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10 July, 2010

2010 World Cup Best XI All-Tournament Team

After much debate, the TSI crew has arrived at a consensus of the Best XI All-Tournament team for the 2010 World Cup.

Goalkeeper
Fernando Muslera - Uruguay

This year has been the best performance by Uruguay since they won the tournament in 1950. One might wonder how this is possible since Uruguay barely qualified for the World Cup, finishing fifth in South America and winning a playoff against Costa Rica. Yet, Uruguay has outlasted Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay. The reason is Fernando Muslera.The Lazio goalkeeper gets the nod over Iker Casillas by virtue of Uruguay’s three group stage shutouts. Only two goalkeepers made it through the group stage without allowing a single goal: Muslera and Portugal’s Eduardo. Following this admirable performance, Muslera also won an intense penalty kick shootout against Ghana. Honorable mention goes to Casillas for his tremendous penalty kick save against Paraguay and Spain’s succession of tight 1-0 victories. However, Casillas lost his first match against Switzerland and was out-played by Switzerland’s Diego Benagio that day.


Defenders











Maicon - Brazil
Carles Puyol - Spain
Gerard Pique - Spain
Arne Friedrich - Germany


Defense is about more than just defending. It is about total football, going forward to make crosses and to shoot when the defense collapses into the penalty area. Therefore, our Best XI all-tournament defenders are chosen for both their defensive and offensive contributions. There is no attacking back better than Maicon. The Inter Milan defender practically becomes a midfielder when his team has the ball, and scored Brazil’s first goal of this World Cup, in a game when Brazil got no goals from their forwards. Even in Brazil’s loss to The Netherlands, Maicon was causing problems by going forward and forced the Dutch forwards to defend, taking away half of the Dutch attack. And, I think we can all agree that the goals allowed by Brazil were definitely not Maicon’s fault, as they were the fault of someone whose name rhymes with Melipe Felo.

The Barcelona duo of Puyol and Pique deserve all the credit for Spain’s run of shutout victories. Even before the semifinal match that was completely dominated on both ends of the pitch by Puyol, we already had Puyol penciled in as a unanimous selection to our Best XI all-tournament team. The match against Germany inked it, with two headers on goal, one going in for the game’s only score, and a valiant effort to break up every pass and block every shot on the defensive end, Puyol is our MVP of the tournament.

Next, when you look at Spain’s wins in the elimination rounds, something stands out: defensive battles against teams with powerful offenses. 1-0 victories over Portugal, Paraguay, and Germany. Who shut down the best forwards in the world in those narrow wins? Gerard Pique, who earns respect for being bloodied and bruised in a series of physical battles in the central defense without ever being beaten. Spain allowed only two goals the entire tournament, and this makes us recognize Puyol and Pique as our Best XI all-tournament center backs.

Germany’s ball control has been outstanding. Every time the opposing defense would challenge a German ball carrier, he could always seem to find the open man, who could then one-touch pass to yet another unmarked man. This means Germany always had more players going forward than the other team could mark. No one did this better than Arne Friedrich, who played flawless defensive games every time and also made his presence felt on the offensive end. The Hertha Berlin defender picked an excellent time to score his first ever international goal, against mighty Argentina, and was a big part of how Germany shut down the impressive Albiceleste. Who would have thought that we would not be talking about Leo Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, or Carlos Tevez right now when we are discussing the Best XI all-tournament team? But with Friedrich and the German defense covering them, we didn’t even hear their names mentioned in the quarterfinal, because they simply could not get the ball. Arne Friedrich earns Best XI recognition for this impressive play on both sides of the pitch.

Honorable mention goes to Martin Skrtel of Slovakia and to Lee Jung Soo of South Korea. First, Skrtel is recognized for his superhuman effort in defeating Italy. If Skrtel doesn’t clear a shot off the line and get his head on every cross, Slovakia does not win, but the Liverpool center back did it all that day. Secondly, Lee Jung Soo twice scored important goals from his side to finish with as many goals as anyone else on the team. The Kashima Antlers center back scored South Korea’s first goal against Greece in a game that established South Korea as contenders, and then scored the tying goal against Nigeria, erasing a 1-0 deficit on South Korea’s way to an important draw.


