Liverpool FC's World Cup XI
With the 2010 World Cup kicking off in less than a month's time, which of the men from Liverpool could be bringing a World Cup winner's medal back to Anfield?
Several of the World Cup squads have Red stars in their ranks, and so Liverpool fans could well be seeing their Anfield heroes making an impact on the biggest football competition of all.
Twelve players in the current Liverpool first team squad will be competing at this year’s competition in South Africa, representing eight different nations.
Despite having a poor qualifying campaign, Diego Maradona’s Argentina will start as one of the tournament favourites. Having played in four World Cup Finals and winning two, the South Americans are a powerhouse of world football.
Liverpool midfield general, Javier Mascherano captains the Argentine side, and typifies their notoriously hard tackling and robust style of play.
Maradona, pursued Mascherano rigorously wanting the Liverpool central midfield enforcer as his captain. It was the passion, drive, and energy that the former Argentine captain wanted from his new captain, and he knew that from the Liverpool man he would get this in bucket loads.
Liverpool wide man, Maxi Rodriguez will also feature in a strong Argentine squad.
After a slow start to his Liverpool career, Maxi has found his feet and has begun to show some of his sparkling South American skills.
Best known for one of the most spectacular strikes of any World Cup Finals, Maxi’s goal against Mexico at the last Finals goes down as one of the best in World Cup history.
This Liverpool duo will have a large part to play if Argentina hope to fulfill their billing as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Daniel Agger will play in the centre of a young Danish defence. Once again, injury has blighted Agger’s season, and the young Dane saw himself playing out of position several times this campaign.
At the World Cup though, we should see him back in his favoured, and best, central defensive position. Seemingly back and fully fit again, Denmark will benefit from Agger’s pace, strength and powerful shot.
On many occasions Agger has strode majestically out of the Liverpool defence with the ball at his feet, past players and distributed well. Other times, Liverpool fans have seen him unleash his powerful left foot shots from distance.
A fully fit, healthy, and raring to go Daniel Agger will stand the Danish side in good stead come the start of their World Cup Finals campaign.
If it was not for the last minute reconsideration of Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher, Liverpool would only have been represented in this tournament by Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson.
Having been courted by Fabio Capello and his team to return to the international fold after a self imposed retirement, Carragher will bring his determination, drive, and dedicated defending to an England defence that seems to be shaky of late.
Initially understood to be in the squad to provide cover at right back for his fellow Anfield team mate, Glen Johnson, we may well see the Anfield hard man playing in his preferred central defensive position.
One thing is for certain from Carragher, England will get a defender’s defender, who will fight tooth and nail for this cause and whose passion to win will be infectious both on and off the pitch.
Glen Johnson is now the first choice right back for England. And as Liverpool has seen, his attacking nature gives the team a whole new dimension going forward. His powerful running on and off the ball has become synonymous to his game. So many of Liverpool's most potent attacks emanate from their right side, and England will find this is also the case when Johnson is on song.
Questions have been asked about his defending, particularly his weaknesses in positional play and defensive responsibilities. However, through his continued work with top coaches like Rafa Benitez and Capello, Johnson should become as accomplished a defender as he is offensive weapon.
But for now, England will hope that his pace and direct style of play will more than make up for his occasional lapses in his defensive duties.
Last, but by no means least, of England's Liverpool trio is Steven Gerrard. Without doubt one of the most accomplished midfielders playing the game anywhere in the world today. Described by many as the best all round player in the world, the Liverpool captain is a player upon whom it is difficult to pin attributes as quite possibly every superlative available would not do his talents justice.
On numerous occasions, Gerrard has pulled his Liverpool team through games single handedly. Blessed with great technical abilities, his direct running off the ball and eye for goal make him a genuine match winner.
If Gerrard can put a disappointing domestic season behind him, and put in the performances we all know he is capable of, then England will progress to the later stages of the tournament, if not even come home with the trophy.
Known for their attacking flair and stylish football, the Dutch are an attractive proposition in any tournament.
The duo of Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel are Liverpool's representatives in this highly talented group of players who have a real chance of lifting the trophy for the first time.
Kuyt has had another industrious season for the Reds. There is no player in the Premier League that can beat the tireless Dutchman when it comes to fitness and hard work. Kuyt is Liverpool's Energizer Bunny, he just keeps on going.
Having established himself firmly on the right side of Liverpool's midfield, he has found that his international coaches have also seen the merits of playing him there.
Although he prefers to play as a striker, the unassuming Kuyt will play where it is best for the team and will play his heart out in that position.
The enigmatic Ryan Babel has pulled himself together since the turn of the year, and put in some very commendable displays in a red shirt that has seen him being given an orange shirt that he so wanted.
The talent that Babel has is without doubt. His pace, dribbling, and ferocious shot is from the top drawer. But he suffers from inconsistency, and this led to him falling out of favour with Benitez in the middle part of last season.
But after a few unfortunate run ins with the media, he put his head down and began to show some of the abilities that he has. Recent performances have seen him back into the national squad and on his way to South Africa.
If he is given the chance and he performs at the top of his ability, he could well be a star of the Dutch team.
Liverpool's Martin Skrtel has suffered a season of injuries and hence seen little playing time. Completely absent from the first team squad in the run in to the end of the campaign, Skrtel's ambition was to be fit for his nation's first appearance in a major competition.
Known for his love of tackling and defending, Skrtel is one of the stars of his national team. Coming off a season of little domestic action will see him enter the tournament fresh and fit.
In a group with Italy, Paraguay, and New Zealand, Slovakia's entry into major international football could have been a lot worse. With luck and some solid defending from Skrtel and company, they may even find themselves advance into the round of 16.
One of the favorites to be crowned world champions are the reigning European Champions, Spain. Always the bride's maid, never the bride, Spain have always flopped at the World Cup.
Their win in the European Championships, finally laid to rest the stigma that they did not have the ability to last throughout a tournament. This could be the year where their dismal record at the world's premier football tournament is also set straight.
Liverpool's number one, or number 25, Pepe Reina goes into the World Cup Finals as probably the best player in any of the squads not to be a starter for his country. Spain are spoiled for choice when it comes to the goalkeeping position.
Reina has been far and away Liverpool's best performer this season and has been one of the very few positives of an otherwise dismal season.
Liverpool fans would love to see Reina play more for his country, but as it is with Liverpool, he is a massive influence off the field. His presence and motivation is invaluable and despite few playing minutes during Spain's victory in the European Championships, he was credited with being one of the reasons for their success.
Star striker Fernando Torres has been hit with injury last season, but despite only starting 20 games in the Premier League, the Spanish ace still managed to score 18 goals.
Still struggling with injury, it is not certain whether Torres will be fit for Spain's opening match of the tournament against Switzerland in just over a month's time.
His partnership with David Villa is the most potent attacking force in international football today, and if they can reproduce their phenomenal form together in South Africa, they will surely take the trophy.
Liverpool's World Cup XI
If all those Reds representing their nations at this year's World Cup formed a team in themselves, what a team that would be.
GK - Pepe Reina
LB - Daniel Agger
CB - Jamie Carragher
CB - Martin Skrtel (Sotirios Krygiakos)
RB - Glen Johnson
LM - Maxi Rodriguez
CM - Javier Mascherano
CM - Steven Gerrard
RM - Ryan Babel
F - Dirk Kuyt
F - Fernando Torres
To all the Liverpool players representing their respective nations in this year World Cup Finals in South Africa, good luck. And most of all please do not get injured and come back to Anfield ready for the challenge of the season to come.
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