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MORULENG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07:  A fan waves flags outside the stadium before the England v Platinum Stars Friendly match at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

MORULENG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07: A fan waves flags outside the stadium before the England v Platinum Stars Friendly match at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Michael Regan

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A Portuguese fan cheers for their team before their international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A Portuguese fan cheers for their team before their international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Ezra Shaw

An african fan is pictured prior to training session at Super stadium

An african fan is pictured prior to training session at Super stadium

Joern Pollex

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: Steven Gerrard shares a joke with Matthew Upson during the England training session at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus on June 8, 2010 in Rustenburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: Steven Gerrard shares a joke with Matthew Upson during the England training session at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus on June 8, 2010 in Rustenburg, South Africa. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Michael Regan

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A woman blows a Vuvuzela in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and the Vuvuzela has been causing controversy with some calling for the instrument to be banned.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A woman blows a Vuvuzela in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and the Vuvuzela has been causing controversy with some calling for the instrument to be banned. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Dan Kitwood

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  Fans of Portugal cheer on their team before the international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: Fans of Portugal cheer on their team before the international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Streeter Lecka

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A fan of Portugal wears a hat for the international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A fan of Portugal wears a hat for the international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Streeter Lecka

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A young fan of Portugal gets her face painted before the international friendly match against Mozambique during their game at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A young fan of Portugal gets her face painted before the international friendly match against Mozambique during their game at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Streeter Lecka

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A woman blows a Vuvuzela in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and the Vuvuzela has been causing controversy with some calling for the instrument to be banned.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A woman blows a Vuvuzela in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and the Vuvuzela has been causing controversy with some calling for the instrument to be banned. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Dan Kitwood

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  Vuvuzelas are displayed on a market stall in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and the Vuvuzela has been causing controversy with some calling for the instrument to be banned.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: Vuvuzelas are displayed on a market stall in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and the Vuvuzela has been causing controversy with some calling for the instrument to be banned. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Dan Kitwood

MORULENG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07: Fans look on from the stands during the England v Platinum Stars Friendly match at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

MORULENG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07: Fans look on from the stands during the England v Platinum Stars Friendly match at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Michael Regan

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A Portuguese fan cheers for their team before their international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A Portuguese fan cheers for their team before their international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Ezra Shaw

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A Portuguese fan cheers for their team before their international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A Portuguese fan cheers for their team before their international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Ezra Shaw

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A Portuguese fan cheers for their team before their international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A Portuguese fan cheers for their team before their international friendly match against Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Ezra Shaw

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:   Football merchandise is displayed on a market stall on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and South Africans are celebrating in festivals across the country.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: Football merchandise is displayed on a market stall on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and South Africans are celebrating in festivals across the country. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Dan Kitwood

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal smiles as he warms up before the friendly match between Portugal and Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal smiles as he warms up before the friendly match between Portugal and Mozambique at Wanderers Stadium on June 8, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Streeter Lecka

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  Argentina's head coach Diego Maradona gives instructions during a team training session on June 8, 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: Argentina's head coach Diego Maradona gives instructions during a team training session on June 8, 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Chris McGrath

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  A man blows a Vuvuzela in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and the Vuvuzela has been causing controversy with some calling for the instrument to be banned.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08: A man blows a Vuvuzela in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and the Vuvuzela has been causing controversy with some calling for the instrument to be banned. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Dan Kitwood

MORULENG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07: A fan holds up a Number 10 football shirt emblazoned with 'Mrs Rooney' during the friendly match between England and Platinum Stars at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

MORULENG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07: A fan holds up a Number 10 football shirt emblazoned with 'Mrs Rooney' during the friendly match between England and Platinum Stars at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Michael Regan

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07:  Wayne Rooney of England reacts during the friendly match between England and Platinum Stars at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa.   (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07: Wayne Rooney of England reacts during the friendly match between England and Platinum Stars at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Ian Walton

Argentina's soccer team coach Diego Maradona gestures during a practice session in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Argentina's soccer team coach Diego Maradona gestures during a practice session in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ricardo Mazalan

The 'Jabulani' football, the official ball of the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, being tested in a wind tunnel

The 'Jabulani' football, the official ball of the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, being tested in a wind tunnel

Adidas

An England and France flag in Iris mews, west Belfast

An England and France flag in Iris mews, west Belfast

Twins Michael (Italy) and Aaron O'Neill (Brazil) with Robert Robinson (right) and Odhran Dunne play football in Iris Mews surrounded by the flags of all 32 competing nations

Twins Michael (Italy) and Aaron O'Neill (Brazil) with Robert Robinson (right) and Odhran Dunne play football in Iris Mews surrounded by the flags of all 32 competing nations

<b>Miroslav Klose</b><br/>
Germany are one of the most consistent teams in tournament football, so don't be surprised to see them hanging around at the semi-final stage. If they do make it that far, it's likely that Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose will have been on the score sheet a few times. He scored seven goals during Germany's qualification process and as the winner of the award at the last World Cup, could become the first ever player to retain the award.

<b>Miroslav Klose</b><br/> Germany are one of the most consistent teams in tournament football, so don't be surprised to see them hanging around at the semi-final stage. If they do make it that far, it's likely that Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose will have been on the score sheet a few times. He scored seven goals during Germany's qualification process and as the winner of the award at the last World Cup, could become the first ever player to retain the award.

&lt;b&gt;Cristiano Ronaldo&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
English football fans will be well aware of the Portuguese's prowess in front of goal, and his move to Real Madrid hasn't diminished it in the slightest. He scored 33 goals in 35 appearances in his first season at the Bernabeu. He's never quite transformed his club form to international level but if Portugal progress from the 'group of death' it'll probably be because of Ronaldo.