Midfielders











Wesley Sneijder - Netherlands
Landon Donovan - USA
Xabi Alonso - Spain
Keisuke Honda - Japan


The greatest midfielder in the tournament has to be Wesley Sneijder, a unanimous selection to the Best XI all-tournament team. With all the firepower on The Netherlands finalist squad, the only unbeaten untied team left in the tournament, Sneijder has been the most consistent scorer. We have written already about how The Netherlands formation requires a strong defensive midfield and also a playmaker who makes no mistakes for the formation to work. Sneijder is that playmaker, the element that every other team in the tournament lacks. The Inter Milan center midfielder makes everything happen, and in the World Cup he has been the one to finish off the play by putting the ball in the net. Furthermore, Sneijder seems never to turn the ball over with errant passes, allowing the Dutch attack to build indefinitely until someone breaks free for a shot on goal. He is as close to a perfect player as we have seen this World Cup and should be considered among the best attacking central midfielders in the world.

There is only one reason the USA had at the very least a moderately successful World Cup. Landon Donovan scored late goals to save the day on three separate occasions. The first time was against Slovenia, down 2 goals to none, the LA Galaxy and Everton midfield leader slammed an emphatic goal to begin an epic comeback by the USA which would end in a 2-2 draw that was really a 3-2 USA victory. The draw would not matter as long as the USA could beat Algeria in the group finale, but the score was 0-0 for as long as Donovan was assuming defensive responsibilities and covering the entire field. Late in the game, Donovan went forward on the attack and followed up a missed shot to score the game’s only goal. Finally, Landon was the only offensive force against Ghana in the knockout round and scored a tying goal to prolong the USA Cup run as long as possible.

FIFA keeps statistics on where the ball is held during a game, and if you look at Spain’s results, you will see that the ball is held wherever Xabi Alonso is found. He can play defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder, or wing, depending on where he is needed, and the Real Madrid midfield maestro will always control the ball. Xabi Alonso hasn’t been the one to score the goals but he is the one to maintain possession for extended periods of time, something that Spain does better than any other team in the world, and that is the reason Spain wins games. Xabi Alonso can do it all.

Japan had an unexpectedly strong tournament, coming in second in their very challenging group, and then tying Paraguay in the knockout round. Several Japanese players stepped up their game in the World Cup, and none more so than Keisuke Honda. The CSKA Moscow midfielder celebrated his 24th birthday by scoring the game’s only goal against Cameroon off a Daisuke Matsui cross that effectively eliminated the favored Cameroon team, scored what might be the best goal of the tournament with a devastating free kick against Denmark, which effectively crushed the favored Danes, ending their tournament. Honda was especially impressive not just for scoring goals, but the dramatic manner in which he scored them. Some of us at TSI have named him our new favorite player. Keep an eye open for Keisuke Honda free kick highlights from CSKA Moscow matches - he scores them all the time and they are absolute beauties!

Honorable mention goes to a pair of young Germans, Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller. The 21-year-old Özil controls the ball beautifully with one-touch passing, and can play forcefully all over central midfield, both offensively and defensively. The Werder Bremen prospect is attracting attention from the richest clubs in the world with his breakthrough. On the wing, Müller, at only 20 years of age, leads Germany in goals this World Cup, and it is not a coincidence that Germany’s loss to Spain was when Müller was suspended. The Bayern Munich wing has proven himself to be a true finisher with four goals in only five matches. Both Müller and Özil will be fixtures on the Best XI for years to come.

Another honorable mention goes to Paraguay’s shut-down defensive midfielder, Cristian Riveros. Paraguay allowed only two goals the entire World Cup: one in their opening 1-1 draw against Italy and the other against Spain in the quarterfinal. The reason no one could score against Paraguay was Riveros. He did not allow any team to create any offense, for the simple fact that no team could get the ball past him. The former Cruz Azul midfielder is now taking his game to the Premier League, joining Sunderland.


Forwards


David Villa - Spain
Diego Forlan - Uruguay


David Villa might be tied for the tournament lead in goals, but he certainly leads in game winners. Look at Spain’s wins: 2-0 over Honduras, two David Villa goals. 2-1 over Chile, first goal by David Villa. 1-0 over Portugal, the only goal allowed by Portugal in the entire tournament, scored by none other than David Villa, and 1-0 over Paraguay, the game’s only goal once again scored by David Villa in the 83rd minute, one of only two goals allowed by Paraguay in the tournament, just as everyone thought we were headed for a 0-0 tie (which would be the second consecutive 0-0 tie for Paraguay if it had happened). So, although Wesley Sneijder also has five goals, Villa’s goals have been bigger. As David Villa himself told the Associated Press, "I'm happy with my five goals because they've been decisive," said Villa, Spain's all-time leading World Cup scorer with eight goals. "It's also different because when you win by a lot of goals it doesn't hold the same feeling as winning this way." (AP)

Quick, name the only two-time winner of the European professional Golden Boot, awarded to the top goal scorer in all European top divisions, to play in the World Cup. It is Diego Forlan, who tied with Thierry Henry in 2004-05 with 24 goals while with Villareal and then won the award outright in 2008-09 with 32 goals with Atletico Madrid. His goal scoring streak continued with four goals in the World Cup, leading Uruguay into the third place match. Forlan even became Uruguay’s captain when Diego Lugano was injured in the quarterfinal. Forlan takes all of Uruguay’s free kicks and corner kicks, leading all players in direct free kicks on target (5) and goals from outside the penalty area (3). In fact, the three goals from outside the penalty area tie Forlan with Germany’s Lothar Matthaus (1990), Dirceu (1978) and Rivelino (1974) for most long-distance goals in a World Cup, and Forlan still has one more game to go. With one more long-distance goal, he ties Rivelino for the career record, with five. And it isn’t because of the ball. Forlan has 9 long-distance goals over the past two seasons in La Liga, second only to Lionel Messi with 10. Can we say that Diego Forlan is the best free kick taker in the world?
(Please enjoy the source of these statistics, http://www.itv.com/sport/football/fifaworldcup/news/forlansferociousstrikes/ Thanks!)


Honorable mention at the forward position goes to Germany’s goal scoring machine, Miroslav Klose, with his four goals that move him in a tie with the legendary Gerd Müller for second-most all time World Cup goals with 14, only one behind Ronaldo, with the third place match yet to be played for Klose. The Bayern Munich striker’s World Cup started off with a goal against overmatched Australia, but then Klose received a red card in the next match against Serbia, who went on to hand Germany their only defeat, 1-0, on a questionable second yellow. After sitting out the next game, Klose has gone on a goal scoring tear, with four goals in only five matches. One more and he can claim to be the most prolific World Cup goal scorer of all time. Just to be equal to Gerd Müller is perhaps the biggest honor that Klose has achieved this year.

So there you have it, our Best XI and honorable mentions. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments. Enjoy the final.

Photo Credits: espndeportes.com, thesun.co.uk, sportsillustrated.cnn.com, zimbio.com, footballpictures.net, telegraph.co.uk, sitv.com, gfdb.com, guardian.co.uk, dailymail.co.uk,

12 comments:

  1. Let me also add that FIFA awards a best young player award to the top U-21 player in the tournament. In 2006 it was Lukas Podolski, beating Cristiano Ronaldo on the basis of good sportsmanship (despite C. Ronaldo being the second highest goal scorer in 2006). This year, it will be another German, most likely Thomas Muller. Hard to argue with T. Muller's five goals to tie for the Golden Boot (with David Villa and Wesley Sneijder still having the final to play) at the age of 20.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Old Coach asks:
    Do you really want to stick with your GK choice after today's performance against Germany?
    Did you leave Schweinsteger out of your midfielders on purpose?
    After seeing Iniesta as clearly the best player on the field in Spain's semi-final win over Germany, do you still pick Xabi Alonso as Spain's represntative?

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  3. Old Coach's other thought:
    No nation that has appeared in 3 or more World Cup finals has failed to win at least 1 title.
    Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Holland have appeared in 2 and lost both. If Holland loses tomorrow (as Paul the Octopus predicts) they will be the equivalent of the Vikings and Bills.

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  4. And there went Mueller and Forlan again in a brilliant 3rd place match. Wonder if Mueller will stay at Werder Bremen?

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  5. Just to clarify, Eric "El" Nino, Muller plays for Bayern Munich. Ozil plays for Werder Bremen and is getting a lot of offers from bigger clubs. So, no, Ozil is not staying at Werder Bremen much longer.

    And, Old Coach, you're right, Muslera was awful today. It was raining pretty hard out there, though. I can't really promote Manuel Neuer to the list when he didn't even play today, however. I would consider giving his spot to Justo Villar of Paraguay, however. Thoughts?

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  6. Can't edit comments without deleting them entirely, but that first "however" (following "play today,") is bothering me. Omit it.

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  7. You talked, we listened. An informal poll about who should have been in the Best XI showed that the public, for the most part, agree with our selections, with some glaring discrepancies.

    Your selections:

    Goalkeeper
    Iker Casillas, Spain (67%)

    Defenders
    Gerard Pique, Spain (67%)
    Diego Lugano, Uruguay (67%)
    Maicon, Brazil (50%)
    Carles Puyol, Spain (50%)

    Midfielders
    Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands (83%)
    Thomas Muller, Germany (67%)
    Mesut Ozil, Germany (67%)
    Xavi, Spain (67%)

    Forwards
    David Villa, Spain (100%)
    Diego Forlan, Uruguay (100%)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Well, as one of the TSI gang I can safely admit that I had Lugano and Casillas in my top XI. And Randy, The Professor, had Ozil all the way and I'm sure Mr. X liked him too, being a Kraut at heart. I pushed the Honda connection for the reasons stated in the article and his overall lifting of Japan to what was an upset second round appearance and tight round of 16 defeat. Xavi was tied with Xabi Alonzo on my ballot, but I think citing stats that confirm his overall posession Xabi Alonso is the clear winner between the tow. Both list have merit. Muller is a worthy pick also without question. Glad to see our fans have good soccer knowledge. Now time to look at MLS and see the top XI for the season and what the domestic league has to offer after this World Cup season

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  9. Eric- I was the one who told you about Ozil. The guy is good. Mueller caught me by surprise, but I'll be watching him now.

    Overall, I still agree with the selections we've made, mostly because one off game, doesn't always make you a bad player. It's the collection as a whole. Granted, I'm sure some will make a valid point that it is in those big games they need to step up, but I'll contend that in the WC, all games are big.

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  10. Yes, I know you were on Ozil early. I like the dude and can see him in the top XI, but I like Honda for the reasons stated. Either one in the top XI are fine with me. Anyways, still gotta say Casillas is my boy and the #1 keeper. Xavi was the man today, but I just watched the full replay and clearly Iniesta was the best player out there. Watch it again, he was amazing. Pretty clear who the top players are. The Dutch were really pathetic today.

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  11. http://www.youtube.com/v/L87z_8I2LSY

    Ozil is a pimp.

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  12. Well, just another great list of players. Nothing can surpass Muller as top scorer despite of Ronaldo's agressiveness. No doubt muslera was a great goalkeeper having a strong defensive realm against strong teams like brazil. This Euro 2016, it's going to be a showup of talents from strikers to goalkeepers, which will of course give crowd the yells and excitement.

    ReplyDelete

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