by Jim Riggio - 03/21/2006
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The following is a list of some players that are underrated heading into the 2006 World Cup in Germany. I think that these players could have a major impact on the outcome of the tournament. Some of these players are known by many soccer fans, but they are players I feel are not given enough credit for what they have done on the field.
1. Francesco Totti (Italy) -- Attacking Midfielder - In 2004 Totti did not receive a single vote for World Player of the Year. To put it in perspective, that means every national team coach and national team captain in the world got to pick their top three players and not one put Totti in their top three. In January, Pele praised Totti by calling him the best player in the world. He has a tendency to pick up stupid yellow cards, but you can't argue against what he does on the field. He is a complete player that can play in so many roles, even though attacking midfield is his best position. Although he is currently out due to injury, Totti is expected back by the World Cup. Italy has played well without him. Adding him will be icing on the cake.
2. Emerson (Brazil) - defensive midfielder -- Brazil won the World Cup in 2002 without Emerson, who foolishly injured his shoulder trying to make a goalie save in a practice just days before the tournament was to start. His team will definitely need him if they are to win in Germany. Emerson is the center midfielder who plays in a more defensive role and does all the dirty work that is sometimes missed. Adriano, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and the rest of the gang will get the headlines, but Emerson will win the dirtiest jersey award.
3. Phillippe Mexes (France) - central defender -- Mexes hasn't been given the respect he deserves by the French National Team as he wasn't called to represent his country for two years. However, he was recently recalled to the national team, and almost certainly figures to play a key role in Germany, as he has become one of the world's top defenders.
4. Jamie Carragher (England) - defender -- Carragher will be a key for England. He is an excellent defender that sometimes doesn't get noticed because he plays with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. Carragher was instrumental in Liverpool's 2005 Champions League victory, so he will be ready for the big games.
5. Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina) - center midfielder --Two years ago Real Madrid let him leave through free agency. Now they might be regretting it, considering David Beckham is playing in the role he plays. Beckam's refusal to play on his more natural right-wing spot and instead play in the middle has hurt Real Madrid, and ultimately led to Cambiasso signing with Inter Milan. Cambiasso is a solid midfield player that will be a key to Argentina's success. He will be holding the defensive center midfield, and will need to be the hardest working player on the field, given Argentina's attack-minded setup.
6. Cicinho (Brazil) - right wing defender -- He has been a great addition at Real Madrid and if he doesn't start for Brazil it could spell trouble. Cafu has had a great career, but he has been injured of late and he will be 36 by the time the tournament starts. It may be a mistake to start him over Cicinho, who does a great job moving forward and is a goal-scoring defender.
7. Tomas Rosicky (Czech Republic) - attacking midfielder -- Rosicky is one of the top attacking midfielders in the world. However, his name is never spoken of as much as it should be. Teammates Pavel Nedved, Milan Baros and Jan Koller draw most of the headlines for the Czech Republic. He could be one of the top players in the tournament.
8. Gianluca Zambrotta (Italy) - wing defender -- Zambrotta can play in any one of the wing defensive or midfield spots, and is a great player in whichever role he is asked to perform. Zambrotta defends very well and is also very good at going forward on the wings. A few seasons ago he switched his position from the right side of the midfield to the left side of the defense to accommodate the arrival of Mauro Camoranesi and actually became a more dominating player.
9. Taylor Twellman (United States) - center forward -- Twellman isn't certain to start for the U.S. as a forward. However, his recent play may make it difficult for coach Bruce Arena to keep him on the bench. Twellman has been one of the top goal scorers in Major League Soccer the past few seasons. Now he will get his chance to show the world what he can do.
10. Clint Dempsey (United States) - right wing midfielder -- A teammate of Twellman with the New England Revolution, the 2004 MLS Rookie of the Year has been a nice surprise to the U.S. National Team. Dempsey, who recently is being suspended for a fight with teammate Revolution Joe Franchino, should still be expected to make the U.S. team. He see some significant minutes as a wing midfielder for the U.S. Dempsey will give it a young presence in the midfield that will be needed for the future as veterans Claudio Reyna, Pablo Mastroeni and John O'Brien will probably be playing in their last World Cup.