Friday, 18 July 2014

World Cup 2014 - My Best XI

As I mentioned previously I'm going to post up a few different line ups based on my own opinions as to who I thought did well, who was a little underrated or surprising and who was disappointing.

Today I'm going to focus on the players I thought performed best in their individual positions. I've also included a 'back up' choice so in essence this is a best squad!

Manuel Neuer (Vincent Enyeama) - GK

In all honesty this was probably the easiest choice in the whole team. Not only was he assured and made some excellent stops but swept behind his defence and provided a passing option when Germany needed to start attacks from the back. Absolutely deserved to win the Golden Gloves award. I've chosen Enyeama as back up as he made 3 excellent stops to give Nigeria the win over Bosnia which almost assured them of a place in the 2nd round. Behind an average defence he provided excellent back up. I don't imagine it will be long before he moves on from Lille.

Philip Lahm (Mauricio Isla) - RB

Lahm only switched to the RB spot halfway through the tournament after starting in a DM role, but moved back into his normal position quite comfortably and linked up superbly with Muller and Schweinsteiger as the Bayern Munich triumvirate were practically unstoppable against Brazil and the majority of Germany's good play came down that side against Argentina, along with keeping Griezmann quiet against France. Winning the World Cup was a fitting way to go out as he announced his international retirement today.
Isla was excellent for a Chile side that focused on attacking but still managed to beat Spain and come close against both Netherlands and Brazil.

Ron Vlaar (Thiago Silva) - CB

Vlaar had come off the back of a less than stellar season for Aston Villa but was outstanding in leading a young Dutch defence. Before the tournament I noted that he needed to lead from the back and the 5 man back line was perfect for him, especially as he had Martins Indi and de Vrij to generally do his running for him, while he could command from the back. A memorable incident was his crunching tackle on Messi in the semi final when much more mobile defenders would have been easily beaten. Thiago Silva had moments of quality and moments of madness, but him being missing from the semi showed how vulnerable Brazil's defence was without him.

Mats Hummels (Ezequiel Garay) - CB

At the risk of this just being the Germany team it is hard to ignore the performance of Hummels. Again after a mildly disappointing season he led the back line superbly for Germany, scoring twice including the vital goal against France and all despite carry 3 separate problems into the tournament (leg injury against Portugal, Flu saw him miss out against Algeria and Tendonitis in his knee against Brazil). His covering, especially behind Howedes at LB was key to Germany's tight defence.
Garay was exceptional for Argentina and had to cover behind his defensive partner and the wandering Rojo several times throughout the tournament to shore up a defence which was generally not tested enough.

Danny Blind (Patrice Evra) - LB

While LB is not Blind's normal position, he showed his quality going forward and was instrumental in the Dutch style of play, with accurate long passes to release the forwards on the counter attack. Defensively he was solid, backed up by a deep back line and also showed his flexibility to also play CB and CM. Evra had a disappointing season for Manchester United but seemed rejuvenated at full back for France. His bursting runs, ability to recover and positional sense was vital when they were under pressure.

Toni Kroos (Nigel de Jong) - CM

Shock, another German! Kroos's passing range, bursts from midfield and set piece delivery put him head and shoulders above most other standard CM's. His ability to tackle and press but spend much of his time playing forward in front of a 2 behind him of either Lahm, Schweinsteiger or Khedira gave him freedom to receive the ball higher up the pitch and be instrumental in many of Germany's attacks. While de Jong is not everybody's type of player, his ability to break up play and sit in front of the Dutch defence to protect a young team was key. The marking job he did on Messi in the semi final when he was supposed to be ruled out with a Groin tear was excellent.

