Although many sports choose a team captain, given the free-flowing nature of the game, the role is particularly vital in football.
Unlike basketball coaches, football managers do not have the luxury of calling a timeout when their teams need to stop and regroup.
American football coaches can send a sub into the huddle, armed with a new play, but football managers are limited to just three substitutions for the entire match—even if it goes into extra time.
So they put their faith in the team captain, also known as a "skipper."
To borrow a term from its American counterpart, a football captain is a lot like a quarterback.
Although the coach is ultimately calling the shots from the sidelines, it's up to the captain to inspire the other players on the field and make any necessary on-the-fly adjustments (since the manager cannot call a timeout).
A good captain is level-headed and leads by example. Not surprisingly, he's often the team's best player. Captains are usually defenders (goalkeepers and centre backs are the most common choice) since their vantage point allows them to see the entire game unfold—although many central midfielders fill the role as well. Captaining a striker is rare, but it does happen (Didier Drogba, for example).
Captains in international football may even be more important than they are at the club level, since national sides only train together a handful of times per year (whereas a club managers continually develop their squads throughout the year).
Needless to say, World Cup captains have a lot riding on their shoulders.
Here are the 32 men who will lead their teams in battle in South Africa at the 2010 World Cup: