The 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year, Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo can do it all - and does so on a regular basis. The iconic lad from Madeira can strike the ball with either foot, is terrific in the air, and has a world class free kick to boot. Ronaldo has the scoring prowess of a striker, but runs a tight ship from midfield, making his goal-scoring numbers even more impressive. One of the two best players in the world, Ronaldo is sure to make some big noise in South Africa.
Landon Donovan, USA
Remember: this isn't a list of the 10 best players, it's a list of 10 players you want to keep an eye on. For the U.S. to advance, Landon Donovan has to play extremely well. In his loan stint at Premiership side Everton this year, Donovan proved that he is a legitimate world-class player. But he was still a role player in England. For the U.S. to be successful (aka, advance to the second round), Donovan needs to dominate the midfield. He needs to control play, distribute, and at times he'll need to finish. The U.S. will only go as far as Landon Donovan takes them.
Frank Lampard, England
With one of the best midfield goal-scoring records in the Premier League over the past few seasons, England's Frank Lampard has a predatory instinct to find the back of the net. Lampard has been one of the main focal points in Chelsea's success in the past decade, the main reason he remains a constant in the starting eleven on one of the deepest squads in football.
Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands
Let go by Real Madrid this summer, Wesley Sneijder showed the Spanish giants exactly what they gave up as he led his club team Inter Milan to the Champions League final on May 22. The pacy Dutchman has a wicked shot and the great ability to dribble himself out of trouble to find the open man. Sneijder is in great form ahead of the World Cup, and at the prime of his career, he could just be the man to deliver the Netherlands its first major title since the 1988 Euro.
Michael Essien, Ghana
Most world class midfielders gain fame with silky smooth skills and fluid movement, but Michael Essien adds thundering power and a never-quit engine to the mix. Probably the best two-way midfieler in the world, the Ghana star tackles with as much determination as he shoots from distance. His strength allows him to hold the ball long enough to make insightful passes, but also gives him the freedom to bang his way towards goal whenever he sees fit. The only thing that might stop Essien in South Africa is a knee injury which threatens the Black Stars' hopes to reach the latter stages of the tournament.
Andres Iniesta, Spain
While Xavi draws the majority of the Spanish midfield's plaudits, Andres Iniesta is a quiet force that is more than capable of producing massive displays on the pitch. His success with Barcelona at the club level is only one indicator of his exquisite abilities, but he translates that regularly into success with the national team as well, including capturing the 2008 European Championship. Iniesta is a sublime passer of the ball with great vision and fantastic touch.
Franck Ribery, France
Group A is one of the toughest to predict in the World Cup draw. You've got Uruguay, a team that played very well in CONMEBOL qualifying and boasts a star in Diego Forlan; Mexico, a team that traditionally is strong in group play; South Africa, the host nation, which has historically been as good as a straight ticket into the knockout round (though it may not be this year); and France, perhaps the biggest mystery of all. A team loaded with individual talent, Les Bleus would not have even made the World Cup finals if not for a hand ball by Thierry Henry that went uncalled in the playoff against Ireland. And you've got Franck Ribery. Without question one of the most talented players in the world, Ribery has been embroiled in a prostitution scandal that, for a while, left his World Cup status in doubt. It will be Ribery's responsibility to elevate his game, and to carry a squad that should advance. But this France team is just such a mystery. Worth watching.
Arjen Robben, Netherlands
Having played with such storied clubs as PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid and now Bayern Munich, Dutch winger Arjen Robben has created quite a following. His energy and skill level are phenomenal, and he has excellent pace to boot. Robben has almost single-handedly carried Bayern into the Champions League final this May, coming up with goal after timely spectacular goal en route to Madrid.
Opposing defenses will have to be extremely wary of the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year as he tries to add a second World Cup to his resume. Kaka's humble hunger, complemented by his amazing ability on the ball, makes the Brazil star the focal point of the Selecao's attack this summer in South Africa. And while Kaka is brilliant at finding the open teammate, he is also more than capable of running up the score all by himself. But will an injury plagued season ruin his World Cup?
The Barcelona maestro Xavi is pure footballing pleasure to witness. His touch and vision, along with his ability to pass a perfectly weighted ball, make him one of the main reasons Lionel Messi has risen to such great heights. But forget about Xavi only performing at the club level - he was the main man finding Fernando Torres during the victorious Euro 2008 campaign. His stature is slight, but his game is quite simply immense.