Landon Donovan (USA)
In 1999, Landon Donovan picked up the Golden Ball as the best player at the FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand and since then, he hasn’t looked back. Having played a crucial role in his country’s stunning quarterfinal appearance in the 2002 World Cup, Donovan has enjoyed a rather successful career for his country, something which he has not been able to replicate at the club level. For the US Men’s national team, Donovan is the all-time leader in scoring and assists, and having played more than 100 matches for his country, has the most caps of all active players.
He is also the only American player to reach the 50 goals and 50 assists mark. In World Cup 2010 where USA topped the group stage in a relatively easy group before losing to Ghana in the pre-quarterfinals, Donovan was the top scorer with 4 goals including one against Ghana. It is also speculated that World Cup 2014 will be his last international tournament his country and the Americans are sure to miss him for his amazing contribution to their footballing history.
Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)
“Baby Jet” as he is popularly called, Asamoah Gyan is undoubtedly the most prolific player in the small nation of Ghana. Not even 18 years when he made his debut for the Black Stars, Gyan has had reasonable success at club level football having played in the Serie A for Udinese. Though, nobody can forget the crucial penalty kick that he missed in the dying moments of the quarterfinal defeat to Uruguay that left a thousand hearts broken in his homeland but barring this, his contribution to his country’s meteoric rise and reaching the quarters in World Cup 2010 has been immense. He scored 3 goals in the tournament before Ghana lost by penalties in the quarters against Uruguay, the match that is also remembered for the infamous goalkeeping incident by Luiz Suarez. He would be captaining Ghana in the tournament next year and with a spectacular 6-1 rout against Egypt recently in the qualifiers has sounded the pre warning bells for the favourites.
Keisuke Honda (Japan)
A prolific midfielder who will turn 28 soon before Japan kick-off their Brazil 2014 campaign, he dazzled for CSKA Moscow in the deep waters of the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League which shot him to fame and is now all set to join A.C Milan. In World Cup 2010, his most impressive show came against Denmark in the final group match where he scored one audacious Ronaldo-esque 35-yard free kick and brilliantly set up the final goal in a 3-1 rout. With this, Keisuke not only made sure his nation qualified for the next stage but also had fans over the world purring over his brilliant performance.
His show in the pre-quarters which Japan lost to Paraguay in heart-breaking fashion on penalties also came in for a lot of praise for his exploiting and attacking nature. Looking to go past the ghosts of 2010, Japan recently qualified for the 2014 World Cup after drawing 1-1 with Australia on Tuesday, thanks to Honda’s penalty kick in the first minute of second-half stoppage time and the country would be hoping he can replicate his performances in the mega event next year as well.
Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark)
He made an international dream debut at the age of 18 in astonishing fashion, scoring both goals in Denmark’s 2-0 win over giants Spain. Since then, Bendtner has been the face of Danish football scoring goals in and out for his country. Even in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, Bendtner scored in the 84th minute against Portugal and again in the reverse fixture to single handedly take Denmark into the World Cup. While Denmark may have one just one match in World Cup 2010 but it was enough for their star player and former Arsenal striker to leave a mark having top scored for his country with 3 goals.
In March 2010, he entered his nation’s history books, becoming the first Danish player to score a hat-track in the UEFA Champions League. Recently, he scored twice against Italy in the 2-2 draw in the World Cup qualifiers to give his country a solid ground for progressing to the World Cup next year and depicted why his form and flare is so crucial for Denmark to do well in the World Cup next year.
Tim Cahill (Australia)
He is one payer who has time and again shown why he is regarded such a force in the international arena especially the World Cup. His performances for Australia in World Cups have been nothing short of extraordinary. Cahill played in the 2006 World Cup and, in Australia’s opening group game against Japan, became the first ever Australian to score a World Cup goal. Scoring a second goal in the same game, he also became the first Australian World Cup match.
He also holds the record for the most goals scored by any Australian in the World Cup. A box to box midfielder, Cahill has become recognised for his direct and powerful approach and his late runs into the penalty area. He scored 19 goals for the Socceroos on their road to the World Cup 2010 and was instrumental in the victory over Serbia and draw with Ghana, even though they were not able to go past the group stage. This time, he was highly influential in securing the Australian entry to the World Cup with the Asian Confederation’s Cup victory.