Footballers to Watch in Beijing
Salomon Kalou | C&#244;te d'Ivoire
With senior national team captain Didier Drogba ruled out for the Olympic tournament, his Chelsea teammate Kalou looks to help the Ivory Coast build on last winter's fourth-place finish in the African Cup of Nations.
Lionel Messi | Argentina
The runner-up to Kaká in FIFA World Player of the Year balloting headlines a squad loaded with top-flight talent. The team's overage selections include Boca Juniors midfielder Juan Riquelme, Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano and Inter Milan defender Nicolas Burdisso.
Jade North | Australia
North, an Indiginous Australian central defender, became the first-ever Aboriginal captain of the senior national team during a 2010 World Cup qualifier earlier this year.
Branislav Ivanovi&#263; | Serbia
Considered one of Serbia's most promising young talents, the 21-year-old defender helped his country to a surprising runner-up finish in last year's U-21 European Championships.
Royston Drenthe | Netherlands
After helping the Dutch win the U-21 European Championship last summer, Drenthe earned a contract with Spanish giants Real Madrid, where the left back scored two goals in 18 appearance this past season.
Taye Taiwo | Nigeria
The Olympic Marseille defender hopes to lead the Super Eagles to a repeat of their gold medal at the 1996 Games.
Takayuki Morimoto | Japan
The 20-year-old striker remains the youngest Japanese player to make a professional debut. He's also the youngest goalscorer in J. League history, striking for Tokyo Verdy 1969 against Jubilo Iwata at age 15 years, 10 months and six days. Morimoto currently plays for Calcio Catania in Serie A.
Brian McBride | United States
America's veteran striker -- he's 12 years older than any of his Olympic teammates -- has played in three World Cups with the senior team and earned 95 caps.
Zheng Zhi | China
The captain of the Chinese national team plays for English club Charlton Athletic and remained with the club through their relegation from the Premier League to the Championship following the 2006-07 season.
Chris Killen | New Zealand
Killen helped Celtic to a Scottish Premier League title this past season in his first year with the club, scoring one goal in 27 appearances.
Ronaldinho | Brazil
Since spending most of Barcelona's disastrous 2007-08 season unfit and unhappy on the sidelines, critics worldwide have fired away at the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year. Can the 28-year-old midfielder regain elite form and help a stacked Brazil side win the country's first-ever gold medal in this tournament?
Anthony Vanden Borre | Belgium
Vanden Borre helped Belgium to a surprise semifinal appearance in last year's U-21 European Championships. He currently plays right back for Genoa in the Italian top division.
Dong-Jin Kim | Korea Republic
Without English Premier League midfielders Ji-Sung Park and Do-Heon Kim, Korea represents an unknown quantity entering the Olympic tournament. Kim, fresh off his UEFA Cup victory with Zenit St. Petersburg, looks to carry the momentum from his domestic campaign into Beijing.
Alexandre Song | Cameroon
With Samuel Eto'o ruled out for Beijing, the 20-year-old Arsenal defender looks to help the Indomitable Lions to a second gold medal in three Olympic tournaments. Cameroon also won the gold at Sydney in 2000, upsetting Brazil in the quarterfinals along the way.
Carlos Pav&#243;n | Honduras
The 34-year-old Honduran striker is one of the oldest players in the tournament. He's also one of the most prolific attackers in Beijing, having tallied 46 goals in 79 international appearances.
Giuseppe Rossi | Italy
Born in Teaneck, N.J., to Italian immigrant parents and raised in nearby Clifton, Rossi competed for Italy in last year's U-21 European Championships and plays for Villarreal in the Spanish top division.