10. Sotiris Ninis (Greece)                          

(Shahid Kapoor??? lolz)

The Albanian-born playmaker is just 20 years old, but brings plenty of experience, having first played for Panathinaikos in January 2007. A very bold little player, he attacks constantly, always looking for a killer pass, and is not afraid to shoot from any distance. Fearless and full of initiative, Ninas could be the perfect heir to ageing club-mate Giorgios Karagounis in the national team.

Otto Rehhagel has been somewhat reluctant to give him a proper chance at international level. Ninis was dropped from the Euro 2008 squad shortly after becoming the youngest ever scorer for Greece on his debut, meaning that the journey to South Africa will be his first trip to a major tournament. With Manchester United and Milan reportedly watching his progress very closely, the €10 million buy-out clause at Pana could easily be thought of as a bargain this summer.

9. Valter Birsa (Slovenia) 

It's surprising how Birsa manages to excel under everyone's radar. The 23-year-old Slovenian is even mistakenly quoted as a striker in many World Cup previews, despite playing in midfield. One of coach Matiaz Kek's favourites, he offers endless energy, good ball control and vision, supreme passing and a keen eye for goal. He scored his first two goals for his country in World Cup qualifiers, but his biggest contribution was a brilliant pass in the play-off second leg against Russia which enabled Zlatko Dedic to score a priceless winning goal and send Guus Hiddink's team crashing out of the tournament.

A cup winner with Sochaux in 2007, he moved to Auxerre in January 2009 and was an integral part of the team that surprised France by finishing third in Ligue 1, heading for the Champions League qualifying round. It remains to be seen whether Auxerre will still be enjoying his services come August if Birsa shows his potential in South Africa.

8. Jong Tae-Se (North Korea) Hwang Jae-Won (L) of South Korea and Jong Tae-Se of North Korea compete for the ball during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifier match between South Korea and North Korea at Seoul World Cup Stadium on April 1, 2009 in Seoul, South Korea.  (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jong Tae-Se;Hwang Jae-Won

This is a very curious case of a South Korean, born in Japan, but preferring to represent the Communist state, and even prepared to fight for his choice. The 26-year-old Jong studied at the Chongryon School and at Korea University in Tokyo, which is actually a North Korean institution on Japanese soil. Having decided to switch nationalities, his talents were welcomed in North Korea and he is their principal hope of bagging a goal against the likes of Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast. Jong is a versatile striker, often wandering around the penalty area and having a good eye for spectacular goals - as his double strike in a 2-2 draw against Greece would show. No wonder he is called "the People's Rooney".

7. Takayuki Morimoto (Japan) 

Alexandre Pato rates Catania's Japanese starlet as the best young player in Serie A. The Brazilian was controversially omitted from Dunga's World Cup squad, but Morimoto will be plying his trade in South Africa, hoping to earn an offer from a top team. Once a Manchester United transfer target, the 22-year-old striker offers a very bold and direct approach in the penalty area.

A serious knee injury cooled Sir Alex Ferguson's interest in the striker, who is still the youngest-ever player and scorer in the J-League, but now Arsene Wenger is fast becoming a fan, knowing only too well the financial benefits of having a Japanese player at the Emirates. After all, Wenger speaks his language thanks to his time at Nagoya Grampus Eight in the mid-90s. Morimoto has netted 12 goals in two full seasons with the Sicilian club, but has been limited to just a handful of appearances for his country so far. That might well change in the coming weeks.

6. Miroslav Stoch (Slovakia) 

Chelsea probably still don't rate the 20-year-old highly enough. Able to play on the left wing or as a playmaker, not to mention second striker, Stoch has a brilliant range of talents, including great vision and a good shot from distance. Having been involved in just six games for the Blues in 2008-09, he was loaned to Twente and became an integral part of the team that strolled to a historic first Eredivisie title.