<b>Cristiano Ronaldo</b><br/> English football fans will be well aware of the Portuguese's prowess in front of goal, and his move to Real Madrid hasn't diminished it in the slightest. He scored 33 goals in 35 appearances in his first season at the Bernabeu. He's never quite transformed his club form to international level but if Portugal progress from the 'group of death' it'll probably be because of Ronaldo.

&lt;b&gt;Luis Fabiano &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Another player who will need to be firing if his team are to progress from the 'group of death' will be Luis Fabiano. Brazil's star striker would normally hail from one of the greatest clubs on the planet, but not Fabiano. The 29-year-old plays for the unglamorous Sevilla in Spain. Yet, like some sort of a super hero, the moment he pulls on the yellow jersey he is transformed. He was Brazil's top scorer during qualification with nine goals, and with the Samba Boys expected to go far, he'll have many opportunities to find the back of the net.

<b>Luis Fabiano </b><br/> Another player who will need to be firing if his team are to progress from the 'group of death' will be Luis Fabiano. Brazil's star striker would normally hail from one of the greatest clubs on the planet, but not Fabiano. The 29-year-old plays for the unglamorous Sevilla in Spain. Yet, like some sort of a super hero, the moment he pulls on the yellow jersey he is transformed. He was Brazil's top scorer during qualification with nine goals, and with the Samba Boys expected to go far, he'll have many opportunities to find the back of the net.

&lt;b&gt;Wayne Rooney&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
England fans will be hoping that Wayne Rooney can transfer his club form for Manchester United to the national team. In the absence of Ronaldo, Rooney has been prolific, scoring 26 goals in the Premier League before injury curtailed his run. He scored nine for England during qualification, but if he is to win the Golden Boot, he'll need to stay on the pitch. In the two tournaments he's featured in for the Three Lions, he's failed to finish either of them, finding himself leaving the pitch early with an injury or a red card.

<b>Wayne Rooney</b><br/> England fans will be hoping that Wayne Rooney can transfer his club form for Manchester United to the national team. In the absence of Ronaldo, Rooney has been prolific, scoring 26 goals in the Premier League before injury curtailed his run. He scored nine for England during qualification, but if he is to win the Golden Boot, he'll need to stay on the pitch. In the two tournaments he's featured in for the Three Lions, he's failed to finish either of them, finding himself leaving the pitch early with an injury or a red card.

&lt;b&gt;Sergio Aguero&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Argentina are the unknown package of this World Cup. Their qualification campaign was awful, but Diego Maradona's team scraped through to take their place in South Africa. So if the Golden Boot winner is to come from this team, they'll need to pull themselves together. For this list we've gone for Maradona's son-in-law Sergio Aguero. We could just have easily picked Lionel Messi or Carlos Tevez, but Aguero's form towards the end of the season with club side Atletico Madrid was sensational.

<b>Sergio Aguero</b><br/> Argentina are the unknown package of this World Cup. Their qualification campaign was awful, but Diego Maradona's team scraped through to take their place in South Africa. So if the Golden Boot winner is to come from this team, they'll need to pull themselves together. For this list we've gone for Maradona's son-in-law Sergio Aguero. We could just have easily picked Lionel Messi or Carlos Tevez, but Aguero's form towards the end of the season with club side Atletico Madrid was sensational.

&lt;b&gt;Fernando Torres&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt; 
The Liverpool striker is fighting his way back to fitness and the latest indications are that he'll be ready for Spain's first match against Switzerland. There is no question about Torres' ability in front of goal; the super-fast striker is arguably the greatest player at one-on-one situations currently playing football. And with players like Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Alonso delivering the killer passes, he's sure to get more than his fair share of chances.

<b>Fernando Torres</b><br/> The Liverpool striker is fighting his way back to fitness and the latest indications are that he'll be ready for Spain's first match against Switzerland. There is no question about Torres' ability in front of goal; the super-fast striker is arguably the greatest player at one-on-one situations currently playing football. And with players like Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Alonso delivering the killer passes, he's sure to get more than his fair share of chances.

&lt;b&gt;David Villa&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Spain are the only country to feature two players on this list. Torres' strike partner and the top scorer at Euro 2008 has just completed a big-money move to Barcelona and will be eager to show the world why they forked out so many Euros for his services. Spain are bound to go far in this tournament and Villa and Torres may find themselves in a personal dual for the Golden Boot.

<b>David Villa</b><br/> Spain are the only country to feature two players on this list. Torres' strike partner and the top scorer at Euro 2008 has just completed a big-money move to Barcelona and will be eager to show the world why they forked out so many Euros for his services. Spain are bound to go far in this tournament and Villa and Torres may find themselves in a personal dual for the Golden Boot.

&lt;b&gt;Didier Drogba&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Yet another Golden Boot contender who finds himself in the 'group of death' (perhaps indicating just why it earned the nickname). Didier Drogba is now rightly recognised as one of the best strikers in the world. He may roll around on the floor a little too much and spend a lot of his time remonstrating with the referee, but there's no doubting his talent. He top scored in the Premier League this season, banging in 29 goals. The strongest striker taking part in South Africa, Drogba will cause defenders untold trouble. He's quick and can score from just about anywhere. And on top of all that, he's started belting in free-kicks at will with Chelsea.

