The Best Team Not Going to the 2010 World Cup
Every day, the World Cup in South Africa draws closer. For the fans and players alike, they have waited four years for the opportunity to come around again.
But some are not so lucky. Some very talented players will be staying home to watch the world's greatest sporting event. In honor of those players who are not so fortunate, here is a team compiled of the best players not going to South Africa this summer.
Note: These are not the 11 best players who will be absent. It is the best team that could be put together out of players staying home this June. So think about it—despite the fact that none of these players will be seen, could this squad win a World Cup?
This team will play a 4-4-2 formation and have seven substitutes on the bench.
Goalkeeper: Igor Akinfeev, CSKA Moscow & Russia
Born: Vidnoye, Russia; Height: 1.85m (6'1"); Age: 23 years old.
It seems like Akinfeev has been around forever, but the young Russian backstop hasn't peaked yet. With 40 caps for his country and over 200 with CSKA Moscow, he has shown the world what fans of the RPL have seen for many years with stellar Champions League displays.
But as Russia faltered in its playoff with Slovenia, Akinfeev earns himself a place on the best roster not going to South Africa this summer.
While he is not the world's tallest goalkeeper by any means, he has the incredible reflexes required to make any save at any time. Some goalkeepers might not play as well if they aren't regularly tested, but Akinfeev can play any style of game. He's more than capable of making multiple big saves in a row, but his vision also allows him to be a very productive ball mover.
Defenders can have complete faith that Akinfeev is behind them. With the Russian No. 1 between the posts, a team always has the chance to win.
Left Back: John Arne Riise, AS Roma & Norway
Born: Alesund, Norway; Height: 1.85m (6'1"); Age: 29 years old
The former Liverpool left back saw his Norwegian squad finish second in Group Nine of World Cup qualifying, but they were not good enough to progress to the playoff round.
Always a gifted offensive player from the left side who can also be slightly error-prone in his own end, Riise is currently tied for the Serie A lead in goals by a defender with Maicon of Inter. He has also logged over 200 more minutes than any other player for Roma this season, continuing his long run of durability.
But even though his defense doesn't often match up with his offensive skills, Riise remarkably doesn't take cards either.
His veteran presence and attacking abilities are much welcome on the best squad not going to South Africa.
Center Back: Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal & Belgium
Born: Kapellen, Belgium; Height: 1.83m (6'0"); Age: 24 years old
More than a few questions swirled around the Emirates Stadium upon the acquisition of Vermaelen from Ajax, but he put them all to bed with instant offense from the center back position.
Scoring on his debut against Everton, the Belgian has fit right in with Arsenal's high-powered offense. Ranking just behind Andrei Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas in the line of Arsenal's leading scorers, he has caused havoc for every Premier League team inside the box despite being somewhat vertically challenged for a center back.
But when offensive numbers stand out like so with Vermaelen, defense can often be overlooked. He can surely do that too, as he has earned Arsene Wenger's trust defensively from Day One, earning starts in all 31 of Arsenal's Premier League matches.
Center Back: Richard Dunne, Aston Villa & Ireland
Born: Dublin, Ireland; Height: 1.87m (6'2"); Age: 30 years old
For every offensive-minded defender, his counterpart is needed. That's exactly what Richard Dunne brings in contrast with Vermaelen.
The Irish national is a hearty defender who has been a fixture on any back line, from Everton to Manchester City and now with Aston Villa. Always a cool and collected defender that doesn't back away from anybody, Dunne and Villa are seemingly a match made in heaven.
He can also be dangerous off set pieces, as he has scored more than a handful of important goals for both club and country.
Right Back: Rafinha, Schalke 04 & Brazil
Born: Londrina, Brazil; Height: 1.72m (5'7"); Age: 24 years old
Wait. Brazil is going to the World Cup, why is Rafinha on this team? Well, Brazil might be going, but Rafinha, sadly, is not. Brazil boasts two of the best right backs in the world with Dani Alves and Maicon, and could also bring the versatile Adriano to South Africa as well.
Which leaves Little Rafa out of the picture, as he has only been capped for Brazil once (a friendly), but that does not mean he's out of the picture for the best team not going to South Africa.
He has had a very productive year so far with Bundesliga side Schalke 04, who are pushing Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen for the title. While you won't see his name on the score sheet too often, he does well getting forward on a regular basis to support the strikers.