Scoring 10 league goals from midfield for Steve McClaren's side is a remarkable feat, but his involvement in building the attacks was even more important. Galatasaray are reportedly keen to sign the Slovakian for a mere £2.5 million, but he might be worth a lot more if his team makes a good impression in South Africa.

5. Ki Sung-Yong (South Korea)

Foreigners usually have trouble remembering Korean names, with most sounding alike to them, so it's probably better to know Ki Sung-Yong as David Ki. That was his given name during the five years he spent in Australia, where his father sent him to learn football. You can also call him the Korean Steven Gerrard, as that's the nickname FC Seoul fans gave him for his brilliant displays in midfield.

Just 21, he is one of the most interesting young prospects in the whole of Asia, and Manchester United kept a keen eye on him during the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2007. In the end, Ki found himself moving to Celtic for around £2 million this winter. A good understanding with Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung and Bolton Player of the Year Lee Chung-Yong prompted Korean journalists to claim the national team possesses its best ever midfield. Don't bet against them surviving the group stage for the first time in a World Cup held outside Korea.

4. Christian Eriksen (Denmark) 

A new Michael Laudrup! All of Denmark is over the moon with the brilliant playmaking talent of Christian Eriksen, who excelled at all youth levels before making his debut for the senior team in March. He may be just 18, but he is rated so highly at Ajax that youth coach Frank De Boer said Eriksen will develop into one of the best No. 10s in the club's history, and coach Martin Jol compared him to Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder.

Big teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United are interested, but Eriksen wisely decided to stay in Amsterdam for now, in order to get enough playing time in the coming seasons. Denmark coach Morten Olsen is careful not to expect too much from the youngest player of all 736 in South Africa, but had no second thoughts about taking him to the big stage. A duel against the real Sneijder and van der Vaart in their first game could be fascinating.

3. Neven Subotic (Serbia) 

Nemanja Vidic and Branislav Ivanovic might be getting all the attention in a very solid Serbian defence, but the 21-year-old Borussia Dortmund centre-back could probably even upstage them. Having preferred Serbia over Bosnia, the United States and Germany, the multi-national and multi-cultural stopper is brilliant in the air at 193cm, strong on the ground, has good tactical sense and is extremely dangerous when joining the attack at set pieces, as nine goals in two seasons in the Bundesliga goes to show.

Subotic was the first name on coach Jurgen Klopp's wish-list when he joined Dortmund from Mainz in 2008, and he has developed into one of the best defenders in the league. Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have all been mentioned as possible bidders, and the price will not be low.

2. Stephane Mbia (Cameroon) 

Mbia might not be well-known outside of France, but his contribution to Marseille's historic championship triumph was immense. While Mamadou Niang and Lucho Gonzalez made all the headlines, the 24-year-old Cameroonian was effective, first in his natural defensive position in midfield, and then as a centre-back. Although he stated he hates playing in the back four, he barely put a foot wrong, and national team coach Paul Le Guen might use his versatility to switch him to right-back in South Africa, making space for Alex Song in midfield and Sebastian Bassong and Nicolas Nkoulou in central defence.

Regardless of his position on the field, his speed and tactical discipline are huge assets, making the €12m Marseille paid to Rennes last summer for his services look meagre. Milan, Arsenal and Bayern Munich will all queue for his signature, and l'OM's profits will be bigger if Mbia succeeds in South Africa.

1. Marek Hamsik (Slovakia) 

The 22-year-old midfield turbo needs no introduction to those who follow Serie A closely enough. The Napoli star is nothing short of a complete player, combining great defensive abilities with terrific vision anda superb goal return, with 30 league goals for the Partenopei in three seasons.

The national team captain at his tender age, he is a natural born leader, with a "heart on the sleeve" and "never say die" mentality. Having always admired Pavel Nedved, Hamsik could easily become as big a star as his idol. He recently stated that he wants to stay and win trophies with Napoli - who rejected an approach from Manchester City - but if he stars in South Africa, the next big-money bid from a really big club could be extremely hard to turn down.

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