Football lovers everywhere went into the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ with burning hopes of seeing the game’s most illustrious stars parade their skills and light up the global stage with goals. The nets have certainly bulged across South Africa, with no fewer than 123 strikes buried so far, but the brightest talents have been conspicuously absent from the scoring charts.

Perhaps the most surprising player still grounded on zero efforts is Lionel Messi, the 2009 FIFA Player of the Year. Although there can be no doubt about the Barcelona forward’s massive contribution to Argentina’s quarter-final place, the outrageously gifted No10 is still waiting to open his account.

Given his Pichichi title as the Spanish Liga’s most prolific marksman last term, Messi’s failure to notch even one of La Albiceleste’s ten goals is almost bizarre, but the player himself is not unduly concerned. “It doesn’t worry me, even if I prefer to score when I play,” he said. “The most important thing is that we maintain the level we’re playing at and that we go on to win by playing as a team.”

Messi’s fellow South American star Kaka has fared no better on the goalscoring front, although the 2007 FIFA Player of the Year has set up three of Brazil’s eight goals so far, including Luis Fabiano’s effort against Chile in the Round of 16. Like his Argentinian rival, the Seleção playmaker prefers to focus on his team’s winning form than his own travails in front of goal. “My objective is to create goals and present the forwards with chances,” he said. “That’s how Robinho and Luis Fabiano have been able to score. I’m happy to have set up those goals and I hope to end the tournament as the player with the most assists and have Luis Fabiano finish as top scorer.”

While Messi and Kaka can certainly content themselves with their overall displays, the situation appears somewhat more worrying for Spain striker Fernando Torres, who has disputed 212 minutes at South Africa 2010 without adding to his international tally.

El Niño is still recovering from a knee operation in April that originally put his participation in doubt, but in-form fellow forward David Villa remains confident that the Liverpool man will soon rediscover his goalscoring touch. “I don’t think Torres’s performances have been poor, even if he hasn’t scored,” explained Villa. “He’s worked enormously hard to be here with us and we need to thank him for that, especially after his operation. Yes, strikers get judged on how many goals they score, but Fernando hasn’t had a lot of chances so far. He’s working, he’s progressing and you’ll see: the goals will come, like the one in the EURO 2008 final that won us the title.”

Fernando hasn’t had a lot of chances so far. He’s working, he’s progressing and you’ll see: the goals will come.

David Villa, Spain forward.

Torres will now be hoping to turn things around against Paraguay in the quarter-finals, when another pair of predators will also be determined to have their say. Manchester City’s Roque Santa Cruz and Benfica’s Oscar Cardozo – top scorer in Portugal last term – have both experienced a similar goal drought, no doubt partly due to coach Gerardo Martino’s conservative tactics.

While those players can all still make the difference, England’s Wayne Rooney can do nothing about his haul of zero strikes in four games. Three Lions fans expected much from the Manchester United icon following his 26 efforts in the Premier League last season, but he was unable to carry that bountiful form into the FIFA World Cup and England have now travelled home in the wake of their last-16 loss to Germany.

Likewise, Jozy Altidore was given 357 minutes of action for the United States without weighing in with a single goal, a frustration shared by France’s Franck Ribery, South Africa’s Steven Pienaar and Harry Kewell of Australia. Solovakia’s Marek Hamsik left empty-handed as well, unable to match his team-mate Robert Vittek, who currently shares pole position in the race for the adidas Golden Boot on four goals with David Villa and Gonzalo Higuain.