Javier Mascherano (Luiz Gustavo) - CM

Mascherano was probably Argentina's most influential player other than Messi. His shielding of the defence allowed the front 4 to go and play and he would often drop back to pick the ball up off his defence and play forward to start attacks. Along with his ability to press and win the ball back, it would have been hard to see Argentina replacing him had he got injured. Not bad for a player who played almost the full season at CB for Barcelona. Luiz Gustavo did a similar job for Brazil, allowing Neymar, Oscar and Hulk to spend little time worrying about defending and doing a lot of Paulinho's work. This was exemplified by the first goal against Cameroon as he won the ball high before an inch perfect low cross to Neymar allowed him to open the scoring.

Lionel Messi (Juan Cuadrado) - RW

Say what you want about whether he deserved the Golden Ball, there is no way that Argentina would have made it to the final without him. He almost single handedly won the games against Bosnia and Iran, was massively influential in a cameo appearance against Nigeria and often had 3 men around him against Switzerland. Yes he ran less than a lot of other players, maybe this was to ensure he stayed high up the pitch and could use his explosive acceleration in key areas instead of tracking back. Although he was only a bit part player in the final he still managed to create Argentina's best chances and played more Key Passes than any other player in the tournament (23). Cuadrado was very impressive and has matured massively as a player over the last couple of seasons. His pace and power down the wing made him very difficult to deal with and his unselfishness and awareness to set up the 2nd goal for Rodriguez against Uruguay shows how much he has improved.

James Rodriguez (Kevin de Bruyne) - AM

A lot of people seemed to be unaware of Rodriguez before the tournament but this is a player who went to Monaco for £45m last summer. Hardly an unknown. He showed his quality, ability on the ball and eye for a pass throughout the tournament, earning him the golden boot with 6 goals and many people's choice for goal of the tournament with his stunning strike against Uruguay. Ideally suited to the fast, breaking style that Colombia play, he is rumoured to be joining Real Madrid this summer and would fit into their team perfectly.
I expected de Bruyne to play on the left and Hazard through the middle for Belgium but this was reversed and de Bruyne was the better of the two. Given less defensive responsibility he still showed signs of selfishness and a lack of awareness but his driving runs at the heart of the opposition defence were very exciting to watch. His composure has also increased as he took his time before drilling home the opener against the USA.

Neymar (Andre Griezmann) - LW

I'd not been a massive fan of Neymar previously, he'd done OK for Barca but went down at the slights breeze and often showboated when it wasn't at all necessary. But in this World Cup he carried the entire hopes of a nation and to be fair, was the only reason they got to the semi finals. His goals against Croatia and Cameroon carried them and he created much of their better chances against both Mexico and Chile. The pressure on him to score the penalty against Chile was immense and you could see how much it meant to him to score. His injury against Colombia left a nation in mourning and they didn't look like they had recovered when they played Germany. Had he played would Brazil have won? It's unlikely but it would have been very interesting to see...
Griezmann was impressive in the short spells he played and was probably under utilised by France as Deschamps tinkered with his team a little too much to their detriment. With him on one side and Valbuena on the other and Benzema through the middle on a consistent basis France could have gone even further than they did.

Thomas Muller (Karim Benzema) - ST

I wasn't sure where to include Muller due to his versatility but he needed to be included. Despite looking like a little boy and some dubious play acting that reminded me of the German team of the early 90's he was outstanding in a German side that people had doubts over due to the lack of a striker before the tournament. Muller led the line very well scoring 5 goals, scoring with almost a third of his shots on goal. His strike against the USA showed excellent technique and his movement against Brazil was one of the reasons they conceded so many goals as he dragged the CB's out of position to allow the midfielders to come through.
Benzema was probably the unluckiest man in the tournament, despite scoring 3 goals he could have had 6 easily. His shot against Honduras that went in off the keeper, his penalty miss against Switzerland and in the same game the referee's inexplicable decision to blow for full time as he struck a shot into the top corner. By drifting to the left and picking the ball up he looked dangerous whenever he was in possession and only Deschamps decision to try and shoehorn Giroud into the team stopped him playing to the best of his ability.

Let me know what you think! Any you disagree with or somebody you think I've missed?

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