatia
Club Team: Shakhtar Donetsk

He is a right midfielder, and his talent in this position has led some commentators to compare him to David Beckham. He has scored many goals from free kicks, and often makes precise crosses. Srna developed a knack of scoring crucial goals. The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder scored in the two 1-0 wins over Sweden in the group's defining games.

Luis Antonio Valencia
Country: Ecuador
Club Team: Villarreal

Pacy right winger Valencia is tipped for a rosy future, one of the most promising players to have emerged from Ecuador. Though he is struggling to fit in with Villarreal at the moment but if he can get in form, he could be a huge threat on the wings.

Jaime Lozano
Country: Mexico
Club Team: Pumas UNAM

All-action midfielder Jaime Lozano is more concerned with getting goals than stopping them and he struck 11 times during qualification. Though he has gone through some injuries and there is the small threat of him not being on the World Cup squad, he is too good a player not to make the trip to Germany in June.

Carlos Paredes
Country: Paraguay
Club Team: Reggina

Carlos Paredes is arguably his country's most important player. He holds the midfield together and protects the back four with his strength in the tackle and positional awareness. He has formed an influential partnership with fellow midfielder Roberto Acuna who is able to break forward in the knowledge that his team-mate will keep things safe behind him. The Reggina man will never flinch from a tackle and, as a result, is no stranger to the referee's notebook.

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