Festival of Champs serves up new stars

Some of the best players in the world have been in action at the Fifa Confederations Cup 2009 and it is safe to say that they have not disappointed.

The likes of Fernando Torres, Kaka and Teko Modise have played vital roles in helping their teams into the last four, but they are not the only ones to have shone. Some lesser-known players have seized their opportunity to perform on the world stage.

Local stars shine bright
By claiming second spot in Group A, hosts South Africa made sure that the home fans would have something to cheer about come the semifinals.
Although Steven Pienaar and Teko Modise were the names on everyone’s lips before the tournament, Matthew Booth was the name most chanted from the stands.

After a series of sterling performances in defence and having held his own against Villa and Torres—“the best strike partnership in the world” in Booth’s opinion—the 1,99m giant has become the darling of the nation. Other strong defensive performances came from Siboniso Gaxa and Tsepo Masilela, whose work rate and consistency have been a marvel. It may be time for Mamelodi Sundowns to brace themselves against losing Gaxa to Europe’s greener pastures.

Spanish lean to the left
With the same squad and playing style that led them to European Championship glory last year, Spain’s attacking prowess enabled them to dominate Group A. Fans of statistics will have noted that seven of their eight goals have come from the left. Left-back

Joan Capdevila, who provided the assists for two goals in their crushing win over New Zealand, may not be Spain’s most high-profile player, but he is without doubt a mainstay for La Roja. Since the beginning of the tournament the Villarreal man’s continual surges forward have created a host of goal-scoring opportunities.

Further forward another left-sided player has fit perfectly into the European champions’ style of play and won the confidence of coach Vicente del Bosque. With his pinpoint passes and powerful shots, Albert Riera is one of the reasons that Spain launch so many attacks from the left.

Brazil’s worthy successors
In the semifinals the hosts came against the artistry of Brazil. The likes of Kaka, Robinho, Lucio and Luis Fabiano need no introduction, but Andre Santos, Felipe Melo and Ramires may be less familiar names. Corinthians left-back Andre Santos has now established himself as the first-choice replacement for Roberto Carlos and his link-up play with Melo has been improving with every match.

Dunga has tried Anderson, Edmilson, Fernando, Hernanes, Josue, Mineiro and Tinga in his efforts to fill the holding midfield position, but he finally seems to have found his man in Melo. Aside from his ball-winning and distribution skills, the Fiorentina midfielder is also a significant aerial threat, which was clearly in evidence as he scored Brazil’s opening goal in their 3-0 win over the United States.

Ramires, on the other hand, is still an understudy to Brazil’s star forward line, but when Dunga gave him his chance he took it with both hands, showing blistering acceleration to put the ball on a plate for Robinho, who claimed the Auriverde’s second goal against the USA.

Finally, although they did not make it to the semifinals, some players from the four eliminated teams made good use of the Confederations Cup to show the world what they can do. While all eyes were on Italian attacking triumvirate Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino and Vicenzo Iaquinta, the only attacker to score was the substitute and youngest forward on the team, Giuseppe Rossi, who tallied two goals after coming on in Italy’s 3-1 defeat of USA.—Fifa.com

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