<b>Didier Drogba</b><br/> Yet another Golden Boot contender who finds himself in the 'group of death' (perhaps indicating just why it earned the nickname). Didier Drogba is now rightly recognised as one of the best strikers in the world. He may roll around on the floor a little too much and spend a lot of his time remonstrating with the referee, but there's no doubting his talent. He top scored in the Premier League this season, banging in 29 goals. The strongest striker taking part in South Africa, Drogba will cause defenders untold trouble. He's quick and can score from just about anywhere. And on top of all that, he's started belting in free-kicks at will with Chelsea.

&lt;b&gt;Robin van Persie&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
It's never easy to predict what will happen with the Dutch. In one game they'll look dead-certs to lift the trophy, in the next they'll be three goals down. If they can hold it together and stop the usual infighting that has plagued many of their campaigns, it may just provide the platform for Arsenal's Robin van Persie to shine. Injury ruined the athletic striker's season. But before hurting his leg, he was standing toe-to-toe with the other best strikers in the Premier League. And on his return in the last few games, he was already looking very sharp. Yet he may find himself usurped by one of his own team-mates; Arjen Robben's form for Bayern Munich towards the end of the season make him a dark-horse for the Golden Boot.

<b>Robin van Persie</b><br/> It's never easy to predict what will happen with the Dutch. In one game they'll look dead-certs to lift the trophy, in the next they'll be three goals down. If they can hold it together and stop the usual infighting that has plagued many of their campaigns, it may just provide the platform for Arsenal's Robin van Persie to shine. Injury ruined the athletic striker's season. But before hurting his leg, he was standing toe-to-toe with the other best strikers in the Premier League. And on his return in the last few games, he was already looking very sharp. Yet he may find himself usurped by one of his own team-mates; Arjen Robben's form for Bayern Munich towards the end of the season make him a dark-horse for the Golden Boot.

&lt;b&gt;Nicolas Anelka&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Despite France needing the 'Hand of Gaul' to reach the World Cup, they remain among the favourites to lift the trophy. Looking around the team, play-for-player they're certainly one of the strongest; Gourcuff, Sagna, Evra, Henry, Benzema; these are world class players. And although they tend to spread the goals between them, we've selected Nicolas Anelka as one of our candidates to take the Golden Boot. The 31-year-old has a new lease of life at Chelsea and tends to look one of the sharpest players on the pitch whenever he's out there. His record for France is not fantastic (14 goals in 64 appearances), but considering his ability, that statistic makes no sense at all. Anelka is due a flurry of goals.

<b>Nicolas Anelka</b><br/> Despite France needing the 'Hand of Gaul' to reach the World Cup, they remain among the favourites to lift the trophy. Looking around the team, play-for-player they're certainly one of the strongest; Gourcuff, Sagna, Evra, Henry, Benzema; these are world class players. And although they tend to spread the goals between them, we've selected Nicolas Anelka as one of our candidates to take the Golden Boot. The 31-year-old has a new lease of life at Chelsea and tends to look one of the sharpest players on the pitch whenever he's out there. His record for France is not fantastic (14 goals in 64 appearances), but considering his ability, that statistic makes no sense at all. Anelka is due a flurry of goals.

&lt;b&gt;Oscar Perez (Mexico)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
England fans have already had a glimpse of the Mexico stopper during the recent friendly. Yet if fans were sitting in Row Z, they might not have seen him. At just 5'7&quot;, Perez will be the shortest keeper on show. How he fares against the height of Peter Crouch or the strength of Didier Drogba could be entertaining.

<b>Oscar Perez (Mexico)</b><br/> England fans have already had a glimpse of the Mexico stopper during the recent friendly. Yet if fans were sitting in Row Z, they might not have seen him. At just 5'7", Perez will be the shortest keeper on show. How he fares against the height of Peter Crouch or the strength of Didier Drogba could be entertaining.

&lt;b&gt;David James (England)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Goalkeepers are an eccentric bunch, and in the absence of Germany's Jens Lehman, the most eccentric of the 2010 gang could well be our very own David James. Undoubtedly an excellent keeper, there's always a feeling that he's just one touch away from an almighty blooper. The art-loving afro-wearing former Spice Boy will have England fans on the edge of their seats.

<b>David James (England)</b><br/> Goalkeepers are an eccentric bunch, and in the absence of Germany's Jens Lehman, the most eccentric of the 2010 gang could well be our very own David James. Undoubtedly an excellent keeper, there's always a feeling that he's just one touch away from an almighty blooper. The art-loving afro-wearing former Spice Boy will have England fans on the edge of their seats.

&lt;b&gt;Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
The Italian stopper is one of the best, and he's also one of the most noticeable. His dark looks and none-too-shy way with words will see him stand out. And on top of that, the new Italy goalkeeper kit makes him look like some sort of second rate super hero.

<b>Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)</b><br/> The Italian stopper is one of the best, and he's also one of the most noticeable. His dark looks and none-too-shy way with words will see him stand out. And on top of that, the new Italy goalkeeper kit makes him look like some sort of second rate super hero.

&lt;b&gt;Richard Kingson (Ghana)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Ghana's No 1 is a bit of a worry. Mainly because he's also Wigan's No 3. Now no disrespect to Wigan, but if he's not even making it onto the bench in Greater Manchester, is he really international standard? It could be fun finding out.

<b>Richard Kingson (Ghana)</b><br/> Ghana's No 1 is a bit of a worry. Mainly because he's also Wigan's No 3. Now no disrespect to Wigan, but if he's not even making it onto the bench in Greater Manchester, is he really international standard? It could be fun finding out.

