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From making those last ditch tackles, winning the aerial battles, intimidating the opposition with their strength and athleticism, defenders of a team are the foundation stones which make a unit strong and steady. A strong defensive unit gives the rest of the team the confidence to move forward, as they have complete faith on the players guarding the goal at the back. The contributions of defenders may not be obvious in a single game but it becomes evident over the course of a campaign, where the solidity at the back leads to a team's conquest.
The 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany was won by some inspirational defending from Italy led by Fabio Cannavaro and ably assisted by Alessandro Nesta. The Italians showcased exactly how deadly they were at absorbing pressure and hitting rivals on the counter-attack. Inter Milan's European conquest this season was also based on a solid defense which aided some immaculate organization. A look then, at some of the best defenders featuring in this year's FIFA World Cup (we tried to limit this to a max of 1 per nation, but shock of shocks Lucio bullied his way into our list alongside his Inter Milan teammate Maicon...
Maicon (BRAZIL) - Inter Milan full back, Maicon has been in splendid form helping his team to a treble winning season. His attacking prowess on the wings coupled with his defensive strength at the back make him doubly dangerous. Maicon has contributed 10 goals this season for club and country. He has risen to prominence this year, imposing himself as a top class defender after loitering in oblivion for most of his career, let's hope that this late bloomer realizes his ambitions in South Africa.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 49 International - 55
Nemanja Vidic (SERBIA) - For as little as Â£7million, Sir Alex Ferguson struck gold, by the astute purchase of Serbian Nemanja Vidic. 'Vida', as he is fondly known by friends, is adept at winning headers and tackling. The Serb is always the first to commit to the team's cause, and is also very capable in the air on set plays. Serbia will need him to be at the peak of his game to ensure qualification to the next round from the Group of Death.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 33 International - 45
Patrice Evra (FRANCE) - This Senagal born Manchester United wing-back has played each and every league game for his club this season. He is a quick and very capable defender and has been recently promoted to captain the national side with Thierry Henry relegated to a place on the bench. Evra also has the rare gift of limitless fitness and is considered one of the best full backs in the world. He is a consistent performer and will play a crucial role in enhancing France's chances at the tournament.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 51 International - 27
John Terry (ENGLAND) - Chelsea captain, Terry has led his team to the domestic double in England. A player who leads by example on the field, JT is a no nonsense, quick thinking centre back. 2010 was a scandal filled year for Terry but he showed strength in character to ensure a brilliant tail end to the season. With team captain Rio Ferdinand ruled out due to injury, England's chances at the World Cup will hugely depend on Terry's ability to keep preying attackers at bay.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 46 International - 60
Walter Samuel (ARGENTINA) - Inter Milan's centre-back has been in splendid form for his club and is surely a favourite to win one of UEFA's individual club awards. Samuel was dropped for the 2006 World Cup, but has found his form and fitness under the brilliant defensive tactician Jose Mourinho and looks at the peak of his game. He will provide some much-needed experience and stability to the Argentine team that boasts of a plethora of attacking superstars.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 38 International - 54
Giorgio Chiellini (ITALY) - Despite an injury-ridden season, Juventus central defender, Chiellini makes the cut for the list due to his strong performances in the previous two domestic seasons. He won back to back best defender awards in Italy those years and belongs to a new age of Italian blockers who absolutely take no prisoners. Prone to the odd rash challenge, the youngster will benefit tremendously from playing alongside Fabio Cannavaro.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 12 International - 29
Carles Puyol (SPAIN) - Barcelona captain and Spain's central defender, Puyol has had a strong domestic season winning La Liga and reaching the semifinals of the Champions League. He is one of the most experienced centre halves' in the squad and is the leader at the back even though the arm-band is worn by Iker Casillas. Puyol has to be at the top of his game if Spain are to be World Champions for the very first time.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 48 International - 82
Ricardo Carvalho (PORTUGAL) - One of Europe's most reliable centre halves' Ricardo Carvalho had a trophy-laden season bagging the domestic double with Chelsea. Known for his dependability, Carvalho often breaks forward in counter attacks. The former Porto star turns 32 this summer and this may well be his last hurrah on the big stage. After an injury prone domestic season, expect him to fresh and hungry come the World Cup.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 29 International - 62
Philipp Lahm (GERMANY) - Bayern Munich's full back, Lahm has been a regular fixture for the runners up of the Champions League this season and has also been a great servant for the German national team. Michael Ballack's injury sees him in the unfamiliar position of wearing the captain's armband, and the new skipper will be itching to show that he is the man for the job. Lahm is a skilled crosser and is comfortable on both wings. He was an integral part of Germany's Euro 2008 campaign starting all the games, and will always be remembered for his opening goal in Germany 2006.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 52 International - 65
Lucio (BRAZIL) - Brazil and Inter Milan captain Lucio has had the best year of his life as a professional footballer, winning the treble with his club and scoring a goal in the victory against USA in the Final of the Confederations Cup. Lucio turned 32 this month and South Africa 2010 looks likely to be his last World Cup too. At his swansong, he would like nothing less than to be the man to lift the trophy come the 11th of July.
Appearances: Club 09-10 - 48 International - 90
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