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Aging Stars Eyeing South Africa World Cup

Posted April. 15, 2010 06:24,   


Lionel Messi of Argentina, 23; Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, 25; Wayne Rooney of England, 25; and Fernando Torres of Spain, 26.

These star soccer players are grabbing global attention ahead of the South Africa World Cup that begins in June. All of them are in their early to mid 20s and in the prime of their careers.

A pack of older veterans in their 30s are also drawing attention, however, with their final attempt for glory in the twilight of their careers.

○ Korea

Jeonbuk Hyundai striker Lee Dong-gook, 31, has never played in a World Cup, but wants to make the national team at any cost. Fellow veterans also looking to go to South Africa are Ahn Jung-hwan of China’s Dalian Shide, 34; Seol Ki-hyeon of Korea’s Pohang Steelers, 31; and Kim Nam-il of Russia’s FC Tomsk, 33.

The four players have endured slumps at various points in their careers, but are trying their best on their respective pro teams to impress national team coach Huh Jung-moo.

○ Brazil

Five-time World Cup champion Brazil also has a flurry of big-name aged players. The most notable is three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, 34. Whether the Corinthians striker, who holds the World Cup career record for goals with 15, will make the roster is a concern of even Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho, 30, was excluded from the Brazilian roster because national coach Dunga felt he does not fit in with the team’s style. Dunga favors a balance between offense and defense. The AC Milan striker could still make the team, however, due to the recent slump of midfielder Kaka and a higher demand for experienced players.

Defender Roberto Carlos, 37, played in the 2006 World Cup but is also candidate to play in South Africa in June. His pro team is Corinthians.

○ Europe

Dutch scoring machine Ruud Van Nistelrooy, 34, has shined for his new team Hamburg of Germany and is hoping to make the Dutch national team.

Also trying to make their respective national squads is Patrick Vieira (Manchester City) of France, 34, and Deco (Chelsea) of Portugal, 33.

Francesco Totti (AS Roma) of Italy, 34, has a 50-50 chance of making his national team. Though declaring his retirement from international play three years ago, he said, “It would be a great honor if I can play in the World Cup again, soccer’s best stage,” adding, “I’m not sure whether I have the stamina to play.”

○ Mexico

Cuauhtémoc Blanco, 37, is best known for outfoxing Korean defenders with his iconic “frog jump” at the 1998 World Cup. Having joined his national team in the last several of its World Cup qualifiers, the Veracruz striker helped his team win and stands a high chance of going to South Africa.