Picking a Best XI from Tuesday's World Cup Qualifiers
Last night saw yet another plethora of thrilling matches from across the globe, as the international teams of the world competed for a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Notable upsets included Jordan beating the heavily fancied Australians 2-1 in Asian qualifying, as well as Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine getting a hearty away draw with big-guns England.
The USA managed to take a crucial three points from their CONCACAF fixture with the impressive looking Jamaicans.
Meanwhile, in South America, the Peruvians managed to hold on for a draw against the always improving Argentinians.
All in all, it was a fantastic night of the world's most beautiful game all across this fair planet.
But which stars shone brightest on the pitch?
Here are just XI of the best players from Tuesday's games.
Point of interest, just to be clear—this is not a team that would work on the pitch together (for example, I've included three right-backs). It is just the selection of some of the best players from last night, regardless of their locale on the field.
Giorgi Loria (GK): Georgia
There aren't many goalkeepers on this earth who can say they went toe to toe with the greatest side in international football for the best part of 70 minutes without conceding a goal.
Loria did that and so much more against the World and European champions.
Save after save was made from the Georgian goalkeeper, who kept his side in the match during the first half with some of his heroic acrobatics.
Unfortunately an injury saw Giorgi come off after 71 minutes of football with the score at 0-0.
It wasn't until the eighty-sixth minute, in fact, that the Spaniards finally managed to find a breakthrough in the form of Roberto Soldado.
It was a somewhat disappointing (from a neutral point of view), although unquestionably deserved, victory for the Spanish—who won all 10 of their games in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
Giorgi, who currently plies his trade for Georgian Premier League side Dinamo Tbilisi, did himself no harm in getting recognised by coaches across the world with his exploits.
Of course, the 86 minute shut out can't all be put down to his heroics in-between the sticks—but I'll get to that later.
Steve Cherundolo (DF): USA
Steve Cherundolo is an iconic figure in the history of United States "Soccer".
One of the all time most-capped players for the US team, Cherundolo has become somewhat of a legend of the game.
What's even more impressive than his record for the States side is his time spent with Hannover.
Having been at the club since 1999, Cherundolo has made a grand total of 348 league appearances and counting for 96.
Steve put all of that experience to use last night, shining as one of the best players on the pitch in USA's 1-0 victory over the boys from Jamaica.
Despite the US bossing the game for most of the first half, after the break Cherundolo had a lot more to do, and he was never found wanting.
The result left the group poised delicately, with Guatamala, USA and Jamaica all currently sitting on seven points after four games.
Steve and Co. will have to find the same kind of form they did last night if they are to qualify into the last section of the CONCACAF tournament.
The chances are good that they can do that.
Yevhen Selin (DF): Ukraine
Selin was one of the best players on the pitch last night for the Ukrainians in their impressive 1-1 draw against England at Wembley.
The right back showed that he was not only capable of putting in some terrific tackles (as he exhibited several times on Leighton Baines and Jermain Defoe), but also that going forward he was no pussycat either.
Selin has a devilishly tricky cross to deal with, as well as an awesome turn of pace that left the English defence helpless at times.
It was in no small part thanks to Yevhen's performance in the match last night that the Ukrainian side was able to walk away with a very hard-earned point.
Currently playing for Vorskla Poltava, it seems somewhat of a waste for a talent like this to be limited to playing in just the Ukrainian Premier League.
That being said, Dynamo Kyiv are a top side, and I wouldn't rule a move out for Selin in the next possible transfer window.
That's assuming he keeps playing the way he is right now, of course.
Glen Johnson (DF): England
Yes, despite their poor showing last night, there were the odd bright sparks here and there from the Three Lions.
One of those was Liverpool right-back, Glen Johnson, who since he faced the doubters of pre-Euro 2012 seems to have excelled for the national side.
In fact, in an odd contrast to what you would usually expect to see from a England player, Johnson seems to be more at home in an England shirt than he is in a Liverpool one.
His performances over the past couple of months have helped him earn back a lot of respect after a few years of people questioning his ability on the top stage.
It seemed for the majority of Tuesday evening's match that if a goal ever was going to come, it would be as a result of a good piece of build-up play from this man.
However, Selin and his teammates stayed strong, and it wasn't until an 87th minute penalty from Frank Lampard that they were finally broken down.
Luckily, England escaped, but there are certainly lessons to learn from the result.
Johnson, however, could not be faulted at all for his efforts.
Zurab Khizanishvili (DF): Georgia
Premier League fans will be well familiar with Georgian defender Khizanishvili after spells at Blackburn, Newcastle and Reading.
His inclusion in this side is somewhat of a cheat from me, as he represents the entire Georgian back four.
I really cannot express enough how well the Georgians defended last night against the best team in international football right now.
Every ball was dealt with easily, and in the end the Spaniards were forced into taking long shots that were parried and scooped away by Loria in goal.
Although the Spanish were dominant in the match—and they probably did deserve to win the fixture—for their sheer determination and professionalism alone, Georgia deserved to take a point from the match.
Unfortunately, in football people often aren't given what they deserve—whether that's a good or bad thing.
That was emphasised again last night, with the supreme Georgians walking away with nothing to show for their efforts.
Still, if they can play like this against Spain, who's to say they can't upset the French and get something out of that fixture?
Mesut Ozil (MF): Germany
This young man is probably one of the best players in the world right now—which is why it shocks me that Madrid are planning to play Modric ahead of him in their starting XI.
Granted, Modric is also undoubtedly a world class talent that any side would be happy to have, but for me Ozil is the best at what he does.
That has been evident in both of Germany's qualifiers for Brazil 2014 so far.
