Well, it’s over. The best month a soccer fan can have once every four years is over, and while we collect the pieces of our broken lives, here’s our pick of the 2010 World Cup Best XI team, made up of one Uruguayan, two Dutchmen, three Germans and five Spaniards.
Goalkeeper – Iker Casillas, Spain
The third goalkeeper to captain his side towards World Cup Glory, Casillas had a fantastic World Cup despite not having the best year with Real Madrid. He kept five clean sheets in the World Cup and didn’t concede any goals after the group stage. He stopped Oscar Cardozo’s penalty in the quarter final against Uruguay and made two heroic one on one saves in the final, keeping Arjen Robben scoreless and the Netherlands, once again, goalless.
Centre Backs – Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique (Spain)
These two go hand in hand. After the loss to Switzerland, which revealed a (temporary) panicky side to the Spanish back, I was thinking that if Del Bosque went with a Barcelona duo in the middle, maybe he should go also with Valdez at goal, who was better than Casillas this year in league play. Nonsense, I told myself. The loss to Switzerland and the group stage stuttering had nothing to do with the defense, that went almost flawless throughout the tournament. Yes, Puyol was beaten twice by Robben in the final and maybe should have been sent off, but he scored the semi final winner and was unbeatable most of the time. Same for Pique, who besides being a fantastic defender is one of the most gifted defensive players in the world, with his ball control and ability to build up attacks for Spain or send very accurate long balls.
Right Back – Sergio Ramos, Spain
The Real Madrid man didn’t score, but was one of Spain’s most dangerous players throughout the tournament, looking better and better as it progressed. Ramos supported the attack constantly, creating danger from the air or by his penetrations and crosses. Defensively he was brilliant, like the entire Spanish team, working extremely hard and well in the wins over Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands, taking out anyone that faced him.
Left Back – Jerome Boateng, Germany
The weakest position of the tournament, but we had to pick someone, and playing far from a flawless tournament, Boateng was the best in our opinion. He didn’t play during Germany’s first two matches but after Badstuber’s horrible performance against Serbia, Boateng won a place in the starting lineup. His versatility and ability to play with both feet and defend both sides make him such an asset and eventually, got him the transfer to Manchester City after three season with Hamburg.
Defensive Midfielder – Mark Van Bommel, Netherlands
One of the dirtier players some might say, but also one of the more efficient, especially defensively, in the middle of the park. The Netherlands weren’t bright this World Cup, but were efficient and very hard to play against. Van Bommel dictated a slow pace and dominated the middle throughout most of the matches, including the second half against Brazil, and makes up for his lack of speed with a lot of cleverness, aggressiveness and yes, dirty play. Like it or not, everyone needs a guy like than in the middle.
Central Midfielder – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany
Van Bommel’s partner in the Bayern midfield really showed how much he has grown and developed as a player. From a flashy but very inconsistent winger to a leader in the middle of the park, continuing his progress from the fantastic year he had in the Bundesliga. Schweinsteiger showed his true worth in the two demolitions of England and Argentina, keeping the middle closed to attacks most of the time and orchestrating the counter attacks perfectly, notching three assists, including one brilliant dribble against Argentina, setting up a German goal.
Attacking Midfielder – Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands
It was almost the perfect ending for a wonderful 2009-2010 season, but Sneijder and his team stumbled just before the finish line. If Robben could just put one of those great chances in the net, and Sneijder would have won the FIFA Golden Ball award. Still, Sneijder was there for the Dutch almost every time – scoring in a tough outing against Japan, scoring and assisting in the 2-1 win over Slovakia, scoring the winner against Brazil and the tie-breaker against Uruguay in the Semi Final. Clutch, almost all the way.
Right Midfielder/Attacking Midfielder – Thomas Muller, Bayern Munich
Some people (me), who saw Muller earlier this year in the Champions League beating a weak Israeli team, Maccabi Haifa, knew this was going to happen. Others were surprised, remembering the amounts of missed shots he produced against Inter in the Final of the Champions League. Muller has it all – he’s fast, strong, has a good heading game, powerful shot, presence and a good passer. He’s not the best at anything, but he’s good or more at about every attacking aspect. His performances against Germany and England won’t be soon forgotten. His absence in the Semi Final loss to Spain was sorely obvious as well. He finished the World Cup, along with Villa, Sneijder and Forland, as top scorer, with 5 goals.
Striker – David Villa, Spain
Wasn’t at his best in the Semi and Final, but pretty much carried the Spanish offense on his back during the first five games, scoring five goals, now only one goal short from becoming Spain’s all time leading goalscorer. Villa suffered from a dysfunctional partnership alongside Fernando Torres, who refused to do anything good this World Cup (should Liverpool worry?), as Villa carried the workload alone. Played more of a winger role in the beginning, but Del Bosque came to his senses and put him in the middle, getting the best out of him and to some degree, his team.
Striker – Diego Forlan, Uruguay
Since leaving Manchester United and starting his La Liga career, Forlan has been one of the deadliest strikers in the world, scoring 120 league goals in six season playing for Villareal and Atletico Madrid. He just needed a World Cup to show how good he is to the rest, and eight years after his first Mundial appearance, came this one. Forlan grabbed it with both hands. FIFA awarded him with the Golden Ball, meaning World Cup MVP. Forlan scored five goals, each one better than the previous, taking a nation, far from the glory days of the 1930’s and 1950’s, to its first World Cup semi final in 40 years, almost taking them into the final after a great game against the Netherlands. Forlan is 31, and this might be his last World Cup, but he certainly left his mark on the tournament’s history.