Published 12/06/2010 | 10:15
The Italy captain and star of Nike's fantastic World Cup advert is one of the best defenders taking part in South Africa. At the age of 36, this will be his last major tournament and he'll be looking to help guide his team to glory. The Italians are renowned for their tactical, disciplined style of play, and Cannavaro is key to that. It was also recently announced that he has joined Al-Ahli Dubai, so this will probably be the last you see of him.
The Barcelona defender (and once Manchester United man) forced his way into the formidable Spain team late last year. Since rejoining the La Liga champions, where he was a part of the youth set up, he has become one of the finest defenders in the game. The 23-year old has a calm and disciplined style that belies his years, combined with pace to match any striker he comes up against.
Incredibly, Pique's Barcelona team-mate Dani Alves is second choice at Brazil. Despite being a key player for one of the finest teams ever seen and being the world's most expensive right back, he has to take a back seat to Douglas Maicon Sisenando. 28-year-old Maicon has enjoyed an incredible season with club side Inter Milan, with whom he won the treble. As well as being a defender of the highest calibre, you'll also see him getting forward at every opportunity and possibly pitching in with a goal or two. He's earned a reputation for scoring spectacular goals.
Over on the other side of defence, England can lay claim to having (arguably) the best left-back at the World Cup. Ashley Cole is not the most cherished player among the squad from a fans point of view, but there's no arguing that the Chelsea player is one fine footballer. Much like Maicon, he's particular adept at getting forward and forming England's attacks.
Mokoena is a man with the weight of the world (or at least the South African part of it) upon his shoulders. As centre-back (or potentially defensive midfielder) and captain of Bafana Bafana, he will be the player the host nation look to as they try to navigate their way through a tricky group. South Africa are desperate not to be embarrassed in their own tournament, and the former Blackburn and now Portsmouth man will be key to saving face.
If Nemanja Vidic is a vital cog for Manchester United, he's most of the engine when it comes to Serbia. The 28-year-old suffered a few injury problems during the season which hampered his form, but when he's at his best, he's one of the finest defenders out their. Tall and powerful, as much as the Serbian is highly consistent, his rare mistakes tend to come in high-profile matches - as Fernando Torres and Gabriel Agbonlahor can testify.
The Arsenal (for now) defender nearly missed the cut for France when Raymond Domenech selected his final squad. But his inclusion ensures one of the most eccentric defenders in the business will be taking part in South Africa. From on-field breakdowns to off-field remarks, Gallas is certainly one to keep an eye on.
In England's first game of the tournament, Rooney and Co. will come up against Carlos Bocanegra. The captain of the United States team is best known to English fans from his four-year spell with Fulham. The Californian now plays for French outfit Rennes and is considered a vital part of the USA's ambitious team.
Due to Michael Ballack's injury and subsequent withdrawal from Germany's World Cup squad, Philipp Lahm was handed the captaincy. The decision by Joachim Low is a sign of how important the Bayern Munich star is to Germany's plans. He played every single minute of the qualifying campaign as well as helping steer his club to the Bundesliga, the German Cup and an appearance in the Champions League final. The short right-back's blistering pace causes problems for the opposition while he tends to thrive in big matches, hence his inclusion in the 2006 World Cup all star team.
Supporters of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City (in fact any big name club) may wish to cast an eye over Danish centre-back Simon Kjaer. The 21-year-old plays in Serie A for Palermo, but has seen his name churning through the rumour mill this summer, linking his with a big money move to the Premier League. This will be a chance to see what everyone's talking about.
The start of the World Cup is now nearly upon us and over the last few weeks the Belfast Telegraph has been running down the key people and factors to keep an eye out for in South Africa with our World Cup Watch series.
>>Click on the image to launch our guide.
From free-kick takers to WAGs, blasts from the past to the youngsters, we'll got it all covered before things kick-off in Johannesburg.
Here, we bring you the dark art of defending and pick out the players to watch.