World Cup Player to Watch: Part Eight

 38096987 puyol 1 World Cup Player to Watch: Part EightBy The Scout

Spain – Carles Puyol

The 28 year-old defender is the captain and inspirational leader for his club team FC Barcelona. For the Spanish national team, Puyol also plays a big leadership role. Having come up through the ranks at the Catalan club, Puyol achieved a dream this season by winning both La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.

To say Spain has underachieved in recent tournaments would be unnecessarily polite. They have disappointed time after time despite vast resources of talent to draw upon. In 2002, UEFA voted him the top Right Back in Europe and his play at the World Cup earned plaudits from many analysts. Though knocked out in the quarter-finals of the 2002 tournament, Puyol gained valuable experience playing in a back four that included legends Fernando Hierro, as tough a tackler as you could ask for with technical skills to match, and Miguel Nadal who also played for FC Barcelona.

While not the most technically skilled player, Puyol has evolved into one of the smartest and most versatile. He has sufficient pace and physical strength to operate effectively at either centre-back or right-back. He is a tough but fair tackler, has good tactical sense and is difficult to beat one-on-one. Spain opened strong with a 4-0 win over Ukraine and Puyol was again rock-solid in defense. He also managed to combine with striker Fernando Torres on one of the best goals of the tournament. After making a powerful, determined run up the middle of the field, Puyol played some lovely one-two with Torres who finished things off with a superb low strike. If Spain are to finally fulfill their promise, Puyol will need to repeat his 2002 performance and so far it looks like he even improve upon it.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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