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His goal-scoring exploits for Arsenal this season have made Van Persie one of the most sought players in world football. He has a wand of a left foot to rival even the great Messi and will lead the Netherlands as they look to shake off their “underachievers” tag.


Karim Benzema

France finally has a striker to take over from Thierry Henry. The barrel-chested Benzema’s explosive pace and unforgiving finishing saw him emerge as Real Madrid’s No. 1 striker by the end of the season. He has been France’s leader up front in its sensational recent run of 21 unbeaten games.


Gianluigi Buffon

Buffon comes into the tournament under a cloud of betting-scam allegations as part of the fallout of the Italian match-fixing scandal, but his reputation as the world’s premier goalkeeper remains intact. Tall and athletic, there are no weaknesses in the 34-year-old 2006 World Cup winner’s armor. A key member of an Italian backline that had the best defensive record in qualifying.


Mario Balotelli

Whether it’s exploding fireworks in his bathroom or ripping off his jersey to display messages on T-shirts, the enigmatic Balotelli always provides a story. The striker has all the talent in the world and unbelievable coolness under pressure, but has too many off days and could easily implode for Italy this month.


Wayne Rooney

For Balotelli, read Rooney. His crazy kick-out at a Montenegro defender leaves him suspended for England’s first two games at Euros, but there was never a doubt he’d be picked on the squad. The Manchester United striker can be the best player in the world when he’s on and is one of England’s few world-class stars.



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