Wednesday, 23 July 2014

World Cup 2014 - My Underrated XI

So, in the 2nd of my Best XI's of the World Cup I've gone for an 'Underrated' team. Slightly misleading title as I have basically chosen players that weren't necessarily the best in their position overall (covered that in my Best XI) but that were either surprising performers, a little underrated before the competition or players that not many people had heard of before the start of the tournament. Again I've gone with a first choice and back up.

Kaylor Navas (Tim Howard) - GK

In a World Cup of so many goals and good attacking performances the goalkeeper was probably the hardest position to choose from. Navas was outstanding, so quick off his line and made several outstanding block saves rather than ones to pick the ball out of the top corner. Behind a well drilled defence he really showed a lot of confidence. Tim Howard is my second choice, primarily based on his one man show against Belgium (where he made the most saves recorded in a World Cup match - 15, a lot of them excellent stops rather than easy long rangers). He was also excellent in the 3 group stage games to provide confidence in a back line that at times were a little shaky. I also have to mention Dominguez of Ecuador, M'Bolhi of Algeria and Cillessen of the Netherlands as having excellent tournaments.

Fabian Johnson (Serge Aurier) - RB

Johnson was a machine going up and down the right flank, I've never seen such stamina on a player. He was more like a right winger at times against Ghana and Portugal and you'd think he would get caught out but he recovered so quickly to stamp out any danger. He created the winner against Ghana by continuing to push forward even late in the game to win the corner from which Brookes scored the winner. Aurier was highly rated before the tournament but I hadn't seen much of him, he was Cote d'Ivoire's primary attacking threat against Japan and created both goals with pinpoint crosses. He did well getting forward against Colombia and showed his defensive capabilities when dealing with Samaras against Greece. He looks like moving to PSG this summer after Arsenal chose to sign Debuchy instead of him.

Sead Kolasinac (Miguel Layun) - LB

Tough one to call this position with no absolute stand outs. Kolasinac was very unlucky to concede an own goal in the opening minutes against Argentina when he could do nothing about it and proceeded to keep Messi quiet for most of the game until one moment of brilliance. He was then surprisingly dropped against Nigeria and Bosnia paid the price as the majority of the Africans attacks came down that side and ultimately cost Bosnia their place at the World Cup. He was restored against Iran and had an excellent game, solid defensively but also positive going forward and difficult to shake off the ball. Layun was excellent as a wing back in Mexico 3-5-2 formation, pushing forward to stop the opposition having freedom down the wing but always back in position when he needed to be.

Mario Yepes (Matt Besler) - CB

Hard to call Yepes underrated as he's been around for years and played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, but he rolled back the years at the World Cup, marshalling a well organised defence and handling all different kinds of attacks with ease. Greece's directness didn't faze him, neither did Cote d'Ivoire's pace and individuality. He bossed the back line against Uruguay and Brazil barely had a chance other than 2 set pieces. At 38, he showed you don't have to have pace if you can read the game. Besler was outstanding in the heart of the USA defence and constantly in the right place with excellent positional sense. Not trying to do anything he shouldn't and just an old fashioned solid centre back, his one mistake was in trying to outmuscle Lukaku in the game against Belgium!

Stefan de Vrij (Konstantinos Manolas) - CB

de Vrij was a highly rated member of the Feyenoord defence that had done so well but being so young and inexperienced this was supposed to be a tournament to let him develop and then expect big things at the next Euros. Instead de Vrij played Diego Costa out of the game against Spain, scored, looked very comfortable against Australia and for the rest of the tournament looked like a veteran defender alongside Vlaar. Great pace and ability to recover alongside positional sense and aerial ability make him the perfect defender and the World Cup has probably doubled his price tag. Manolas was part of the rock solid Greece defence that started so badly but ended up conceding just 2 goals in the following 3 games. His partnership with Papastathopoulos was key to this and they complemented each other superbly. Another one who can expect a transfer.

