Men of substance

JAMIE DWYER (Australia)

As the man who scored the golden goal to give Australia its first ever Olympic Gold at Athens in 2004, the 30-year old from Rockhampton (Queensland) has slotted a place in history. Reckoned as one immaculate enough to score from any angle, he has 250 international appearances. Declared as the Best Junior Player of the Year in 2002, Dwyer recovered from a serious injury in 2003 and staged a brilliant comeback to win the Best Player of the Year award thrice (2004, 07, 09). This will be Dwyer's third World Cup. He was part of the bronze medal winning team in the 2008 Olympiad at Beijing and the national squad that triumphed in the Commonwealth Games at Melbourne in 2006 and Manchester 2002. He has played in the international leagues for Bloemendaal in Amsterdam, Real de Polo in Barcelona and for Maratha Warriors in the PHL.

LUKE DOERNER (Australia)

The 30-year-old gangling defender, the flick-specialist of the Aussie team, began hockey at the age of 13 and has figured in more than 130 internationals. His debut was at the Azlan Shah tournament in 2005 and since then he has been a regular member, being part of the goldmedal winning team at the Commonwealth Games, the silver medal at the 2006 World Cup and the bronze at Beijing. He has played league hockey in France and also in the Netherlands for the formidable HC Bloemendaal with Jamie Dwyer. He was the top-scorer, netting six goals along with team-mate Grant Schubert, in the last Champions Trophy at Melbourne. His lucky number is 13!!!

PABLO (POL) AMAT (Spain)

Hailed by the coach Maurits Hendriks, as "the Ronaldinho of hockey," the 31-year-old Amat is a forward endowed with a remarkable sense of timing and angles. He was 17 when he made his international debut in 1995 and since then he and Ed Tabau have formed one of the best strike forces in competitive hockey. A four Olympics veteran - 1996 to 2008 - he played a stellar role in the European Cup in 2006 giving Spain the trophy after 31 years. He also scored the match winner in the bronze medal match against South Korea at Monchengladbach. He was awarded the FIH Player of the Year trophy in 2008.

TEUN DE NOOIJER (Netherlands)

Some images remain frozen in memory. Like this one: Twelve years ago, in the ninth edition of the World Cup at the picturesque Galgenlwaard Stadium, in Utretcht (The Netherlands) in 1998, a curly-haired 22- year-old turned the spotlight on himself with a tennis-like shot with just two minutes remaining in extratime to give The Netherlands a 3-2 victory over Spain in the final and its third World Cup title. Teun de Nooijer lay flat on the ground, and his teammates fell in a heap over him to celebrate the golden goal. At 33 and with over 400 International caps, de Nooijer, a celebrated midfield striker, playing in his fifth World Cup, has little to prove to anyone. More in a mentor role now, the Dutch legend, a three-time FIH Player of the Year, will be keen to get the best out of his younger team-mates while doing his bit. Though the Dutch have won the World Cup thrice, they have not triumphed since 1998 and de Nooijer will be keen to set this anomaly right.

TAEKE TAEKEMA (Netherlands)

Among a select few in contemporary hockey, who can change the complexion of the game in a jiffy, Taeke Taekema is up there at the top. A drag flick specialist dreaded by opponents, Taekema has been one of the architects of the Netherlands' success in the last 10 years. Possessing the best technique as far as penalty corner conversions go, Taekema is a big asset for the Dutch. He was the top-scorer in the last World Cup with 11 goals and has one of the best all-time goal scoring records in the world, averaging nearly a goal in every match he's played. The high point of his career came in the 2007 European Hockey championships, where he was the top scorer with 16 goals. With more than 200 International caps, he is a key player.

SOHAIL ABBAS (Pakistan)

A sure match-winner! The 33- year-old can swing the contest on the strength of his strong shoulders and the sight of him launching a drag-flick can stun the best of defence and goalkeepers. With an ability to score consistently and with a rare flourish, he is one of the most exciting players to watch. Considered an all-time great, he is not a sensation when defending, but the team can't do without his scoring prowess. He began his career under the guidance of the wily Shahbaz Ahmed and developed into one of the most successful drag-flickers. His conversion rate has dipped in recent times, but his experience would be an asset to the team. The pressure on him would be immense, but the team can look forward to this astounding player who has come out of retirement in "national" interest. A lot would depend on him if Pakistan is to aim for a podium finish.

REHAN BUTT (Pakistan)

A sight to behold when in form, Rehan Butt is one of the top wingers in world hockey, upholding Pakistan's tradition of producing classy players in the forward line. The ease with which he switches flanks makes him one of the most dangerous forwards and certainly the most-marked man as far as the defenders are concerned. Butt is known for his body dodge which can leave the entire defence in a daze. His forte is the amazing acceleration he generates in a flash. It is said that if you mark him well, it is half the job done. In keeping with the modern demands of the game, Butt, 30, is adept at falling back and strengthening the half- line and at times the defence too. Thanks to his fitness, he has adapted very well to emerge one of the key players in his team. A cool and composed mind is a quality that makes him an ideal man to rely on when under pressure. His quality to convert rebounds also makes this skilful player the man to watch.

SANDEEP SINGH (India)

Sandeep Singh has been the backbone of Indian hockey for some time. He has been impressive against Asian teams, particularly Pakistan. He was the hero of the Indian team both when it won the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last year, and when it made the final after a 12-year gap in 2008. He captained the Indian team last year in the Test series against Argentina and New Zealand, as also in the Punjab Gold Cup. He has scored 72 goals in 115 international matches and it has been a courageous return to the international fold for the young man after a stray bullet had damaged his spine and incapacitated him just before the last World Cup in 2006. He did play in the Athens Olympics, after having been the top-scorer in the Junior World Cup that India won for the first time in 2004, at Karachi.

MATTHIAS WITTHAUS (GERMANY)

With 307 internationals and 132 goals in the kitty, Witthaus is a seasoned campaigner, having been part of the gold medal winning teams at the 2002 and 2006 World Championships and the 2008 Olympiad in Beijing, apart from taking part in six editions of the Champions Trophy. Born in Oberhausen, "Witti" as he is called, was the youngest ever German player to get an international cap at the age of 17. This 27-year-old had been a famous player in the European league for Uhlenhorst Miihlhiem (Jugend) and Altico Terrasa. Currently, he is part of the Real Polo Club in Barcelona. He always uses the jersey No. 22.

PRABHJOT SINGH (INDIA)

The ebullient winger might have been in the news in recent times for all the wrong reasons, but he is an important part of the attack. The Punjab player stands out with his colourful bandana, his incisive runs into the 25-yard area and his prolific goal-scoring ability. He has played in a World Cup (Kuala Lumpur, 2002), an Olympics (Athens, 2004), an Asian Games (Doha, 2006) and three Champions Trophy tournaments. He was part of the Indian team that won the 2007 Asia Cup in Chennai (where he was adjudged the Player of the Tournament for scoring as many as 15 goals) and the 2009 Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh. He was also a key player in the team that won the junior World Cup in Hobart in 2001. In 2003 he was a nominee for the FIH `Young Player of the Year' award. The 29-year-old was honoured with the Arjuna Award and earned a place in the FIH All Star team.

(Compiled by S. Thyagarajan, Vijay Lokapally, Kamesh Srinivasan, K. Keerthivasan and Y. B. Sarangi)