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Dynamic duos: Best striker pairs

Mar 24
Ubha By Ravi Ubha
Special to ESPN.com
(Archive)

We all admire great defending. Italy did it so well at the 2006 World Cup, led by Fabio Cannavaro, it ended up claiming a fourth title.

But let's be honest, it's the goals that get us really excited. With that in mind, these strike partnerships should produce more than a few goals in South Africa, led by a feared Spanish duo.

David Villa and Fernando Torres, Spain
Spain cast aside the "underachiever" tag by cruising to the Euro 2008 title, and bookies expect them to do the double in South Africa, emulating France (which won the 1998 World Cup and then the 2000 Euro).

Why not?

Spain possesses quality at virtually every position, which boss Vicente del Bosque fully appreciates.

"Football is a team game, but you still need pieces of individual skill to turn a game," del Bosque told FIFA.com Wednesday. "And we've got players throughout our side who can produce those, from our goalkeeper, through midfield, and into attack."

Let's bypass the likes of Iker Casillas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva, and focus on Villa and Torres.

Villa led Euro 2008 in scoring with four goals, with Torres adding a couple more. The understanding and cohesion between the two would lead one to believe they suit up for the same club team.

Villa continues to produce for cash-strapped Valencia (18 goals, third in La Liga), and a big summer move to Chelsea, Manchester United or Torres' Liverpool is likely to finally happen. He's arguably the best finisher in world football.

Torres has come alive since returning from groin and knee injuries, which means he should end his slight international scoring slump this summer. He probably can't wait for the season to end, given Liverpool's woe.

"The power he has in the last few meters, in other things he is very good, but this is unique," Villa was quoted as saying on Liverpool's Web site early this month. "The start, the power, I've never seen another player with that much power in the last few yards, and perhaps that is what we as other strikers want."

Torres and Villa each scored in the 2006 World Cup, when Spain was eliminated in the second round by Les Bleus.

Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina
There's no use guessing the team Diego Maradona puts out against Nigeria on June 12. He'll surprise us somehow. It might depend which side of the bed the little one wakes up on. One thing, though, is for sure -- Messi won't be omitted.

Messi is on course to repeat as world player of the year after starring with Barcelona yet again (leading La Liga with 25 goals). His second goal against Zaragoza last weekend, part of a hat trick, mirrored his dribbled beauty versus Getafe three years ago. It prompted U.S. striker Jozy Altidore to gush on Twitter this week, "Messi is unreal. If he keeps this up, he'll be the best ever."

Messi has only shown glimpses of his Barca form with the national team, but he proved naysayers wrong with his performance in the 2009 Champions League final against Manchester United. Critics suggested he couldn't play against English sides.

He'll have a point to prove in South Africa.

Higuain figures to start alongside Messi. Brilliant and frustrating in equal measure, Higuain has nonetheless scored 22 league goals this season, behind only Messi, and ahead of his high-priced Real Madrid teammates Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema. Higuain netted the lone goal in Argentina's uplifting 1-0 friendly win in Germany this month.

Maradona also has the likes of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero. Not too shabby.

Salvador Cabanas and Roque Santa Cruz, Paraguay
U.S. striker Charlie Davies isn't the only player trying to recover from off-field injuries to make the World Cup. He's joined by Club America's Cabanas.

Cabanas, Paraguay's talisman, was shot in the head in a Mexico City bar Jan. 25. The 29-year-old survived and has since been released from intensive care, even though the bullet remains lodged in his skull and he struggles with short-term memory. He continues his rehab in Argentina.

In a television interview this month, Cabanas vowed to return to the pitch soon. If he does and comes close to replicating his form in South American qualifying, opposing defenders will have their hands full. Cabanas, good with both feet, finished tied for fifth -- with Messi, among others -- in scoring with six goals, and just as impressive, co-led in assists. Cabanas forged a solid partnership with Nelson Haedo Valdez, even though the latter isn't playing regularly at Borussia Dortmund.

Santa Cruz has had an injury-ravaged season at Manchester City, but he's back. He's a target man good in the air and possesses a wealth of experience, aided by a long stint at Bayern Munich.

If Cabanas can't play, Paraguay's Argentinean manager, Gerardo Martino, still has options in Valdez and Oscar Cardozo, having a brilliant season with Benfica.

Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, Uruguay
How Forlan has been transformed since leaving Manchester United. Unable to hit a barn door in the Premier League, the man with the golden locks can't stop scoring with Atletico Madrid (14 goals), partnering the diminutive Aguero.

He led the division in 2008-2009, tied for eighth the season before and was fifth with Villarreal in 2006-2007. Forlan is on pace to finish in the top 10 again this season.

Suarez outshines all the other youngsters at Ajax, the runaway leader in the Eredivisie with 29 goals. The 23-year-old's eye for goal and pace apparently has Barcelona interested.

Unlike some who can't transfer their club form to international level, Forlan and Suarez were potent in qualifying. They were top five in both goals and assists.

Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, Germany
Never underestimate the Germans, and that goes for these two.

Klose and Podolski have scored only four goals combined in the Bundesliga this season, and Klose was second string at Bayern Munich until starting back-to-back games this month against Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt.

Klose's scoring record with Germany, though, is outstanding -- about a goal every other game in nearly 100 appearances. Klose, 31, led the 2006 World Cup in scoring on home soil and tied for second four years earlier.

Podolski, back at Cologne following a horrible spell at Bayern, scored three times at the most recent World Cup, adding three goals at Euro 2008.

Yes, Germany benefited from a nice qualifying group, but Klose and Podolski hit the back of the net a total of 13 times.

Wishful thinking: Wouldn't it be nice to see Ronaldo play at a fourth World Cup, especially now that David Beckham won't get a chance to appear in No. 4? Barring a miracle it won't happen, since Brazil coach Dunga has so far spurned Ronaldo. Instead, Dunga favors Luis Fabiano, Nilmar, Adriano and Robinho in attack.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.