Jermaine Jones (Kyle Beckerman) - CM

Jones has been around for a while so is hardly underrated but his ability and engine still surprised me a little. he has even managed to add some attacking threat to his normal defensive game with a superb strike against Portugal and very unlucky not to grab an equaliser in extra time against Belgium. He seemed to cover every blade of grass and often made space for his team mates with runs forward, taking the pressure off Bradley. Beckerman was also excellent, although in a deeper midfield role and I was very surprised when he was left out of the Belgium game having had 3 outstanding performances in the group stage.

Miguel Herrera (Marcelo Diaz) - CM

Herrera was superb in the 3 man Mexican midfield, often going beyond the strikers as they dropped off to look for the ball and providing a positive goal threat. His link play with Dos Santos in particular was a highlight and he rarely seemed to be out of position despite his forward play. Diaz was the anchor in mobile Chile midfield and probably the only player who stayed in position and didn't rotate at some point. He showed excellent technical ability on the ball and his set pieces were outstanding, creating chances for the team that were one of the shortest on average at the World Cup.

Christian Atsu (Ahmed Musa) - RW

Atsu was exciting and a bundle of tricks although not without his negatives. He sometimes tried to do a little too much and often shot when a pass was a better option but at just 22 he has time to learn about awareness and choosing the better option. He was a constant threat for Ghana down the right side, able to go either way to cross or cut in and shoot and if Chelsea develop him correctly they will have a real player on their hands. Ahmed Musa of Nigeria played in a similar style and was exciting to watch him run with the ball at the back line. He switched sides a few times, popping up on both flanks and caused Argentina real problems when he grabbed 2 goals against them in the group stage.

Xherdan Shaqiri (Yacine Brahimi) - AM

Bit of a cheat putting Shaqiri in as he's been an excellent player since coming through the ranks at Basle and playing for the giants of Bayern Munich hardly makes him an unknown. However, he doesn't figure often for Bayern, playing 2nd fiddle to Ribery much of the time. He pulled the strings against Ecuador and bagged a hat trick against Honduras (the first all left footed hat trick in World Cup history), while causing a lot of problems for Argentina when Switzerland broke on the counter. It seems likely he'll leave Bayern for more first team opportunities and whoever signs him is buying a player of immense quality. Brahimi is not a player I'd seen a lot of for Porto and he was one of the key men in Algeria's attacking front 4. He tended to drift left and link with Djabou and between them they carved open Korea Republic and had the Russians on the back foot for much of the game. Only Halihodzic's tinkering was his downfall as he was dropped for the Germany game and had a huge influence when he came on.

Ashkan Dejagah (Abdelmoumene Djabou) - LW

Dejagah is a player who has been around for a while with Wolfsburg and Fulham and has shown he can do it in spurts in the Premier League. He was Iran's main attacking threat from midfield and his runs to support Ghoochannejad were important to provide some positivity in a generally defensive side. Very unlucky not to score against Argentina and could possibly have had a penalty, he was also a constant threat against Bosnia. Djabou was very impressive and probably under utilised on the left as he was outstanding when he started against Korea Republic and Russia only to be benched for the Germany game. He did come on and scored in the dying second to make things interesting but in reality if him and Brahimi had started Algeria might have pushed the eventual champions even further.

Enner Valencia (Emmanuel Emmenike) - ST

Valencia played like a typical centre forward, somewhat a dying breed in this age of false 9's and players dropping off or out wide. His movement, predatory instincts and pace caused problems for whoever he faced and with more positivity and better service against France he may have scored in every game he played. He should fit perfectly into West Ham's style of play if he can secure a work permit. Emmenike was a one man wrecking ball, often not looking fully in control of what he was doing but his unredictabiliy making him a real danger. It seems odd to include a striker who didn't score but the goal against Bosnia was all about him and he also grabbed an assist against Argentina as well as being marginally ruled offside when he bagged one against France.

So there were have it, if anybody thinks I've missed somebody please shout up!

1 comment:

  1. I believe M'Bolhi, the Algerian goalie, was extremely under-rated last World Cup, and still is!
    As many of his team mates have said, he deserves to be playing for a European league, but instead makes a living off a Bulgarian league.
    He really made soem amazing saves, and against Germany in the round of 16, managed to not let Germany concede a goal for the full 90 minutes, only when they went into extra time did Germany score, and ultimately beat Algeria.
    He had some amazing saves in the game, really, and even against other teams.