There will be no shortage of world class players in South Africa and a lot of them will have one thing in common – the faith of Islam!
France and Bayern Munich’s Franck Bilal Ribéry is the standout performer who could make World Cup glory possible for the French. An attacking forward, he has the pace and the dribbling skills to outwit any international defence in the World Cup. A lot will depend on him, as the current French squad is an average set-up with internal problems rife. Ribéry has been recognised on the world stage as one of the best French players of his generation. The previous talisman of Les Bleus, Zinedine Zidane, has called Ribéry the “jewel of French football”.
Nicolas Anelka alas Abdul-Salam Bilal, has rejuvenated himself at Chelsea alongside Drogba. A lot will depend on him to score the goals created by Ribéry.
Samir Nasri the French international footballer plays his club football for the English Premier League side Arsenal. He usually plays as a wide centre forward for Arsenal but has also been used in central and defensive midfield roles when needed. He has been likened by many to Zidane after impressing at his boyhood club Marseille.
The Real Madrid trio of Karim Benzema, Lassana Diarra and Mahamadou Diarra will be hoping to make a major impact in South Africa.
Benzema has not lived up to the hefty price tag since moving to the Bernabaeu from Lyon but his talent alone justifies his inclusion in Les Bleaus squad on a regular basis. He has often been compared to Algerian counter-part Zidane but Benzema has refuted the comparison on a regular basis stating they are different players.
Lassana Diarra and Mahamadou are holding midfielders in the Claude Makalele mould and will fight it out for one position in the French team. Lassana has the upper hand as he has been a regular for the Madrid giants this season.
Barcelona’s Eric Abidal has often vied for the best left-back tag with Ashley Cole. His performances for Barcelona have been nothing short of exemplary. An attacking fullback he has made the position his own since the retirement of legendary Bixente Lizarazu. A lot will depend on Abidal exploiting the left hand side for France to create the goals that would see them have a good chance of succeeding in South Africa.
The imposing Younas Kaboul, of Moroccan descent, has been a late developer to football after starting off brightly for Auxerre in France. Despite moving around England between clubs he has finely shown his stature as an imposing defender. He has not been able to cement a permanent position for Les Bleus but a strong finish to the season could book him a place in the French squad. The French have not entirely filled the central defensive position since the retirements of the holy trinity of Marcel Desailly, Lillian Thuram and Laurent Blanc but Kaboul could be in with a strong case come the end of the season.
Ivory Coast are many people’s favourites to be the dark horses of the tournament. With Didier Drogba in the set-up anything is possible. But the two players who could make the difference between success and failure are the Touré brothers, Yaya and Kolo.
Yaya was nicknamed “the new Patrick Vieira” by his older brother Kolo. He has lived up to his tag with lion-hearted performances for Barcelona and Ivory Coast.
Kolo, who played for Arsenal in the historical undefeated, now plays his trade for Saudi rich Manchester City. Touré is known for his pace and power, which enables him to force weaker attackers off the ball and to keep up with pacy strikers. He possesses good marking ability and most of his tackles are well timed which has contributed to his relatively good disciplinary record. Although relatively short for a centre-back, he makes up for it with an impressive vertical leap. A lot will depend on the performances of the brothers alongside Drogba and Arouna Koné currently playing for Sevilla in Spain.
The perennial underachievers at the world stage have been Holland. A team full of talent and panache, since the 1970s of Johan Cruyff. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He was typically dubbed as one of the three football “Legends” along with Diego Maradona and Pele. Yet the team did not win a major tournament even with a team full of exceptional footballers.
The current crop have as good a chance as any team, yet team unity will and always is the key. Race has always been an issue with the Dutch. Many of the players are descendents of Surinam, an ethnic issue that always arises when a major tournament is in progress.
The key will be the fitness of Robin van Persie. An elegant, left-footed player, he has missed the majority of the season with an ankle injury.
Many readers will not have heard of Ibrahim Afellay, who plays for PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league. He has played for the Dutch national youth team and is now part of the senior Dutch national team. He usually plays as the centre attacking midfielder for PSV but can also play at the right or left side due to his creative qualities. He is one to watch from the younger generation of footballers at the World Cup.
Khalid Boulahrouz another Dutch footballer, is of Moroccan descent and plays for the Netherlands and VFB Stuttgart. His nickname is “Khalid the Cannibal” for his ability to “eat up” his opposition.
Just as Islam is a growing religion around the world, so is the introduction of Muslim footballers to the world stage.
Many players do not identify themselves as Muslims due to the impact and rebuke they might experience through the media and supporters. Mido comes to mind when he played for Tottenham. However slowly and surely, through the media, they will bring a shining light to the religion with their exploits on the football field and not on the battlefield of Kandahar and Peshawar.
We do not have many players to pick from, but I put myself to the task of collaborating a Muslim 11 from the players who will be taking part in South Africa 2010.
Do you agree with my selection? Let us know what you think.
- – GK – Lounès Gaouaoui – Algeria
- – LB – Eric Abidal – France
- – CB – Younas Kaboul – France
- – CB – Kolo Touré – Ivory Coast
- – RB – Khalid Boulahrouz – Holland
- – LM – Lassana Diarra – France
- – CM – Yahya Touré – Ivory Coast
- – CM – Samir Nasri – France
- – RM – Franck Ribéry – France
- – CF – Robin van Persie – Holland
- – CF – Nicolas Anelka – France