&lt;b&gt;Ri Myong-Guk (North Korea)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
If there's a pre-tournament favourite for which goalkeeper will concede the most goals, it has to be Myong-Guk. He's the North Korea stopper, and on top of being the No 1 for the most unfancied team in the tournament, they will be facing Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast in the group stage. He might as well start practicing picking the ball out of the net now.

<b>Ri Myong-Guk (North Korea)</b><br/> If there's a pre-tournament favourite for which goalkeeper will concede the most goals, it has to be Myong-Guk. He's the North Korea stopper, and on top of being the No 1 for the most unfancied team in the tournament, they will be facing Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast in the group stage. He might as well start practicing picking the ball out of the net now.

&lt;b&gt;Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
With a nickname like 'The Cat', there was never any doubt about Enyeama's inclusion on this list. The athletic and somewhat fearless keeper (as strikers with a one-on-one chance are likely to find out) has been a staple of the Nigerian team for the last decade. During this year's African Cup of Nations, Enyeama saved a spot-kick during a penalty shoot-out against Zambia. He scored one as well.

<b>Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)</b><br/> With a nickname like 'The Cat', there was never any doubt about Enyeama's inclusion on this list. The athletic and somewhat fearless keeper (as strikers with a one-on-one chance are likely to find out) has been a staple of the Nigerian team for the last decade. During this year's African Cup of Nations, Enyeama saved a spot-kick during a penalty shoot-out against Zambia. He scored one as well.

&lt;b&gt;Hamidou Souleymanou (Cameroon)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Hamidou is no longer Cameroon's first choice keeper, but he can expect to be on the bench in South Africa.

<b>Hamidou Souleymanou (Cameroon)</b><br/> Hamidou is no longer Cameroon's first choice keeper, but he can expect to be on the bench in South Africa.

&lt;b&gt;Iker Casillas (Spain)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
If you're looking for one of the best keepers at this summer's tournament, you would do well to cast your eye towards Spain. Their No 1 is Real Madrid stopper Iker Casilla. At 29 he's already made over 100 appearances for the national side and is undoubtedly one of the best in the business.

<b>Iker Casillas (Spain)</b><br/> If you're looking for one of the best keepers at this summer's tournament, you would do well to cast your eye towards Spain. Their No 1 is Real Madrid stopper Iker Casilla. At 29 he's already made over 100 appearances for the national side and is undoubtedly one of the best in the business.

&lt;b&gt;Julio Cesar (Brazil)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Running Casillas close for the best stopper at the tournament will be Julio Cesar of Brazil. The 30-year-old was an essential ingredient in Inter Milan's run to the Champions League title, pulling off a memorable save against Lionel Messi along the way.

<b>Julio Cesar (Brazil)</b><br/> Running Casillas close for the best stopper at the tournament will be Julio Cesar of Brazil. The 30-year-old was an essential ingredient in Inter Milan's run to the Champions League title, pulling off a memorable save against Lionel Messi along the way.

&lt;b&gt;Lounes Gaouaoui (Algeria)&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
England fans will get a good look at Gaouaoui when Fabio Capello's team meet Algeria during the group phase. The 32-year-old is well known for his leaping abilities and it would also appear he's willing to aim high at this World Cup: &quot;The USA, Slovenia and especially England make for a very hard World Cup group,&quot; he said. &quot;However, why shouldn't we aim for second place?&quot; Why indeed.

<b>Lounes Gaouaoui (Algeria)</b><br/> England fans will get a good look at Gaouaoui when Fabio Capello's team meet Algeria during the group phase. The 32-year-old is well known for his leaping abilities and it would also appear he's willing to aim high at this World Cup: "The USA, Slovenia and especially England make for a very hard World Cup group," he said. "However, why shouldn't we aim for second place?" Why indeed.

&lt;b&gt;Christine Bleakley&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br /&gt;
Frank Lampard's other half could well be making an appearance in South Africa, although she may need to get some time off from her role as presenter of the BBC's One Show.

<b>Christine Bleakley</b><br /> Frank Lampard's other half could well be making an appearance in South Africa, although she may need to get some time off from her role as presenter of the BBC's One Show.

&lt;b&gt;Abigail Clancy&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Peter Crouch's girlfriend is considered one of the most prominent England WAGs, appearing in lads mags on a regular basis and making appearances on various television shows.

<b>Abigail Clancy</b><br/> Peter Crouch's girlfriend is considered one of the most prominent England WAGs, appearing in lads mags on a regular basis and making appearances on various television shows.

&lt;b&gt;Victoria Beckham &lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Even though he's injured, David Beckham is going to the World Cup in a coaching capacity. So expect 'queen WAG' Victoria to be close behind.

<b>Victoria Beckham </b><br/> Even though he's injured, David Beckham is going to the World Cup in a coaching capacity. So expect 'queen WAG' Victoria to be close behind.

&lt;b&gt;Coleen Rooney&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Coleen has a burgeoning media career, working as a fashion columnist and TV presenter. And as the wife of England's star asset Wayne she will find herself the centre of attention in South Africa

<b>Coleen Rooney</b><br/> Coleen has a burgeoning media career, working as a fashion columnist and TV presenter. And as the wife of England's star asset Wayne she will find herself the centre of attention in South Africa

&lt;b&gt;Alex Curran&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
During the 2006 World Cup, Steven Gerrard's wife was one of the most prominent WAGs in attendance, being followed by the paparazzi at every turn in Baden-Baden.

<b>Alex Curran</b><br/> During the 2006 World Cup, Steven Gerrard's wife was one of the most prominent WAGs in attendance, being followed by the paparazzi at every turn in Baden-Baden.

