Here is I Went for the Ball!’s World Cup best eleven. The players are selected mainly on the basis of how important they were to the team and not as such according to who caught the eye with individual performances (these should go hand in hand of course). The formation we are going for cannot be anything else than 4-2-3-1, which was used by most of the better teams in the tournament.
Oscar Tabárez: Tabárez not only created a highly functional and effective strategy that got the best out of a decent squad but also instilled a tremendous work ethic and self-belief in his players. Made some intelligent match-to-match tactical moves (without Uruguay ever losing their footballing identity) without which a team of Uruguay’s quality could never have reached the semis. This only goes to show how well the team had adopted and believed in Tabárez’s system. A huge triumph for the veteran coach.
Iker Casillas (Spain): In a World Cup defined somewhat by comedy goalkeeping, Iker had a steady tournament (apart from that mistake against Switzerland). Spain conceded only a single goal in seven matches which was largely due to Casillas making some vital saves along the way.
Defenders (from left to right):
Fabio Coentrao (Portugal): The 22-year-old full-back was pretty much a nobody before the tournament but is now on the lips of every major club in Europe looking for a left-sided full-back. Pacey, skilful and solid defensively, Coentrao has everything wanted from a full-back. Impressed in all the four matches he played for Portugal, even in the humdrum clash against Spain.
Carles Puyol (Spain): Never infallible but always the backbone of Spain’s defence. Gerard Piquet might have more natural ability and probably received more column space before the tournament but the 32-year-old showed that you cannot underrate experience at this level by leaving his 23-year-old team-mate playing the second fiddle. This was probably the last chance for Puyol to lift the World Cup and he made the most of it by giving a showcase of his trademark braveheart-defending.
Diego Lugano (Uruguay): Uruguay conceded only two goals in the first four matches Lugano featured in. Had the inspirational captain remained fit, who knows what might have happened. Lugano has always been a good no-nonsense centre-back but now his playing also had more control and a sense of calm to it. Known for his ruthless streak, Lugano received only a single caution in the six games he played.
Phillipp Lahm (Germany): The German captain might not have been as eye-catching as four years ago but the Bayern man has matured as a defender since then. Doesn’t let opponents get past him any more and always gives a valuable option going forward.
Diego Pérez (Uruguay): The lungs of Uruguay worked his socks off in every match and gave his everything in every tackle. The 30 year-old Monaco ball-winner was a constant presence with or without the ball, never conceding possession and almost always winning his tackles. Better with the ball than was given credit for, Pérez was the best midfielder in the tournament.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany): Ballack who? Everybody except the German team made a terrible fuss about the fact that Michael Ballack got injured before the World Cup. A sense of doom and gloom took over as questions were asked of how will Germany survive without Ballack. Schweinsteiger, with the aid of Sami Khedira, answered each one of them with some dominant performances. A commanding presence in the first four matches but faded against Spain, although, much due to the fact that the Germans were completely found out.
The attacking pyramid (from left to right to tip):
David Villa (Spain): Spain’s attacking lifeblood, scoring five goals in the first five matches when the likes of Fernando Torres, David Silva and Andres Iniesta were frustrating at best. One of the most reliable and versatile goalscorers in the world.
Wesley Sneijder (Holland): Had Holland reached the final without Sneijder? The question is banal in a way but also relevant. Holland, for a change, were a lot more than the sum of their parts but with a misfiring Robin van Persie and an overrated (in the tournament) Arjen Robben who only showed flashes of his brilliance, Holland would have got nowhere near the final without Sneijder’s input that was much more than simply the five goals he scored.
Thomas Müller (Germany): A perfect example of the immensely talented German youths. The dust had barely settled after Müller exploded into the scene at Bayern last season, when the 20-year-old surprised everybody by becoming the World Cup Golden Boot winner with his five goals and three assists. Intelligent with and without the ball, Müller unifies the best qualities of the stereotypical ‘old and boring Germany’ with the exciting and fresh new German footballing identity. Nifty and clean with the ball, dynamic in his movement and with an excellent physique, Müller would fit perfectly in almost any lineup in Europe.
Diego Forlán (Uruguay): The player of the tournament (the Golden Ball winner and in IWFTB’s books). Inspired a good, but by no means excellent, Uruguay side to become great and guided them all the way to the semi-finals. The embodiment of the work ethic and heart that Uruguay showed collectively throughout the World cup. Scored superb goals, the finest in the whole tournament being the one in the third-place play-off, formed a vital and lethal partnership with Luis Suárez and linked Uruguay’s attacking transitions effectively, being either initiating or at the end of most Uruguay’s attacking moves. A special player for a special team.
Manuel Neuer (Germany); Arne Friedrich (Germany), Jorge Fucile (Uruguay), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Sami Khedira (Germany), Xavi (Spain), Mesut Özil (Germany), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)