The 2010 FIFA World Cup has entered its last eight stages and the matches are getting mouth-watering.
With the excitement to start late Friday, we will take a sneak look into the 14 players whose play will be most watched.
Maradona's much celebrated successor has been superb on the pitch these World Cup. He has been the livewire for Argentina in their attacks and is at the top of his creative best.
But he has been unable to score a goal yet in South Africa. Be it the goal post or the goalie or his luck, Messi has been frustrated time and again in front of the goal.
As Argentina takes on another tournament favorite Germany in the “Battle of Capetown” the whole world will be watching the diminutive Argentine wizard. It will be left to see whether he can dribble his team to the semis with his skills and if he gets the much awaited World Cup goal at last.
The highly skilled and gifted Brazilian playmaker has been unable to impress for the Samba boys. He has been a shadow of his previous self and looks a lonesome figure on the field.
The Real Madrid midfielder looks off colour and is lacking concentration on the field. Brazil will be hoping that their creative playmaker gets his form back against the Dutch as his creativity will be required a lot.
Whether Kaka can deliver and live up to his reputation, that is a question that will be answered only after both teams take the field.
The Brazilian looked lively in the group stage matches as the "Dribbling King" eased past his opponents by his highly famed footwork. But in the match against Chile he looked a bit off colour. It should not be too worrying for Dunga and his assistants.
Robinho should get his form back by the time the Samba boys take on Netherlands. With the Dutch using possession football to outsmart their opponents Brazil needs Robinho and his dribbling qualities to outsmart and beat the Dutch.
The newly signed Barcelona striker had a slow start to the World Cup but since then he has slowly and steadily reached peak form much to the joy of Spain. He has been in top form for Spain in front of the goal scoring four goals already and is a serious contender for the Golden Boot.
He has justified his £40million transfer price which Barca paid to sign him from Mestalla and Barca authorities will be delighted by what they have seen. Spain needs him to keep scoring goals if they are to go all the way and Villa will have a huge responsibility on him.
Only the next 10 days will decide whether he can score his country all the way to their first ever World Cup.
The gifted Liverpool hitman has returned from injury recently and seems to be still recuperating. He has had a good match against Portugal but is yet to find his best. He seems jaded at times and his sharpness is missing.
Whether he will be live upto the huge expectations weighing up on him remains to be seen when Spain take on Paraguay in their quarterfinal showdown on Saturday.
The Athletico Madrid striker has had a good run so far in the World Cup and he will be looking forward to maintaining the same as Uruguay take on Ghana when the two nations meet for the quarterfinal match on Friday.
His combination with Suarez has been impressive and they need to maintain the tempo if they are to progress further. The Uruguayan striker is looking for a switch to England and a good performance will help him get a handful of suitors.
One of the most impressive players in this World Cup. His exploits in front of the goal for Uruguay has surely taken his reputation sky-high. A host of clubs are looking to make a bid for him as soon as the transfer window opens.
His goal against South Korea was one of the best in the World Cup. He has been in peak form and will be looking to maintain the same as his nation looks to win their third World Cup.
The highly-rated Dutch winger had been in sensational form for his club Bayern Munich this season. But an injury forced him to the sidelines and he missed Netherland's first two group matches. He made a late appearance in Netherland's last match.
The 26-year-old started for his country in the Round of 16 clash against Slovakia and was at his best. He scored a superb goal and his presence livened up the Dutch midfield. He is the backbone of the Dutch midfield and Netherlands will be depending on his skills during their quarterfinal showdown against Brazil.
With Brazil looking strong defensively the “flying Dutchman” will have to flex his creativity to break the Samba defense and create chances. Friday’s match in Port Elizabeth will bear the answer to whether he can live up to his club form.
The Arsenal striker had been out of action for nearly 4-5 months due to an injury. He however recovered and delivered some superb performances for his club towards the end of the season. But he has been completely off form in the World Cup. He looks out of ideas in front of the goal and lacks the killer instincts that are so characteristics of him. The highly respected 26-year-old cuts a lonely figure on the field and seems like he left his goal scoring boots back home.
RVP’s performances have come under scrutiny and he needs to improve his game drastically if he wants to maintain his reputation in the international stage. Netherlands need him to rise to the occasion if they are to overcome the Brazilians.
Will he or won’t he? That will be answered only after Friday’s inter-continental showdown.
The 25-year-old German has been very impressive for his country in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Except a bad day against Serbia he has been in top form. His pace and eye for the goal makes him a threat to his opponents and he has lived upto that.
As the prolific goal scorer takes on the in-form Argentines in the continental battle for supremacy, in their quarterfinal fixture, Podolski will have huge responsibilities on himself as Germany's goalscoring task will be on him. Whether he is able to fox Heinze and Co. remains unanswered as yet.
The 21-year-old has been one of the biggest finds of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. His skills with the ball were already known but the world got a taste of his skills this time. He is an absolute livewire in the German midfield. His incisive runs into the opponents’ box make him a constant threat for opposition defenses. He is very fast with the ball as he is without it.
His superb vision and ability to read the game adds creativity to the German midfield. He creates a host of chances with his pacy yet skilled game and that is what Germany need in ample to defeat the South Americans’ to progress further.
The Ghanaian shot stopper is regarded as the best in Africa and he has lived upto his reputation. His skills under the post have earned him huge reputation in the World Cup. He is unbeatable in one-on-one situations and also has a very good reflex.
He is Ghana’s “China Wall” and he has maintained that quality to remain the same. He made some top quality saves which contributed in Ghana progressing so far in the tournament.
He will have to maintain his impressive form under the bar as Ghana looks to book a place for them in history.
Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona had put faith on this talented Real Madrid striker and Higuain has kept Maradona’s faith. With already 5 goals in his tally he is leading the race for the Golden Boot. Maradona’s tactics to use the 22-year-old Argentine ahead of Diego Milito has reaped its benefits and Maradona is basking in the glory.
Higuain needs to maintain his goal-scoring prowess for Argentina to overcome the gritty Germans and progress further. Whether he is able to score his way to the World Cup and Golden Boot is something that will only be answered when the tournament ends.
The 23-year-old Ghana midfielder had been touted by many as the player to watch out for and he has really lived up to that reputation. His goal against USA was a display of individual brilliance combined with skill and top class temperament. He had an impressive season with the now-relegated Portsmouth where he was seen as a player with huge potential.
His performances for the Black Stars in the World Cup will add to his already growing potential and he will look to bolster it further by helping his team reach the semis of the World Cup.