World Cup 2010 Preview: Likely Lethal Superduo Strike Partnerships
Most aptly dubbed "The Greatest Show on Earth ", the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa promises to be a football spectacle of the highest proportion.
One key ingredient in accomplishing this feat has always been and remains goals. Goals and more goals galore.
Since the inaugural World Cup in 1930, the world has been feted with a feast of the spectacular to the sublime, the sudden flash of brilliance to solo efforts of sheer genius that have led just seven nations to lift the coveted trophy.
Fans across the globe will be glued to their set boxes, plasmas, HD TVs, iPods, Laptops and smart phones to witness the best at their best.
But World Cup history is replete with "super duo" partnerships that has elevated star strikers to even greater heights and, in most instances, championship glory.
The teams that are blessed with these partnerships are generally superior to their opponents as the telepathic link between the two leads to greater attacking potency, goal conversion and ultimately victory.
We've had lethal partnerships in the past such as Brazil's Romario and Bebeto and Ronaldo and Rivaldo, Germany's Klinsmann and Bierof and Klose and Podolski, Portugal''s Eusabio and Torres, Chile's Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamarano and Italy's Baggio and Schillaci.
These partnerships, however, have to be honed and developed and generally thrive in the traditional 4-4-2 formation that is not so popular today.
Here is a list of the tried and proven as well as potential lethal strike partnerships that are expected to be unleashed in only 58 days, come this June in South Africa.
SPAIN: Fernando Torres and David Villa
The FIFA world number one ranked Spain are considered favorites to lift the trophy after years of under-performing at the World Cup.
One reason that they are favorites is the lethal strike force of David Villa and Fernando Torres.
Sufficiently lethal on their own, both prominent among their respective league's list of leading goal scorers, both are considered among the games' top strikers in the past decade and definitely are likely candidates for the Golden Boot.
David Villa has figured prominently for his club Valencia and so far has 20 goals to his tally for third place in the league. He has consistently remained at the top of the list of league scorers for the past two seasons and is considered Spain's most prolific goal scorer despite having scored only 37 international goals to Raul's 44.
He has had 55 appearances for Spain after debuting in 2005. The importance of his goals in key matches sets the player apart from his Real Madrid based counterpart.
Fernando "El Nino" Torres has battled injury all season for EPL club Liverpool but whenever he has been fit he has been a fixture on the score sheet. He has progressed among the youth ranks for Spain until being called to the senior national team in 2003.
He has since made 71 appearances in ll competitions for Spain, scoring a total of 23 goals. For Liverpool, he was the first player since Robbie Fowler to score 20 goals in a season. So far he has scored 18 goals in the EPL despite constantly being on the injured list.
ARGENTINA: Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez
To be fair, it would be justified to count "The Flea" Lionel Messi twice as based on his current form and exploits for Barcelona in La Liga and the UEFA Champions league.
The player has the impact of two strikers and many a defender will agree to this point. Yes, he is that good.
At only age 22 and a winger to boot, the reigning world player of the year has been enjoying his most dominating season yet for the six trophy-winning Barcelona. He already has to his credit 27 goals in La Liga and a tally of 40 goals in all competitions this season.
Unfortunately, the little dynamo has yet to transfer this form to his national team, Argentina. But many coaches around the globe would love to have the problem that Maradona has. Who to partner Messi?
There is the number two leading goalscorer in La Liga Higuain that is peaking at the right time with 24 goals thus far. Then there is Manchester United discard and Manchester City's treasure, Carlos Tevez. who sits at number four in the EPL with 21 goals.
Both are exceptional goal scorers and able partners for Messi, but who gets the start? When the seasoned campaigner and Serie A second leading goal scorer Alberto Diego Milito is added to the mix with his 19 goals the "problem" is compounded even more.
At 22 Higuain has only four caps to Milito's 20 and Tevez has 51 caps with eight goals. Oh what a headache for Argentina!
ENGLAND: Wayne Rooney and ..., and ...?
England's manager Fabio Capello has a dilemma on his hands. Who to select as the starting striker to partner Wayne Rooney?
With Wayne Rooney enjoying his best season after stepping out of the shadow of former Man U star Cristiano Ronaldo, there seems no stopping the boy wonder that has matured in leaps and bounds from his former petulant behavior.
As the EPL's leading goal scorer so far with 26 goals under his belt, only injury has been able to contain England's leading marksman. His importance and role for the English's title run is unquestionable but of course he cannot go it alone.
Names such as Michael Owen and Hemile Heskey have been thrown around, but with injuries to Owen and the poor form of the aging Heskey, both have disqualified themselves for a place in the squad.
The 6"6 Peter Crouch deserves the chance to partner the hard running Rooney and would pose as an excellent complement to the striker's game. Despite looking more like a basketball player than a footballer, Crouch is a skillful player contrary to his lanky frame and unassuming demeanor. He is a very capable passer of the ball and certainly represents an excellent target off set plays and deep squares.
The in-form Jermain Defoe is also deserving of a chance with his 17 goals in the EPL for Tottenham. The issue is of course is whether his style of play will enhance that of Rooney's.
FRANCE: Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka
It is felt that Henry's best playing days are behind him and that at age 32 (33 in August) the French captain is not as lethal as he was when leading the Arsenal attack and France's charge in the 1998 and 2006 campaign. His form for club side Barcelona supports this view.
He has had a lack of playing time and starts at the star studded Barcelona with Pedro and Boyan Krkic given the nod over Arsenal's most heralded finisher.
His experience, however, cannot be discounted and as one of the games most lethal strikers he is still capable of great burst of speed and pace to outrun many a defender. A good striker of the ball as well as passer he is expected to rise to the occasion as the French have repeatedly done in the pass.
Domenech's pick for strike partner to Henry, Nicolas Anelka has had two good seasons with EPL, leading Chelsea since joining the club in 2008. The much traveled striker has had a torrid time in first team selection for France in the pass despite having the reputation for being a lethal finisher.
He has recently solidified a place on the French team and many believe he has the qualities to complement Henry as he is a good runner off the ball and reads the game very well.
The young and promising Benzema who is playing his first season at Real Madrid has not had the faried start that the new Galacticos were expecting. Not surprising as in form striker Higuain and star players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka have made it difficult for the striker to shine.
He will definitely be a fixture in France's plans to lift the World Cup and barring injury could provide a much needed support off the bench to partner Henry up front.
NETHERLAND: Dirk Kuyt and Robin Van Persie
Arguably the best team that has never won the world cup, the Netherlands have been excellent proponents of the "Total Football" philosophy and remain one of the most exciting teams to watch play.
Their leading strikers Dirk Kuyt of Liverpool and Robin Van Persie of Arsenal are expected to lead the Dutch charges to defy all odds and lift the coveted world cup.
Van Persie has been plagued by injuries this season and it is hoped that he will return to fitness in time for the world cup in June.
Kuyt has featured prominently for Liverpool and has nine goals to his credit so far in the EPL. A good goal poacher in the mold of a Van Nistelrooy, a lot of hopes will be placed on his shoulders to deliver the goods for the Dutch.
Although Kuyt and Van Persie are expected to lead the strike force for the Dutch, mention has to be made of the potential impact of their two mercurial midfielders. Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich and Inter's Wesley Sneijder.
Robben was the scorer of an excellent volley that dumped EPL standard bearers and 2008 UEFA Champions League finalists Manchester United out of the competition.
Considered one of the game's best dead ball specialists, Sneijder has been the engine driving Inter's midfield and is also capable of shooting from distance.
His visionary plays and assists will serve the Dutch well come June in South Africa.
BRAZIL: Luis Fabiano and Robinho
Brazil have been the traditional exponents of the lethal striker partnerships since the inception of the world cup. The slick and fluid trademark plays have been keys to Brazil achieving World Cup success with the most wins of any country: five.
Most notable is the 1994 partnership between Romario and Bebeto that led to their fourth lien on the World Cup title. In 2002 it was Rivaldo and Golden Boot Winner Ronaldo that delivered a world leading trophy number 5.
Coach Dunga has discarded the stars of the failed 2006 squad and have relied on Luis Fabiano and 2006 survivor Robinho to lead the much vaunted and feared Brazil attack.
Fabiano plies his trade in the La Liga with Sevilla. FC has 35 appearances for Brazil and has scored 25 goals since making his debut in June 2003. He was the leading scorer in the 2009 Confederations Cup scoring 5 goals to win the golden shoe and in the process allowing Brazil to win the competition.
Selected by the great Pele as his heir apparent at age 15, Robson de Souza or Robinho has featured prominently as the future of Brazilian football. He made his debut for the national team in the Gold Cup in 2003. He has since made 70 appearance and scored 20 goals for the Seleceo.