&lt;b&gt;Sylvie van der Vaart&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br /&gt;
At times the WAG culture in England seems out of control, but the phenomenon isn't unique to our shores. The wives and girlfriends of the major foreign stars can also expect to regularly find themselves on camera while supporting their men. One such lady is Sylvie van der Vaart, the wife of Dutch midfielder Rafael. The former model turned to TV hosting, including the 2008 Fifa World Cup Player of the Year ceremony.

<b>Sylvie van der Vaart</b><br /> At times the WAG culture in England seems out of control, but the phenomenon isn't unique to our shores. The wives and girlfriends of the major foreign stars can also expect to regularly find themselves on camera while supporting their men. One such lady is Sylvie van der Vaart, the wife of Dutch midfielder Rafael. The former model turned to TV hosting, including the 2008 Fifa World Cup Player of the Year ceremony.

&lt;b&gt;Nagore Aranburu&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br /&gt;
The wife of Spain star Xabi Alonso is considered among the most prominent WAGs for the pre-tournament favourites. The Spanish actress caused a rift between Alonso and Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez during the midfielder's time on Merseyside. She selfishly decided to give birth to their son Jontxu in the middle of a Champions League campaign, forcing Alonso to miss a match against Inter Milan.

<b>Nagore Aranburu</b><br /> The wife of Spain star Xabi Alonso is considered among the most prominent WAGs for the pre-tournament favourites. The Spanish actress caused a rift between Alonso and Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez during the midfielder's time on Merseyside. She selfishly decided to give birth to their son Jontxu in the middle of a Champions League campaign, forcing Alonso to miss a match against Inter Milan.

&lt;b&gt;Alena Seredova&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Seredova is the girlfriend of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The former Miss Czech Republic has a clothing line and has featured in Penthouse magazine and Playboy.

<b>Alena Seredova</b><br/> Seredova is the girlfriend of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The former Miss Czech Republic has a clothing line and has featured in Penthouse magazine and Playboy.

&lt;b&gt;Sarah Brandner&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br/&gt;
Brandner is considered 'queen of the WAGs' in Germany due to her relationship with German star Bastian Schweinsteiger.

<b>Sarah Brandner</b><br/> Brandner is considered 'queen of the WAGs' in Germany due to her relationship with German star Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger smiles ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Croatia and Germany at Worthersee Stadion on June 12, 2008 in Klagenfurt, Austria

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger smiles ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Croatia and Germany at Worthersee Stadion on June 12, 2008 in Klagenfurt, Austria

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of German national player Bastian Schweinsteiger, presents the football euro-dirndl at Trachtenmoden Angermaier on June 6, 2008 in Munich, Germany. Brandner will work as TV-hostess during Euro 2008

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of German national player Bastian Schweinsteiger, presents the football euro-dirndl at Trachtenmoden Angermaier on June 6, 2008 in Munich, Germany. Brandner will work as TV-hostess during Euro 2008

Belen Rodriguez, girlfriend of Italian striker Marco Borriello, follows the group C match between the Netherlands and Italy in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, June 9, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Belen Rodriguez, girlfriend of Italian striker Marco Borriello, follows the group C match between the Netherlands and Italy in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, June 9, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Sylvie van der Vaart, wife of Dutch player Rafael van der Vaart, looks on prior to the UEFA EURO 2008 Group C match between Netherlands and Romania at Stade de Suisse Wankdorf on June 17, 2008 in Berne, Switzerland

Sylvie van der Vaart, wife of Dutch player Rafael van der Vaart, looks on prior to the UEFA EURO 2008 Group C match between Netherlands and Romania at Stade de Suisse Wankdorf on June 17, 2008 in Berne, Switzerland

Alena Seredova, wife of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon reacts during the group C match between France and Italy in Zurich, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 17, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Alena Seredova, wife of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon reacts during the group C match between France and Italy in Zurich, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 17, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Sylvia Klose, wife of Miroslav Klose is pictured ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final match between Germany and Turkey at St. Jakob-Park on June 25, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Sylvia Klose, wife of Miroslav Klose is pictured ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final match between Germany and Turkey at St. Jakob-Park on June 25, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Tereza Frankova, centre, girlfriend of Czech Republic's Milan Baros, waits for the beginning of the group A match between Czech Republic and Portugal in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 11, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Tereza Frankova, centre, girlfriend of Czech Republic's Milan Baros, waits for the beginning of the group A match between Czech Republic and Portugal in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 11, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Silvia, grilfriend of Mario Gomez is pictured ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Croatia and Germany at Worthersee Stadion on June 12, 2008 in Klagenfurt, Austria

Silvia, grilfriend of Mario Gomez is pictured ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Croatia and Germany at Worthersee Stadion on June 12, 2008 in Klagenfurt, Austria

Clara Bierhoff, wife of Germany's team manager Oliver Bierhoff talks on the phone ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Austria and Germany at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 16, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Clara Bierhoff, wife of Germany's team manager Oliver Bierhoff talks on the phone ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Austria and Germany at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 16, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Jenny, girlfriend of Simon Rolfes looks on ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Portugal and Germany at St. Jakob-Park on June 19, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Jenny, girlfriend of Simon Rolfes looks on ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Portugal and Germany at St. Jakob-Park on June 19, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Wives and girlfriends of the Swedish team are pictured ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Group D match between Sweden and Spain at Stadion Tivoli Neu on June 14, 2008 in Innsbruck, Austria

Wives and girlfriends of the Swedish team are pictured ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Group D match between Sweden and Spain at Stadion Tivoli Neu on June 14, 2008 in Innsbruck, Austria

German national soccer team player Miroslav Klose, left, and his wife Sylvia Klose talk to FC Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, right, at their arrival at the airport near Munich, southern Germany, on Monday, June 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Uwe Lein)

German national soccer team player Miroslav Klose, left, and his wife Sylvia Klose talk to FC Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, right, at their arrival at the airport near Munich, southern Germany, on Monday, June 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Uwe Lein)

Juergen Klinsmann, second from left, new coach of German first soccer division Bundesliga team FC Bayern Munich, welcomes German national soccer team players Phillip Lahm, and his girlfriend Claudia at their arrival at the airport near Munich, southern Germany, on Monday, June 30, 2008. Left is German chef Alfons Schuhbeck. (AP Photo/Uwe Lein)

Juergen Klinsmann, second from left, new coach of German first soccer division Bundesliga team FC Bayern Munich, welcomes German national soccer team players Phillip Lahm, and his girlfriend Claudia at their arrival at the airport near Munich, southern Germany, on Monday, June 30, 2008. Left is German chef Alfons Schuhbeck. (AP Photo/Uwe Lein)

Nicola (right) welcomes her boyfriend Philipp Lahm (left) of the German National Soccer team as he arrives at the Munich airport on June 30, 2008 in Munich, Germany. The players retourning home after it finished second in the Euro 2008 football championships the day before in Vienna

Nicola (right) welcomes her boyfriend Philipp Lahm (left) of the German National Soccer team as he arrives at the Munich airport on June 30, 2008 in Munich, Germany. The players retourning home after it finished second in the Euro 2008 football championships the day before in Vienna

Sylvia (left) welcomes her husband Miroslav Klose (right) of the German National Soccer team as he arrives at the Munich airport on June 30, 2008 in Munich, Germany. The players retourning home after it finished second in the Euro 2008 football championships the day before in Vienna

Sylvia (left) welcomes her husband Miroslav Klose (right) of the German National Soccer team as he arrives at the Munich airport on June 30, 2008 in Munich, Germany. The players retourning home after it finished second in the Euro 2008 football championships the day before in Vienna

Sarah Brandner pick up her boyfriend Bastian Schweinsteiger of the German National Soccer team as he arrives at the Munich airport on June 30, 2008 in Munich, Germany. The players were returning home after finishing second in the Euro 2008 football championships the day before in Vienna

Sarah Brandner pick up her boyfriend Bastian Schweinsteiger of the German National Soccer team as he arrives at the Munich airport on June 30, 2008 in Munich, Germany. The players were returning home after finishing second in the Euro 2008 football championships the day before in Vienna

Former German international football player Lothar Matthaeus and his girlfriend Kristina Liliana arrive prior to the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Former German international football player Lothar Matthaeus and his girlfriend Kristina Liliana arrive prior to the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger looks on during the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger looks on during the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Prince Albert II of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock look on during the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Prince Albert II of Monaco and Charlene Wittstock look on during the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger looks on during the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger looks on during the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Jule (left), girlfriend of Rene Adler is pictured ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Jule (left), girlfriend of Rene Adler is pictured ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger looks on during the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger looks on during the UEFA EURO 2008 Final match between Germany and Spain at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 29, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Piotr Trochowski's girl friend Melanie during the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final match between Germany and Turkey at St. Jakob-Park on June 25, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Piotr Trochowski's girl friend Melanie during the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final match between Germany and Turkey at St. Jakob-Park on June 25, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Viktoria Kuranyi, wife of German footballer Kevin Kuranyi during the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final match between Germany and Turkey at St. Jakob-Park on June 25, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Viktoria Kuranyi, wife of German footballer Kevin Kuranyi during the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-final match between Germany and Turkey at St. Jakob-Park on June 25, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Daniele De Rossi of Italy's wife Tamara Pisnoli and daughter Gaia look on during the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-final match between Spain and Italy at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 22, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Daniele De Rossi of Italy's wife Tamara Pisnoli and daughter Gaia look on during the UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-final match between Spain and Italy at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 22, 2008 in Vienna, Austria

Sonia Amoruso, wife of Italian forward Alessandro Del Piero, waves prior to the quarter-final match between Spain and Italy in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 22, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Sonia Amoruso, wife of Italian forward Alessandro Del Piero, waves prior to the quarter-final match between Spain and Italy in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 22, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Sylvie van der Vaart, wife of Dutch player Rafael van der Vaart points ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Netherlands and Russia at St. Jakob-Park on June 21, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Sylvie van der Vaart, wife of Dutch player Rafael van der Vaart points ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Netherlands and Russia at St. Jakob-Park on June 21, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger carries some drinks prior to the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Portugal and Germany at St. Jakob-Park on June 19, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger carries some drinks prior to the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Portugal and Germany at St. Jakob-Park on June 19, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Sylwia Klose, wife of Germany's Miroslav Klose, smiles after the quarter-final match between Portugal and Germany in Basel, Switzerland, Thursday, June 19, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Germany defeated Portugal 3-2. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Sylwia Klose, wife of Germany's Miroslav Klose, smiles after the quarter-final match between Portugal and Germany in Basel, Switzerland, Thursday, June 19, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Germany defeated Portugal 3-2. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Conny Lehmann, wife of Germany's Jens Lehmann, is accompanied by an emergency doctor as she leaves the stands after the quarter-final match between Portugal and Germany in Basel, Switzerland, Thursday, June 19, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Germany defeated Portugal 3-2. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Conny Lehmann, wife of Germany's Jens Lehmann, is accompanied by an emergency doctor as she leaves the stands after the quarter-final match between Portugal and Germany in Basel, Switzerland, Thursday, June 19, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Germany defeated Portugal 3-2. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Jenny (R), girlfriend of Simon Rolfes, Melanie (L), girlfriend of Piotr Trochowski and Sylvia (C), wife of Miroslav Klose look on after the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Portugal and Germany at St. Jakob-Park on June 19, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Jenny (R), girlfriend of Simon Rolfes, Melanie (L), girlfriend of Piotr Trochowski and Sylvia (C), wife of Miroslav Klose look on after the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Portugal and Germany at St. Jakob-Park on June 19, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger celebrates after Germany defeated Portugal during the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Portugal and Germany at St. Jakob-Park on June 19, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bastian Schweinsteiger celebrates after Germany defeated Portugal during the UEFA EURO 2008 Quarter Final match between Portugal and Germany at St. Jakob-Park on June 19, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger, right, kisses his girlfriend Sarah Brandner after the quarter-final match between Portugal and Germany in Basel, Switzerland, Thursday, June 19, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger, right, kisses his girlfriend Sarah Brandner after the quarter-final match between Portugal and Germany in Basel, Switzerland, Thursday, June 19, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

