Competing at a FIFA World Cup is invariably the highlight of any footballer’s career, and this week we discovered which players have moved a step closer to realising that dream. The final 23-man squads will not be known until 1 June, but this week coaches from each of the participating nations named the 30 players from which that ultimate decision will be made.

To view the provisional squads selected by all 32 finalists, just click on the pdf document linked at the bottom of the right-hand menu.

As always with these preliminary squad announcements, surprise inclusions and notable, often controversial, omissions dominated the headlines, even if plenty of coaches remained faithful to the tried and tested stars who had excelled during qualifying. Sadly, injuries forced the hands of many, with Charlie Davies failing to recover in time to take his place in a USA squad that instead included the comparatively inexperienced striking duo of Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez.

There were even more surprises for fans of the Americans’ opening match opponents, England, for whom Jamie Carragher and Ledley King – neither of whom have played under Fabio Capello – both received call-ups. The Three Lions’ Italian coach, who failed to convince Paul Scholes to join Carragher in coming out of retirement, also included two as yet uncapped players: King’s central defensive partner, Michael Dawson, and the exciting Manchester City winger, Adam Johnson. Elsewhere in Group C, there was a place for Groningen’s in-form young striker Tim Matavz in Matjaz Kek’s Slovenia selection, while Algeria coach Rabah Sadaane sprung few surprises in a squad dominated by a strong Europe-based contingent.

The task of choosing from Brazil’s embarrassment of riches fell to Dunga, who resisted a public clamour by staying true to the players who topped their qualifying group and won last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup. The inclusion of Wolfsburg striker Grafite raised a few eyebrows, however, while Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was rewarded for his fine form in the Londoners’ outstanding Premier League campaign with the third goalkeeping slot. Group F rivals Portugal, meanwhile, have gambled on the fitness of Real Madrid centre-half Pepe, sidelined since December, while shock inclusions were conspicuous by their absence in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s star-studded Côte d’Ivoire squad.

Inevitably, Diego Maradona’s selection proved less predictable, with the Argentina coach picking the largely unknown trio of Ariel Garce, Sebastian Blanco and Juan Manuel Insaurralde among a nine-strong contingent of home-based players that also includes 36-year-old Martin Palermo. Another veteran striker who could be lining up against Maradona’s side in their South Africa 2010 opener is Kanu. The Portsmouth striker, who turns 34 in August, was named alongside club colleague John Utaka in Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback’s 30-man list.

The holders, meanwhile, will rely on the players who led them back to the world stage, with Marcello Lippi resisting the temptation to recall Francesco Totti in an Italy squad that has Giuseppe Rossi as its only foreign-based player. Spain, many observers’ favourites for the title, have named the injured trio of Andreas Iniesta, Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas along with outsiders such as Barcelona winger Pedro Rodriguez, Osasuna defender Cesar Azpilicueta and Athletic Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez.

In the closely-matched Group D, Germany surprised many by including Hamburg defender Dennis Aogo and Bayern Munich youngster Holger Badstuber, while Radomir Antic named seven England-based players in a formidable looking Serbia squad. Australia and Ghana, meanwhile, have backed two of their key players to recover from injury in time, with Harry Kewell and Michael Essien both included.

A quartet of Arsenal players and a trio of Ligue 1-winning Marseille players were named in France coach’s Raymond Domenech’s 30, while Mexico have named just five recognised midfielders in a squad that will be without the talents of the injured Miguel Sabah. Finally, hosts South Africa sprung few surprises in their announcement, with prodigal son Benni McCarthy, as expected, completing his return from the international wilderness by making Carlos Alberto Parreira’s provisional list.