Not being a stranger to delivering success to top clubs, he has led Santos of Brazil and Real Madrid to 2 league title each. He is Real's third highest leading goal scorer second to only Van Nistelrooy and Raul.
A very skillful dribbler and able scorer, he also holds the title as Real's second leading assist second to Guti and is therefore expected to provide the perfect supporting partnership to Luis Fabiano come June.
Despite having the two seasoned campaigners at their disposal Brazil has the hard working 2007 world player of the year Kaka also on their roster.
Although Ronaldhino has been out of favor with coach Dunga the play maker and former two time FIFIA world player of the year has regained some of his former form with Serie A club AC Milan.
The gifted and creative midfielder may be a surprise x-factor come June and would be a great asset to any team if if he plays off the bench.
ITALY: Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino
The defending World Cup holders Italy are not fancied to reach far in this campaign. That was also the case in 2006.
As World Cup pedigree and perennial contenders who rise to big occasions, the Azzurri can never be counted out of a World Cup competition.
Their hopes of retaining the cup will rest heavily on Serie A third leading goal scorer Alberto Gilardino who plays for Fiorentina and has found the back of the net 15 times this season. The Italian all time leading under 21 goal scorer made his debut in 2004 playing in the Olympics and helped his country to earn the bronze medal.
He was instrumental in Italy's qualification to the World Cup in South Africa when he scored in the 89th minute against Ireland securing a 1-1 draw.
Gilardino may be partnered up front with the 6"5 Luca Toni who has featured for the Italians since his debut in 2004.
Vincenzo Iaquinta of Juventus should also feature for the Azzurri after returning from injury. He is an able strike partner who should feature for Italy come June
GERMANY: Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski
Like the Italians, the Germans can never be counted out of a World Cup competition and are the epitome of consistency having made it to seven finals.
The lethal strike duo of Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski still lead the German attack and by now are very much used to feeding off each other.
Klose rose to prominence in the 2002 World Cup competition where he developed a penchant for scoring goals with his head. He was the joint second leading goal scorer equaling Brazil's Rivaldo with five goals.
He has a total of 10 World Cup goals, placing him third on the list of Germany's all time goal scorers behind Gerd Muller and Jurgen Klinsmann.
Podolsky made his debut in 2004 for Germany after being overlooked by Poland. He featured in the 2006 world cup where he scored three goals behind team mate Klose that solidified their lethal partnership for Germany.
PORTUGAL: Cristiano Ronaldo and/or Nani and/or Simao
Portugal has flattered to deceive in a number of international football competition, including the World Cup. Despite the dearth of talent at their disposal, the Spanish neighbors have shared a similar fate by repeatedly stumbling on the main stage of football's extravaganza.
The 2008/09 FIFA world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo is the poster boy for football and one of the highest paid and highest profile player to participate in this year's World Cup in South Africa.
The outstanding former Manchester United player like his counter part and best current world footballer of the year, Messi, has not transferred his club form to country.
He has not scored with any consistency and was a non-feature in a world cup qualifying campaign that sputtered at times as they fought to qualify for the finals.
His former team mate at Manchester United Nani on the other hand has featured more prominently on the score sheet along with Simao of Atletico Madrid.
Much his expected of the Portugal captain who has declared he his saving his best form and goals for the World Cup. Portugal and fans alike await with baited breath to see if he delivers
UNITED STATES: Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan
Without a doubt the US's most prominent and influential player, a lot his expected of Landon to drive the teams charge to progress beyond the first round of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Despite their surprise performance in the Confederations Cup where they defeated world number one Spain and contested the finals against Brazil, the US are not expected to feature prominently at the World Cup.
Certainly far from being favorites, team USA may surprise many as they did in the Confederations Cup. If they do, a lot will depend on key midfield playmaker and goal scorer Landon Donovan who has returned to the LA Galaxy after a successful stint with Everton in the EPL.
Jozy Altidore has also benefited by playing in the more competitive and high quality Barclay's Premiere league and the experience is expected to benefit team USA's progression come June in South Africa.
Despite playing for struggling Hull City he has featured in the teams attack and his strength and tenacity has helped the team to get on the score sheet.
As the top scorer in the qualifying campaign along with the influential Donovan, both are expected to partner together to provide support to strikers Brian Ching (if return from injury in time) and Coner Casey up front.