32 countries, 64 matches, 736 players – the selection of the best eleven is by no means a straightforward task. Every particular individual has their own preference, likes-dislikes, favorites and reasons – making this selection a recipe for debate and controversy. The fact that there were quite a few outstanding performances from players playing for inferior teams who got knocked out early in the tournament, and were thus unable to showcase their true credentials during the moments it mattered most – makes the selection even more difficult.
We, at TheHardTackle, after a couple of brainstorming sessions, opted for a 4-1-3-1-1 formation for our Team of the World Cup – since having a holding midfielder and a lone striker has been the predominant choice for most of the successful teams in this campaign. Here goes the analysis and reasons behind each of the selections.
Goalkeeping is known as the last line of defense – but in modern day football, a goalkeeper equally contributes to the attack as well. A goalkeeper having the vision to distribute the ball properly, enhances his team’s effectiveness in building up an attacking move. The World Cup witnessed some amazing performances from under the bar. Switzerland’s Diego Benaglio almost single-handedly won their opening match against World Champions Spain, pulling off a series of outstanding saves. Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama and Greece’s Alexandros Tzorvas deserve special mention. It’s saddening that their teams failed to clear the first round hurdle and their heroics got cut short. Among the teams which managed to go through to the later stages of the world cup, Germany’s Manuel Neuer and Netherlands’ Maartin Stekelenburg caught the limelight. But our choice to represent this better than the best squad is Spain’s Iker Casillas. Casillas was the backbone of Spanish defense that conceded just two goals in the entire campaign. His energetic display, command over aerial balls, brilliant leadership quality to marshal his defense and thoughtful distribution makes him stand apart from the crowd of other excellent shot stoppers.
Per Mertesacker has been like the Rock of Gibraltar at the center of the German defense. He is an obvious choice in this team for one of the two center back roles. There is stiff competition for the other center back slot between Spaniard defensive duo of Carles Puyol – Gerard Pique, Brazilian captain Lucio, Portugal’s Ricardo Carvalho and Netherlands’ Joris Mathijsen. But our selection is Uruguayan pillar of the defense Diego Lugano. All of them are equally competent but Lugano scores over others for his consistency and inspirational leadership capabilities.
This World Cup has been an eye-opener in terms of the offensive usage of full backs. Teams like Spain and Brazil exploited the opposition defense with marauding full backs equally apt in attacking through the wings with serious pace. Brazil’s Maicon, Germany’s Lahm, Algeria’s Nadir Belhadj, Portugal’s Fabio Coentrao and Uruguay’s Jorge Fucile showed the world that they can tear apart any defense with sheer pace without compromising their defensive duties. TheHardTackle’s choices are Spain’s Sergio Ramos and Netherlands’ Giovanni van Bronckhorst for helping their respective teams to go all the way till the finals.
The primary responsibility of a holding midfielder is to disrupt the rhythm of opposition players and prevent them from taking the reign of the midfield battle. Argentina’s Javier Mascherano and Netherland’s van Bommel and Nigel de Jong played the role of a snatcher to perfection. But Bastin Schewinsteinger and Spain’s Xabi Alonso gave the role a new dimension by blending creativity into destruction. Xabi Alonso is our pick for the role for flawlessly pulling the strings of Spanish attack as a deep lying play-maker.
For the solitary central midfielder role, there is a bunch of exceptional performers who hogged the spotlight in this world cup campaign. Spain’s Xavi, USA’s Landon Donovan, Germany’s Mesut Özil, South Korea’s Ji-Sung Park, Uruguay’s Diego Perez, Ghana’s Kevin Prince Boateng all are competent contenders. But TheHardTackle gives its nod to Wesley Sneijder for his trademark defense splitting through balls and his excellent goal scoring tally. We can sense Mr. Mesut Özil demanding an explanation in a mean voice against the inclusion of Sneijder, but our apologies to him – the argument regarding the goals tally is ready to come to our rescue.
Arjen Robben – menacing with his bagful of tricks – has been a revelation in this World Cup. After missing out on the first two group league matches, he seemed to be on a mission to compensate for the loss. Spain’s Iniesta, Chile’s Alexis Sanchez, Japan’s Keisuke Honda and Germany’s young sensation Thomas Mueller looked lively on the flanks with their prowling runs. Our choice to partner Robben in the wings is the Golden Boot Winner Thomas Mueller with five goals and three assists to his name. But as both of them prefer to play on the right side of the pitch, Robben has to do the sacrifice for his younger partner and shift to the left wing – as it is a proven fact that the Bayern Munich talisman is equally proficient on the left as well.
Lionel Messi is an automatic choice for the role of the free striker – playing in the hole. It’s highly unfortunate that football lovers all over the world have been robbed off from watching Messi magic beyond the last eight stage. But with just five appearances in this world cup, the messiah has proved his mettle to take forward Diego Maradona’s legacy.
We cannot think of any player other than the Player of the Tournament Diego Forlan to fill in the lone striker slot. Forlan has been the most outstanding performer of this world cup and it was fitting reward for him to be adjudged the Golden Ball Winner in this campaign. Five goals from the inspirational Uruguayan inspired his country to a rather improbable semifinal berth. His incisive passing, great vision of the game and unmatchable dead ball skills ensured his contribution to be elevated far beyond the five important strikes and resulted in due recognition of the immense talent he possesses. David Villa, Robinho, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Asamoah Gyan and Robert Vittek – all are unfortunate to miss out, but to be precise, no one deserved it more than the man of the moment Diego Forlan.
So here’s a final look at our conclusive Team of the World Cup 2010:
Sergio Ramos — Per Mertesackker——— Diego Lugano —- van Bronckhorst
Thomas Muller————– Wesley Sneijder————– Arjen Robben
Honorary Reserves XI:
Philipp Lahm —— Carles Puyol ——— Gerrard Pique —– Nadir Belhadj
Alexis Sanchez ————– Andres Iniesta ————– Ji-Sung Park
Asamoah Gyan ————————— David Villa
That’s our team at TheHardTackle – but you might have different opinions and we respect that. Do you agree with our selections? If not, what is your Team of the World Cup 2010?