Song comes to an end at World Cup

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Rigobert Song is set to depart the international stage at the World Cup in South Africa, bringing to an end a career that began at the same tournament 16 years ago.

The defender has shattered a myriad of records since making his debut as a teenager in the colors of Cameroon, earning recognition with his long braids and committed style of play.

He is not expected to play more than a cameo role in the 2010 finals and there has been much speculation that he might not even make the squad, but coach Paul Le Guen looks committed to taking the 33-year-old to his fourth World Cup.

With 135 caps, Song is an iconic figure in his country and has had a career that has taken him to some of the top leagues in Europe.

He has, however, lost his role as Cameroon captain and in January, at the African Nations Cup finals in Angola, even lost his place in the team.

The prospect of a sad demise to his national team career was heightened when Le Guen did not select him in the squad for a friendly against Italy in March but he has since bounced back to feature in Cameroon's 30-man preliminary list for South Africa.

In a career of highs and lows, Song's passion and tackling have been greatly admired but sometimes his decision-making has been questionable.

He was the youngest player to be sent off in a World Cup match, aged 17 years and 358 days against Brazil in San Francisco, and at the Nations Cup set a record of 36 successive appearances over eight successive tournaments.

He was the first African player from a country south of the Sahara to reach 100 caps and has played in eight games at past World Cup finals.

His club career has taken him to France's Ligue 1 with Metz, then Serie A in Italy, Liverpool and West Ham in the English Premier League, FC Cologne in the Bundesliga and, for the last six years, in Turkey.

Earlier this month, he captained Trabzonspor to victory in the Turkish Cup final.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg; Editing by Clare Fallon)