thumbnail Hello,

Unfancied footballers have risen to the occasion

By Matt Monaghan

World Cup 2010 was meant to see the Premier League's superstars take centre stage, but the lesser lights have stolen the show instead.

While Wayne Rooney, Fernando Torres and Robin van Persie have fallen short of expectations, Dirk Kuyt, Ji-Sung Park and Antolin Alcaraz have risen to the challenge of playing in the greatest tournament on Earth.

Normal service is expected to resume when the new season kicks off on August 14, though for now, they can enjoy their time in the sunshine.

Goal.com UK
looked at the unheralded stars who took the Rainbow Nation by storm...

Name: Antolin Alcaraz

Country: Paraguay

Age: 27

Key statistic: Played every minute of his nation's World Cup 2010 campaign

Wigan Athletic new boy Alcaraz was a pivotal part of the South American's charge to a historic quarter-final spot. His great leap got their tournament off to a flying start when he nodded home the opening goal in the 1-1 draw with Italy. Paraguay only conceded two goals in South Africa and this form will be essential if the Latics can climb up the domestic table.

Name: Kevin-Prince Boateng

Country: Ghana

Age: 23

Key statistic: He and brother Jerome Boateng became the first siblings to face each other in World Cup history when Ghana met Germany

Boateng's transformation from Premier League bad boy to World Cup star was a surprise to many. Finally, his promising form at Portsmouth was converted into top class performances as he took over the injured Michael Essien's mantle as the Black Stars' stand-out midfielder. Portsmouth's relegation has pushed him towards the exit door and an expected £5 million switch to Lazio will be a smart piece of business for the Serie A side.

Name: Lee Chung-Yong

Country: South Korea

Age: 22

Key statistic: Celebrated his first World Cup with a brace of goals, including a memorable strike against Argentina

After a successful debut campaign for Bolton Wanderers, much was expected of Chung-Yong. The winger didn't disappoint as his bright interplay with Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung and Monaco's Park Chu-Young was rewarded with goals against South Americans Argentina and Uruguay. Has travelled back to the Reebok Stadium with his burgeoning reputation enhanced.

Name: Nigel de Jong

Country: Netherlands

Age: 25

Key statistic: Tigerish play saw him suspended for the semi-final victory against Uruguay after picking up two yellow cards

Alongside resident hard man Mark van Bommel, de Jong has formed a formidable wall in front of the Dutch defence. Manchester City fans certainly wouldn't have been surprised to see him suspended for the last four clash with Uruguay. This approach has been vital to shielding a suspect rearguard and has ensured the newly pragmatic Oranje approach has been a huge success.

Name: Giovani dos Santos

Country: Mexico

Age: 21

Key statistic: Completed 138 passes in South Africa without providing an assist

After bursting onto the scene with Barcelona three years ago, dos Santos' career had taken a nosedive at Tottenham Hotspur. The World Cup has provided redemption for the attacker and he will hope his form has convinced manager Harry Redknapp to halt his run of loan moves away from White Hart Lane. Dos Santos' exchanges with Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez were breathtaking at times, with these displays sure to show he can boost a Spurs squad set for its first Champions League campaign.


Name: Javier Hernandez

Country: Mexico

Age: 22

Key statistic: Quick-heeled striker was declared the fastest player at the tournament after being clocked running at 19.97mph by FIFA

Sir Alex Ferguson shocked the sport when he snapped up 'Chicharito,' but on the evidence from South Africa, he has struck striking gold once again. Blessed with lightning speed and intelligent movement, Hernandez came to prominence with his calmly taken opener in the 2-0 victory against France. Real star quality was to raise its head though when his exquisite first touch and thumping shot got him on the score sheet in the 3-1 second round defeat to Argentina.



Name: Dirk Kuyt

Country: Netherlands

Age: 29

Key statistic: Is joint-top of the assists chart at World Cup 2010 with three

As the face of the newly compact Dutch side, Kuyt has provided the energy while Wesley Sneijder & Co. have added the flair. The Liverpool man's performances have received the highest praise possible after Johan Cruyff labelled him 'worth his weight in gold.' Although he has only got on the score sheet once, his incredible levels of energy and commitment have made him a stand out player in the Rainbow Nation.


Name: John Mensah

Country: Ghana

Age: 27

Key statistic: Only booked once at the tournament despite rugged approach

The ballast at the back for Ghana was again at his imposing best as the Black Stars were just a spot-kick away from a historic semi-final berth. While the recurring injury problem that has left Sunderland manager Steve Bruce pondering whether or not to pursue a permanent switch from Olympique Lyon reappeared, on the pitch there can be no questions about his ability. Whether teamed with Jonathan Mensah or Isaac Vorsah, his class and experience offered the perfect guide to the World Cup rookie next to him.

Name: Cristian Riveros

Country: Paraguay

Age: 27

Key statistic: Goal against Slovakia was set-up by Sunderland team-mate Paulo Da Silva

With his mixture of defensive nous and impressive technique, Riveros can expect to shine on Wearside when he links up with his new team-mates for pre-season training. Although positioned at the base of the South American's midfield, he still found time to charge forward and fire home in the group stage finale against Slovakia. With the Black Cats struggling for goals last term, his arrival should provide an improved balance.


Name: Ji-Sung Park

Country: South Korea

Age: 29

Key statistic: Goal against Greece continued his run of getting on the score sheet at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups

South Korea's captain was again the man for the main event after he excelled in a roving midfield role for his nation. His reputation forged at Manchester United as a big-game player continued to grow as he guided Jung-moo Huh's side to the second round. Park's trademark sharpness was at its best against Greece as he pounced on a misplaced pass to surge through the defence to find the back of the net.

No trip to South Africa is complete without a visit to its most beautiful and sunniest city. Durban offers much more than sandy beaches, safaris, casinos and the World Cup, for information on what to do and see, please click here

Our  provides the best breaking news online and our  football fan community is unmatched worldwide. Never miss a thing again!

Related

From the web