French NBA basketball player Tony Parker, left, and actress Eva Longoria, right, are seen during the group C match between France and Italy in Zurich, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 17, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

French NBA basketball player Tony Parker, left, and actress Eva Longoria, right, are seen during the group C match between France and Italy in Zurich, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 17, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Alena Seredova, wife of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, waits for the start of the group C match between the Netherlands and Italy in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, June 9, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Alena Seredova, wife of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, waits for the start of the group C match between the Netherlands and Italy in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, June 9, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Alena Seredova, wife of Italian goalie Gianluigi Buffon, waits for the start of the group C match between the Netherlands and Italy in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, June 9, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Alena Seredova, wife of Italian goalie Gianluigi Buffon, waits for the start of the group C match between the Netherlands and Italy in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, June 9, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of German national player Bastian Schweinsteiger, presents the football euro-dirndl at Trachtenmoden Angermaier on June 6, 2008 in Munich, Germany. Brandner will work as TV-hostess during Euro 2008

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of German national player Bastian Schweinsteiger, presents the football euro-dirndl at Trachtenmoden Angermaier on June 6, 2008 in Munich, Germany. Brandner will work as TV-hostess during Euro 2008

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of German national player Bastian Schweinsteiger, presents the football euro-dirndl at Trachtenmoden Angermaier on June 6, 2008 in Munich, Germany. Brandner will work as TV-hostess during Euro 2008

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of German national player Bastian Schweinsteiger, presents the football euro-dirndl at Trachtenmoden Angermaier on June 6, 2008 in Munich, Germany. Brandner will work as TV-hostess during Euro 2008

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of German national player Bastian Schweinsteiger, presents the football euro-dirndl at Trachtenmoden Angermaier on June 6, 2008 in Munich, Germany. Brandner will work as TV-hostess during Euro 2008

Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of German national player Bastian Schweinsteiger, presents the football euro-dirndl at Trachtenmoden Angermaier on June 6, 2008 in Munich, Germany. Brandner will work as TV-hostess during Euro 2008

MORULENG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 07: A fan waves flags outside the stadium before the England v Platinum Stars Friendly match at the Moruleng Stadium on June 7, 2010 in Moruleng, South Africa. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In just two days time the World Cup will kick off in South Africa. With Northern Ireland failing to qualify and the Republic just missing out due to Thierry Henry’s handball, the question for sports fans across the province will be: who do we support?

Or, to put it another way, in Northern Ireland 2010 is it acceptable to back our near neighbours England?

While football fans here regularly support Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard in Manchester United or Liverpool shirts, most seem to take a very different view when they don the Three Lions of England.

While for some the problem may lie in historical differences between the two countries, for many more the animosity seems to stem from the blanket media saturation which follows the England team when they qualify for any major championship.

Of course, mentioning 1966 in every other sentence doesn’t help attract support from the rather less successful football traditions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In short, many will be tuning in over the next few weeks just to appreciate the joy of seeing England lose — on penalties in the quarter finals — once again.

Perhaps the tide of opinion is beginning to change, however.

Outspoken Northern Ireland-born football commentator Alan Green has argued publicly that everyone in the UK should fall in behind England in the absence of any other home nation at the World Cup.

And Dr Nigel Dobson, Co-Director of the Ulster Sports Academy at the University of Ulster, said he believed that more and more people are turning towards supporting England.

He said: “It is easy to get caught up in the national fervour of the English media machine during the build up of the World Cup and I think that for the Northern Irish there is probably a natural empathy to support England in the tournament.”

The Belfast Telegraph spoke to a number of well known faces from across the province to find out if they could bring themselves to support Fabio Capello’s men — and found the results to be rather mixed.

Standing in Downing Street, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he could not see himself supporting England “under any circumstances”. This is despite him previously stating that he follows the fortunes of the England cricket team.

Radio personality Stephen Nolan said he had been receiving criticism on air because of his support for England.

“My Northern Ireland listeners to Five Live have been having a go at me recently when I've been presenting on the network,” he said.

“When talking about England, I said ‘I hope we do the business’ — and my Ulster listeners have been querying the word ‘we’. Northern Ireland is my first love — but since we are not there, I'll be buying an extra-large England shirt.”

