With the World Cup opener less than 24 hours away, soccer fans across the globe are setting their DVR’s and scouting out bars open at ungodly hours just for a chance to watch the world’s very best stars. To keep you informed and prepared for the month-long tournament, here’s a list of players to watch out for and their playing style counterparts from the NBA:
Wayne Rooney is Dwyane Wade
Known for his scoring prowess, forward Wayne Rooney is undoubtedly the key to England’s run at its first World Cup trophy in over 40 years. Much like D-Wade, Rooney is a physical scorer, who finished second in Premiership goals with 26 tallies for club team Manchester United.
Cristiano Ronaldo is Derrick Rose
Portugal, entering the World Cup in the Group of Death (Brazil, Cote D’Ivoire, North Korea), has never had a better stretch than a 1966 third-place finish. With perhaps the toughest road to the Cup, they will rely heavily on the play of midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo, known for his blazing speed and lethal crossovers at Spanish club side Real Madrid.
Lionel Messi is Kevin Durant
Fresh off a 2009 campaign that earned him FIFA World Player of the Year honors, Argentinian midfielder Lionel Messi is the man to watch in South Africa. Argentina’s playmaker, known more for his technical ability than his physicality, can dribble past seemingly any defender and has a penchant for highlight-reel scoring. He led La Liga in goals with 34 with Barcelona.
KakÃ¡ is Steve Nash
If Brazil wants to regain the form that earned the country its fifth World Cup trophy in 2002, it will require a Herculean effort from midfielder KakÃ¡. Though surrounded by talent, KakÃ¡’s play is understated in its brilliance. He is a game-changing midfielder with scoring ability, and constantly seems one step ahead of his competition.
David Villa is Carmelo Anthony
The Spanish forward, who recently made the move to Barcelona on a â‚¬40 million transfer fee, is counted on for one thing and one thing alone: scoring. Former club Valencia finished third in La Liga thanks in large part to Villa’s contributions (21 league goals), and he has quickly become one of the most prolific scorers in the world.
Samuel Eto’o is Kobe Bryant
Put simply, Samuel Eto’o is a winner. The Cameroonian forward helped lead his Barcelona club to a Champions League trophy in 2009 with six goals in 12 CL appearances. His move to current Italian club Inter Milan wouldn’t keep him from earning more hardware — Inter enjoyed another Serie A championship after his arrival, and they won their second ever Champions League trophy at the end of the 2010 season.
Frank Lampard is Chris Paul
One of the most brilliant playmakers in the game today, British midfielder Frank Lampard has potentially the highest soccer IQ in the tournament. Lampard led Chelsea in assists (14) and added 22 goals of his own in helping Chelsea to a first-place finish in the Premiership. Even more so than his final numbers will indicate, Lampard’s play will be instrumental in the British attack.
Maicon is Dwight Howard
Finding a defender with offensive capabilities is not always easy, but Brazil has a perfect fit for its playing style in right back Maicon. The Inter Milan star, quickly rising in prominence as one of the best defenders in the game, also plays a key role in the offense with overlapping runs down the flank. Combined with his shutdown defense at right back, Maicon may very well establish himself as the best defender in the world by tourney’s end.
Cesc Fabregas is Rajon Rondo
Much like Rondo’s move from the University of Kentucky to the Boston Celtics, when Fabregas was signed away from Barcelona by Arsenal as a 16-year-old, he had made a transition from one historic club to another. The play of Fabregas in the midfield will be crucial to Spain’s chances of success. Known for his passing and distribution abilities, Fabregas brings a creativity and vision to the midfield that is unheralded for a 23-year-old.
Didier Drogba is LeBron James
You didn’t really think we would skip out on a LeBron James comparison, did you? Despite Drogba’s recent injury that has him in doubt for Cote D’Ivoire, the forward has established himself as the very best in the game in his six years with Chelsea. And though his club team has yet to find an elusive Champions League trophy (sound familiar?), Drogba led the Premiership with 29 goals in 2009/2010.