Magazine article Newsweek International

In the Spotlight; as the World Cup Returns to Europe, All Eyes Willbe on the Stars from Football's Traditional Powers

Magazine article Newsweek International

In the Spotlight; as the World Cup Returns to Europe, All Eyes Willbe on the Stars from Football's Traditional Powers

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Starr

The European football powers enter each World Cup with the highest expectations. Here are four veteran stars who will be in the spotlight--and on the spot.

David Beckham, England: The most famous player in the world can still bend it. But his critics wonder if he can do much more--and whether he would still be starting if England's Football Association didn't earn a fortune selling his shirt. Beckham, 31, is slow and sometimes reckless on defense and lacks versatility on offense. At the very least, some say, he should surrender the captain's armband to midfield spark plug Steven Gerrard. But with young scoring sensation Wayne Rooney likely out of the World Cup with a broken foot, England may have to rely more on set plays--and thus on Beckham's extraordinary right foot delivering free kicks.

Thierry Henry, France: Henry, 28, may be the game's most gifted scorer. He has combined speed and elusiveness with a surefire finishing touch to become the highest scorer in the Arsenal club's history. And he scored three times when France won the '98 World Cup. But in recent years the French attack has been moribund. France exited the 2002 World Cup without scoring a single goal in three games. And only a rock-solid defense got Les Bleus back to the World Cup this time around. Superstar Zinedine Zidane has come out of retirement to help spur the attack--but it will be up to Henry to put the ball in the back of the net.

Francesco Totti, Italy: His most famous plays in international competition have seen Totti at his absolute worst--getting a second yellow card on a controversial diving call in a 2002 World Cup loss to South Korea, and getting the boot from the 2004 European championship for spitting at a Danish opponent. …

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