One to watch: Lukas Podolski, Germany

If you check out bookies' odds for the Golden Boot, you'll see that Lukas Podolski (that's his action figure, by the way) is 28-1. Pretty short odds for a player most England fans will know very little about, if they've heard of him at all…

Lukas Podolski, Germany

Podolski is big news in Germany, though. When videogame giants EA Sport announced its cover stars for FIFA 06, they introduced Wayne Rooney… Ronaldinho… and Podolski. Esteemed company for such a little-known player, but then marketeers and fans alike have lauded Pod as German football's next big thing. So what has he done to deserve the tag?

Pod is 20 years old, Polish-born and still plays his club football for FC Köln, the club he joined at 10 years of age. He played for Germany at Euro 2004 (as a substitute) and then caught the eye when he scored three goals at last year's Confederations Cup. German coach Jurgen Klinsmann rates him very highly and it's easy to see why: Pod is fast, physically strong and nerveless in front of goal. He scored seven goals in his first 13 international appearances, proving beyond any doubt that he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

If Podolski plays well and scores against Costa Rica in the tournament's opening match, a star will be born and Germany may start dreaming of a fourth World Cup title. And as I mentioned, at 28-1 he's a tempting each-way flutter for the Golden Boot.