Football: Flipping Heck! This Lot Could Really Take the World by Storm; N IRELAND SOCCER HERO'S HARD-HITTING COLUMN.(Sport)

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Byline: GERRY ARMSTRONG INTERVIEW: Nick Rippington

IF you are looking for some World Cup surprises you have come to the right place. Over the years a number of players have lit up the tournament who were barely known outside their homeland before it.

There was Roger Milla of Cameroon, Michael Owen of England, Toto Scillachi of Italy ... oh yes, and Gerry Armstrong of Northern Ireland!

OK, perhaps I'm not quite in the same category as the previous names in that list but the point I'm making is that in the right circumstances certain players, little known outside their own country, can suddenly become worldwide names.

And I'm sure that there will be some new faces to wax lyrical about after the 2002 version in Japan and South Korea.

Here is my verdict on 10 of the players to watch out for.

England fans and avid Premiership watchers may be more familiar with the likes of Kanu at Arsenal, but Nigeria's top man could be a 19-year-old ace who I saw playing for African Club champions Hearts of Oak.

His name is JULIUS AGAHOWA and he has just switched clubs to join the Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk. With seven goals and 11 caps to his name he first came to light as a supersub for the Nigerians in the 2000 African Nations Cup.

He does 100 metres in 10.3 seconds and is a sensational gymnast too. Watch his acrobatic goal celebrations if he manages to find the net in Japan. He makes Newcastle's Lomano Lua Lua look like a novice!

Ireland had to admire them on Thursday night when he scored the opener in Nigeria's 2-1 victory at Lansdowne Road.

He will play wide on the right, where he can be a great supplier, or down the centre where he causes havoc for defenders. What can Sven Goran Eriksson do to contain him? I haven't go a clue!

The Japanese have a lad called SHINJI ONO, who is playing for Feyenoord in the Dutch league. He is going to be a real star, but is almost totally unknown in Britain.

Now being touted as Japan's most gifted player, he has replaced Hidetoshi Nakata as the name on everyone's lips since the latter's struggle for acceptance with Italian club Parma. Ono played in Feyenoord's UEFA Cup winning side and is normally found in a wide midfield position. He creates lots of chances.

England's problems have been well documented. No Steve Gerrard and Gary Neville, and Kieron Dyer struggling to be fit in time.

But there is always someone who will take advantage of adversity. Step forward JOE COLE. Of course there is no guarantee the West Ham man will start, but if he gets on the pitch expect a bundle of surprises. …