In truth, the results haven't been all that impressive for the Nationalmannschaft. Firstly a 3-0 home victory against the Faroe Islands, followed by a narrow 2-1 away victory against close rivals Austria.
Germany have Ozil to thank for a lot of their success, not just in these two games, but for the past two years of football.
Ozil isn't in the team to score goals, but even given that, he has netted three of the five goals that the Germans have currently scored in qualifying.
That aside, his build up play and ability to leave defenders rooted to the floor with his phenomenally quick link up with teammates has been all too evident in the opening clashes of the group.
If this form continues, we could be looking at one of the game's future legends.
Xherdan Shaqiri (MF): Switzerland
Here is a man who could single-handedly drag Switzerland to Brazil in two years time.
Shaqiri is probably going to become the greatest player to have ever come out of the world's most famously neutral country; he has already shown that a lot of the faith showed in him when he was younger was not misplaced.
This summer, Shaqiri moved from his the club he had been with since he was just 10 years old, FC Basel, to German giants Bayern Munich.
This is exactly the right career move for the man from Switzerland, who will now have the chance to exhibit his skills alongside some of the best players in the world.
The Swiss have admittedly been drawn into a very easy group for qualification.
Rivals for the slot in Brazil include Cyprus, Albania, Norway, Iceland and Slovenia.
In reality it's somewhat confusing as to how this group came to be—with no clear "top seed" in it at all.
That being said, Switzerland probably are the best team from the section, and they will look to qualify for their third consecutive World Cup.
Shaqiri's presence in a group like this really should be enough—as he demonstrated last night against the Albanians.
Stanislav Manolev (MF): Bulgaria
Manolev isn't exactly a household name when it comes to football, but his performances so far against Italy—and, more importantly, last night against Armenia—have well and truly earned him a place on this list.
Really it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that a player from a club as decent as PSV Eindhoven would be one of the stand-out players in the Bulgarian side.
Manolev and his goals have helped to ensure that after two rounds of European qualifying, the Bulgarians are level on points with giants of the game Italy.
If they can keep this sort of form up going into the next two years of qualifying (a lot to ask, I know), then the side that now lacks the presence of Dimitar Berbatov has a fantastic chance of making it to the World Cup again after a very lengthy absence.
It's easy to forget, but in 1994 Bulgaria actually reached the semi-finals of the tournament before losing to, of all teams, Italy.
Okay, so nobody expects anything like that ever again, but for the Bulgarians to qualify with no "world class players" in their squad would be a fantastic achievement.
Good luck to them!
Graham Zusi (MF): USA
Last night was Graham Zusi's first competitive cap for the US team, and what a way to mark your debut.
Zusi was outstanding throughout, creating havoc in the Jamaican defence and forcing goalkeeper Dwayne Miller into some fantastic saves.
The man for plays for Sporting Kansas City was taken off in a sea of applause from the grateful American fans, who realised how important Zusi's contributions had been to their side's chances of victory.
What made this so impressive for me was the fact that this wasn't some easy, run of the mill qualifying match.
With the poor results in the first half of fixtures for the US, this game had become somewhat of a "must-win" for Jurgen Klinsmann and his men.
To throw Zusi into his first game with that kind of pressure is crazy, but perhaps the German's faith in the player who had never played a competitive game before for his country was what encouraged him to do it.
The decision more than paid off, and now the US are back in control of their own fate in the CONCACAF section of qualifying.
Radamel Falcao (ST): Colombia
I really cannot heap enough praise onto the shoulders of this man.
Falcao is probably the best out-and-out centre forward in the world right now, and his continued world class performances for both Atletico Madrid and Colombia exhibit that perfectly.
It would be utterly wrong to say that Falcao is carrying the Colombian side. After all, players like Teofilo Gutierrez and Cristian Zapata aren't exactly names to be scoffed at.
Unquestionably, though, Falcao is the leader of this side in terms of both talent and a winner's mentality.
Colombia have been the "nearly men" of South America since they last qualified for the tournament in 1998.
This time around it seems as though things might be a little different, with the Coffee Growers (that's a literal translation, I kid you not) sitting pretty in second place in the table, just one point behind Argentina with seven games played.
Yesterday, they easily brushed aside a Chile side that includes Alexis Sanchez away from home, with Falcao grabbing the second of their three goals in a 3-1 victory.
In all honesty, it's a lot harder not to qualify from South America for this tournament than it is to earn a place in the finals.
With Brazil hosting, they qualify automatically, and the nine remaining teams are battling it out for four more guaranteed spots, and one play-off chance.
Assuming the side that comes fifth wins its play-off, we could see six of the ten teams from CONMEBOL in Brazil in two years' time.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov (ST): Russia
The man who was rather unimaginatively dubbed "the perennial chance-misser" by the Sky Sports commentary staff on Friday night showed the world exactly what he can do in Russia's 4-0 away demolition of Israel.
The Russians somehow managed to fail to make it into the last eight of Euro 2012 this summer, despite beating the team that would eventually go on to top the group 4-1 on the opening day.
A lot of people in the country blamed Kerzhakov for his spree of missed chances against both Poland and Greece, citing him as the reason that they couldn't progress further in the tournament.
Last night, he would have gone some way to earning back the love of the fans with a brace against the Israelis.
Scoring two goals against a team of Israel's calibre isn't all that impressive, and so some people might be wondering why he is included on this list.
Well, I think for a striker to have the stigma of being "the guy that always missed", it takes great courage to not only play international football as regularly as possible, but to also go out there and prove his critics wrong.
If Aleksandr really wants to shut everybody up, then he will have to have a similar performance against Russia's rival in the group, Portugal.
If he scores an important goal in that game, we may well soon forget about all those missed chances in the Euros.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!