From FIFA World Cup™ to UEFA Champions League winners, FIFA World Player recipients to national footballers of the year, a host of stars are poised to illuminate the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009. FIFA.com turns the spotlight on these individuals.
Brazil included nine players who helped them win this competition in 2005 in their squad, among them Kaka. A Korea/Japan 2002 winner and the FIFA World Player for 2007, the attacking midfielder has been a regular for his country since 2003 and has 24 goals in 65 caps to his name. Interestingly, A Seleção have never lost a game in which the Real Madrid new boy has scored. In Robinho, Dunga has another player capable of turning a game in an instant at his disposal.
Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Cannavaro helped Italy to glory at Germany 2006, with the latter going on to win that year's FIFA World Player crown. "We want to play some excellent football in South Africa, and continue our development as a team and functional unit," said their coach Marcelo Lippi.
Spain's exceptional form over the past two years has been indebted to a crop of outstanding players, and despite injury sidelining Andres Iniesta, they will still be able to count upon Iker Casillas, David Villa and Fernando Torres. "As reigning European champions, expectations are that much higher. But we must keep our feet on the ground and take each game as it comes, hopefully all the way to the final," Villa told FIFA.com.
"Spain have never been in this competition before, and naturally we're going to South Africa with the intention of winning it, which would be a great honour for each player and the national team as a whole," Casillas added.
Outsiders' key men
Nashat Akram, 24, runs his Iraq's midfield thanks to his vision and precise passing, while team-mate and captain Younis Mahmoud is renowned for his aerial ability and possesses an impressive shot with both feet. "I'm filled with pride when I coach this team," coach Bora Milutinovic recently said to FIFA.com.
The hosts will charge Steven Pienaar and Teko Modise with inspiring success. The former, a creative, confident midfielder, recently became only the fifth South African to contest the English FA Cup final, while the latter employs his arsenal of tricks to thrill audiences and unlock defences.
Shane Smeltz will carry New Zealand's hopes on his broad shoulders. The 27-year-old has been a prolific marksman for the All Whites, and has been named Oceania's best player for each of the past two years. Alongside his trusted strike partner Chris Killen, Smeltz is hoping to improve his country's disappointing FIFA Confederations Cup record, which currently shows six defeats in six matches.
USA's Landon Donovan has an admirable collection of personal honours. The adidas Golden Ball recipient at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 1999, the playmaker has now won over 100 caps and is the side's all-time top scorer on 38 goals. "The coach is expecting a lot from me and that's put me under a great deal of pressure. But I have no problem with that at all. In fact, I like it," said the only man to have been named American player of the year twice in a row.
Mohamed Aboutrika rates as the most talented Egyptian player of his generation. With a penchant for defence-splitting passes and individual goals, he has thrust Cairo giants Al Ahly to multiple domestic championships, CAF Champions League glory on three occasions, and third place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006.
This competition will involve Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates later this year, largely thanks to the brilliance of Hosni Abd Rabbou. The 24-year-old midfielder will now look to take his club form on to the international stage.
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