Why some of our great and the good are throwing their weight behind England... and some aren’t

“I’m supporting Brazil. I’ve supported Brazil since I was a child in every World Cup, except of course when Ireland are playing. Brazil to me are the Harlem Globetrotters of soccer and they are the ones that have thrilled and excited me since I was a boy. I don’t think I could support England under any circumstances.” -

“I’ll be supporting England, absolutely. I find it quite sad to hear the Scottish say they will support any team who plays against England. I don’t understand that instinctive, gut loathing and I don't think it’s like that in Northern Ireland. I think Spain will win, they play sublime football. But you can never rule out Brazil, Italy or Germany.”

“I’m supporting Spain, not England, in the competition. I don’t have anything against England, but I think they have had a few problems with injured players and I can’t really see them going all the way. I think that Spain have a better chance of winning and I like to support a team who have a shot at victory.” -

“It would be great for English football if they did really well, but that doesn't mean I'll be supporting them. My country is Northern Ireland and that's where my allegiances will always lie. I’d like to see Argentina win it because so many people are writing off their manager Diego Maradona, who was one of the greatest players of all time.” -

“I’m a great believer in the beautiful game and Brazil is always going to be my team choice. The 1970 Brazil squad featuring Pele and Jairzinho was probably the best football team in my opinion. I would like to see England do well, but if they won, it would be hard to deal with their media.” -

“I would follow England rather than France after Thierry Henry’s handball knocked Ireland out in the 2009 World Cup play-off against France. If I was to bet on a winner I’d probably be looking at Portugal, but I’d really love Italy to win because I lived there for seven years and I love the country.” -

“England would be my least favourite team and I’ll definitely not be supporting them. I was born in 1966, when England last won and I’m fed up hearing about it ever since. I’m opting for Argentina because I admire the majesty of Lionel Messi. I’ll also be paying close attention to Tyrone in the All-Ireland . . .” -

“I can’t do the anti-English thing when it comes to football. We watch Match of the Day and we can identify with these players. If England go out of the World Cup, it will be less interesting. I’m not sure I could deal with 1966 again, so maybe they could get to the final and lose...” -

“I’m going to support England because I always go for the team that is closest to me geographically and emotionally. I want them to win but I think Argentina might do it because it has the best squad. I think Holland might have an outside chance, though, as they have a great team as well.” -

“I don’t think people from Northern Ireland should get behind England any more than they should get behind Portugal, Spain or Brazil. There’s nothing sectarian about that though, if Northern Ireland were playing in the World Cup, I’d get behind them. I’ll be supporting Portugal and I reckon they or Spain will win.” -

“I would like to see Argentina win because they’ve got some fantastic players. I imagine that very few people in this part of the world will be actively supporting England. Many support English Premier League teams, but people get a bit turned off by the press coverage and over-the-top approach to the World Cup.” -

“Northern Ireland didn’t make it. England are the only home team in the championship, so I’ll be supporting them. Football brings out the best and the worst in people. I’m not a huge soccer fan, but I think it’s probably going to be down to Brazil or Germany when it comes to winning the tournament.” -

“I'll be supporting England this year. The more I think about it, I don't want to contemplate them losing. My Northern Ireland listeners to Five Live have been having a go at me recently when I've been presenting on the network. To clarify, Northern Ireland is my first love but since we are not there, I'll be buying an extra large England shirt.” -

“I wouldn’t support England when they’re playing against Northern Ireland but I will be supporting them in the World Cup. We have a great affinity with the players and I also have three English nieces and nephews who will be expecting me to back England. But I think Spain is the favourite to win.” -

“I’ll back England as it’s the closest to home, but I’m rooting for Argentina because Maradona has promised run through the streets of Buenos Aires naked if they do win. Northern Ireland isn’t in the competition, so people here should get behind England, but I think Spain or Brazil will probably win.” -

Interviews by Claire McNeilly and Maureen Coleman

YouTube: 50 Best World Cup Goals



Analysis

English success could bolster bid to be 2018 hosts

By Dr Nigel Dobson

As a Welshman who lives in Northern Ireland there are a lot of conflicting feelings as to whether or not to support England in the upcoming World Cup in South Africa.

Obviously in any championships when England would be our opposition there would be no question that I would support my own country, but it is a strange situation when the English are in a tournament that Wales, and similarly Northern Ireland, hasn’t qualified for.

It is easy to get caught up in the national fervour of the English media machine during the build up of the World Cup and I think that for Welsh people and probably the Northern Irish there is a natural empathy to support England in the tournament.

Unlike in rugby where there is more of a national divide, soccer seems to spread across the borders more.

The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, as well as supporting a local Carling Pre

miership team will just as passionately support an English Premiership team, with Manchester United or Liverpool or Chelsea being followed by people from Northern Ireland.

Stripping away England’s tag of the ‘old enemy’ most people spend weekends watching English soccer players and supporting English-based teams.

I think we should be supporting England because they are the only British team competing for the trophy.

Another aspect of this is that if England go on to win the World Cup or even get to the latter stages, it may strengthen their bid to host the 2018 tournament. This will be one of the greatest sporting events of the next decade and follow on from the legacy that the London 2012 Olympics will leave behind.

Hosting the tournament in 2018 also could bring with it the economic benefits for all of the countries in Britain and Northern Ireland.

With teams needing to acclimatise, why shouldn’t Northern Ireland attract international squads to training camps in the future?

Dr Nigel Dobson is Co-Director of the Ulster Sports Academy at the University of Ulster

Related

West Belfast street flies England flag for World Cup

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Belfast Telegraph


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