5 Players Who Should've Made FIFA's World XI
At this week's Ballon d'Or 2012 presentation, that FIFA FIFPro World XI was announced.
The celebrated team, voted for by professional players only, has garnered some criticism for its alleged bias towards Spain. Every position is taken by a La Liga star, and all except Radamel Falcao, play for Real Madrid or Barcelona.
Here are five players who gave outstanding performances outside of Spain, and deserve a place in the World XI...
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The fact that Andrea Pirlo has not made the FIFA World XI since 2006 is enough to call the entire democratic process into question.
The Italian was an integral part of Juventus' undefeated scudetto-winning side of 2011-12, and he also helped claim the Supercoppa Italiana.
What's more, Pirlo was probably the best player at Euro 2012, where his effortless command of the midfield helped the Italians reach the final. In Poland and Ukraine, he earned three Man of the Match awards, and a place in UEFA's Team of the tournament.
He also came fourth in the 2012 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, behind the three shortlisted Ballon d'Or candidates, which suggests his lack of inclusion in this XI is remiss.
Surely Mr Pirlo deserved a spot over Xabi Alonso?
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Real Madrid left-back Marcelo may ape Roberto Carlos in his ability to move up and down the flanks, but Ashley Cole has arguably been a stronger player in 2012.
He was almost certainly the best left-back in the Premier League in 2011-12, and he helped Chelsea win the Champions League. A World XI without a single Champions League-winning player in it seems neglectful.
Incidentally, a Premier League defender hasn't made the cut since 2009, when World XI regular John Terry was last included.
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Three-time World XI right-back Dani Alves is no slouch, but he didn't exactly have a vintage 2011-12 season. He only started 29 league matches for Barcelona last season, and ended up with a Copa del Rey, and a spot on Tito Vilanova's bench.
Borussia Dortmund's Łukasz Piszczek, by contrast, was solid all season, and got up the field to score four goals and provide six assists.
Oh, and he won the German league and cup double.
The 27-year-old also gave three good performances for Poland in Euro 2012.
Robin Van Persie
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Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi's places in the three-pronged front-line of the FIFA World XI are indisputable, but there is a case to be made for Robin van Persie's inclusion over Radamel Falcao.
The Dutchman carried Arsenal to Champions League qualification in 2011/12 with 30 league goals—only Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo have ever topped that tally in a Premiership season. Falcao, by comparison, scored 24 league goals.
RVP also won the PFA Players' Player of the Year, the PFA Fans' Player of the Year, and earned a slot in the PFA Premier League team of the Year.
Granted, Falcao had an incredible season—particularly in European competition—but van Persie continues to show why he is a world-class game-changing forward.
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Iker Casillas has earned his fifth consecutive spot in the FIFA World XI, and as a champion with club and country, few would argue that Spain and Real Madrid's number one had a great year.
However, the statistics may suggest Iker was not necessarily the best choice. Hear me out on this one!
Casillas only kept 14 clean sheets last season, whereas Victor Valdes, Manuel Neuer and Joe Hart were all unbeaten in 17 league ties.
Furthermore, Casillas conceded a league goal every 11.4 shots in the last campaign. Neuer had a similar figure, Valdes conceded every 8.4 shots, and Chelsea's Champions League winner Petr Cech conceded every 9.6 shots.
The best performer in this respect was Joe Hart, who conceded every 12.9 shots during 3,420 Premier League minutes in 2011-12.