Hot in the qualifiers

Arjen Robben Team: Netherlands. Position: Attacking Winger.

Strengths: Ripped apart rival full-backs at will during the qualifiers with his electric pace; amazing control; excellent crossing; brilliant with both left and right foot; pulls off amazing angles whether in delivery or in finishing; the best winger in the world on current form.

Rafael Van Der Vaart Team: Netherlands. Position: Attacking winger/hidden striker.

Strengths: Lightning pace which can be lethal especially in a counterattack; smooth and imaginative passing; combined brilliantly with Robben and Van Nistelrooy in the qualifiers and it could be a hot combo again in Germany 2006; excellent finishing; plays as attacking midfielder in the centre for his club, SV Hamburg and has made waves this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo Team: Portugal. Position: Winger.

Strengths: Hot pace; amazing on the right wing and can play decently on the left as well; superb dribbling skills and body feints; decent left foot; good body balance and ball control which helps to cut into central positions; good finishing (7 goals in the qualifiers).

Deco Team: Portugal. Position: Central midfielder.

Strengths: Of Brazilian origin, he is Barcelona's central midfield engine along with Ronaldinho and can carry out both attacking and playmaking duties with equal ease; astounding ball control; amazing dribbling skills; body feints; pace; imaginative passing; can hold the ball up for eternity for Pauleta, Cristiano Ronaldo and Figo; great freekicks; the star of the Portugal midfield in the qualifiers.

Andriy Shevchenko Team: Ukraine. Position: Forward.

Strengths: The AC Milan forward inspired Ukraine to its first World Cup berth along with fellow attackers Andrei Vorobey and Andrei Voronin; the 2004 European Player of the Year is a dream forward for any manager combining pace, skills, and mind-blowing opportunism with a willingness to drop back to help wingers and attacking midfielders.

Andrea Pirlo Team: Italy. Position: Defensive midfielder.

Strengths: The best in the world in his position on current form for both AC Milan and Italy pipping Claude Makelele of Chelsea and France; combines the best tackling skills of Italian defenders with the imaginative passing skills of central midfielders; strikes a great combination with club and country teammate Gennaro Gattuso in the midfield; mastermind of quick counterattacks; superb free kicks.

— N. U. Abilash