On June 11th 2010 South Africa became the first African country to host the “FIFA World Cup”. Every one including myself made sure that I got a chance to watch most of the games on “TV” whether or not it was in Eastern or Pacific time. This meant sacrificing my sleep and waking up as early as 6AM. After all the celebrations were over I sat down…and asked my self…if I was a coach and could pick any of the players that have participated in the World Cup, who would be in my “first eleven”?
Well, lets find out….
This dude right here is one amazing stopper, after all Portugal left South Africa conceding only one goal, courtesy of David Villa.
Right back: Philipp Lahm (Germany)
Wherever Gabriel Heinze is I bet he is still troubled by the thoughts of Philipp Lahm sprinting past him with embarrassing ease. Germany’s acting captain showed that he retains his considerable prowess when overlapping in the rout of Argentina. Yet it was also a World Cup to enhance his reputation for doing the basics efficiently. This Kid Lahm helped silence the feared Argentine attack and was secure at the back against Spain.
Centre back: Carles Puyol (Spain)
Carles Puyol has been the most resolute defender in the Spanish side. While his younger partner Gerard Pique has conceded a penalty and was among the culprits for Switzerland’s winner, Puyol has been the epitome of reliability. And it was his thumping header that clinched Spain’s place in the World Cup final for the first time.
None of these sides ended the World Cup unbeaten: Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Spain and New Zealand? If the question was asked five weeks ago, the answers may have been split between the first four. As it is, the All Whites drew with the reigning champions, acquitted themselves terrifically and exited without defeat. A reason for each of those achievements was Ryan Nelsen, who defended defiantly and, against Italy, heroically. Before the tournament, it would have seemed surreal to suggest Nelsen would pip Lucio to a place in a team of the tournament. In my team he has.
Left back: Carlos Salcido (Mexico)
The second round contained a cruelty for attacking full-backs. The two finest left-footers in South Africa were sent home early: Portugal’s dynamic Fabio Coentrao and Mexico’s accomplished Carlos Salcido. The latter struck the crossbar against Argentina but peaked with a wonderful display in the defeat of France. A fine crosser of the ball, he looked a class act.
Midfield: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
Won his 80th cap in the semi-final defeat to Spain, but to me this feels like the World Cup when Bastian has come of age. He has relished the responsibility of anchoring the midfield and played with the positional awareness and discipline of a footballer who had spent years in the role, rather than the late convert he actually is. Against both England and Argentina, Schweinsteiger dominated the game and was the outstanding player on the pitch in both thrashings. A lad with a very promising future.
Midfield: Xavi (Spain)
Xavi has spent much of the tournament topping FIFA’s passing statistics. There is no finer distributor of the ball in the world game and, while playing ahead of two anchor midfielders seemed to suggest he would see less of the ball, that has not been the case. Wherever he is stationed on the pitch, everything goes through Xavi. Watch out for him in the up-coming La liga season.
Right wing: Thomas Muller (Germany)
Few have risen so auspiciously. Thomas Muller has been catapulted from Bayern Munich reserves to Germany’s starting line-up within a year and had such an impact that, were he not harshly suspended, it is tempting to wonder if the scoreline of the semi-final against Spain would have been different. The five goals scored displayed a precocious awareness, an ability to drift into dangerous positions and, above all, a happy habit of putting the ball in the back of the net. More confidence in goal needed at club level though.
Despitie leaving his wife and his 6 year old boy, so as to live with his new Girlfriend, Wesley Sneijder remained in South Africa and remained the exception. A wonderful year at Inter Milan was compounded by a terrific World Cup with Sneijder displaying his remarkable passing range, scoring at the rate of a striker and exerting an influence throughout the knockout rounds.
He isn’t really a left winger, but David Villa has done such a fine job there for much of this World Cup that he operates there in this team. Most strikers score fewer goals when they move further out; Villa has managed as many, whether from a few yards or, as against Chile, from 45. On current form, quite simply the best goalscorer in the world.
Striker: Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
Diego Forlan has spent some of his tournament in deeper positions but, as he displayed against Netherlands in the semi-final, his ability to retreat and create should not detract from his status as an outstanding centre forward. In any case, the presence of Villa in this team means he can go into attack when Forlan veers elsewhere. Long-range shooting and set-pieces, two areas in which few players have excelled, but the Uruguay talisman has mastered. Few have played with more commitment, either. He has my vote for FIFA player of the year 2010.
Manager: Joachim Low (Germany)
Low has rebranded German football as youthful, enterprising and eminently watchable though his World Cup ended 24 hours early but was otherwise glorious. Succeeded in restoring Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski to potent forces, rather than Bundesliga underachievers, to me it’s a sign of fine management; the way his faith in the untried trio of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira was rewarded as well as the demolition of England and then Argentina showed Low’s tactical prowess.
Substitutes: Justo Villar (Paraguay), Maxi Pereira (Uruguay), Lucio (Brazil), John Mensah (Ghana), Fabio Coentrao (Portugal), Mark van Bommel (Holland), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Robinho (Brazil), Miroslav Klose (Germany).
Next Article will focus on the “World Cup’s Worst 11 Players” ever to play at this years World Cup……keep your eyes open…..