Central Midfield: Seydou Keita, Barcelona & Mali
Born: Bamako, Mali; Height: 1.83m (6'0"); Age: 30 years old
Les Aigles failed to qualify for the World Cup after being paired with Ghana and Benin, but that didn't stop them from fielding one of the best midfields in Africa: Keita alongside Mahamadou Diarra of Real Madrid and Mohamed Sissoko of Juventus.
Keita, now with the Catalan giants Barcelona, has been a very valuable find for Pep Guardiola. He brings an imposing presence to an already imposing midfield while scoring and defending with equal aptitude. Naturally left-footed, there aren't many things he can't do.
Despite having only made 19 appearances on the year with Barcelona, he is the club's highest-scoring midfielder with six goals. Offense, defense, passing, or shooting, Keita brings it all.
Central Midfield: Darren Fletcher, Manchester United & Scotland
Born: Dalkeith, Scotland; Height: 1.83m (6'0"); Age: 26 years old
Fletcher has spent his entire professional career with Manchester United, and the Scottish midfielder has rarely disappointed.
While certainly not known for his goal-scoring ability, Fletcher can poke one home every now and then. But his true strength lies in his defensive skills.
Not a true defensive midfielder, Fletcher's no-nonsense brand of defense is much appreciated by United fans. His play in the central midfield should fit in perfectly alongside the athletic and more offensively gifted Seydou Keita.
Left Midfield: Juan Vargas, Fiorentina & Peru
Born: Lima, Peru; Height: 1.85m (6'1"); Age: 26 years old
While not exactly a household name, Vargas has been one of the stars for Fiorentina during their Champions League campaign. Earlier used as a left defender, Vargas found a home as an attacking force under Cesare Prandelli.
He doesn't fill the net with goals, but he is a tremendous assist man that can provide excellent service. Coupled with his speed and accuracy, Vargas can be even more dangerous when paired with a big striker who can finish the scoring chances he creates.
Even though for the best team not going to South Africa, he would be used solely for offense, he still has the ability to play above-average defense for a man that attacks with such regularity.
Right Midfield: Antonio Valencia, Manchester United & Ecuador
Born: Lago Agrio, Ecuador; Height: 1.81m (5'11"), Age: 24 years old
Manchester United's infamous "replacement" for Cristiano Ronaldo, Valencia was appropriately nominated for Best Young Player at the 2006 World Cup.
The speedy winger can provide a mixed bag of tricks. While his goal scoring ability will never be mistaken for CR7, there is no question that he has a knack for scoring when his club needs it most. His first goal for United was a game-winner over Bolton and he then scored two more in the Champions League.
He's seen more playing time than any United forward with the exception of Wayne Rooney, and even the English hitman would be pleased with the help Valencia has provided on the right wing.
Second Striker: Andrei Arshavin, Arsenal & Russia
Born: St. Petersburg, Russia; Height: 1.72m (5'7"), Age: 28 years old
The former Zenit St. Petersburg striker made an instant splash with Arsenal, but certainly not as a lone man up front. Arshavin ideally should play as a playmaking midfielder or second striker, and that's exactly his role with the best team not going to South Africa.
With creative juices flowing from everywhere, he possesses a powerful shot but also the vision to pick out teammates even through the smallest opening. Is he a provider or a finisher? Defenders don't know either, as he has the ability to pass or shoot.
A big time performer that loves the highest stage, he has played his best in games that mean the most throughout his entire career.
Center Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Barcelona & Sweden
Born: Malmo, Sweden; Height: 1.95m (6'5"), Age: 28 years old
With three players more than capable of creating chances, that means the squad could use a man to finish them. Who better than the Big Swede, Zlatan Ibrahimovic?
Continuing his tour of the finest European clubs, "Ibracadabra" now plies his trade with Barcelona. Without any question, he's one of the best strikers on the planet and it's a shame he will not be at the World Cup. Good news for this team however, as basically all the other strikers will be in South Africa!
With his immense height, he has a very dangerous header but also possesses a powerful foot as well. He rips every shot he takes. Even though Barcelona might not be entirely thrilled with him, his 13 goals make him one of La Liga's top scorers.
The common phrase is "you're only as good as your bench". So, as reserves, seven players were chosen because of their versatility, skill, or experience.
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech, Chelsea & Czech Republic. It would be a true luxury for any team to have Petr Cech as a backup goalkeeper.
Defensive All-rounder: Vincent Kompany, Manchester City & Belgium. Kompany is the perfect all-rounder. He has the speed to play on the wings or as a defensive midfielder, but also the size at 1.93m (6'4") to play as a center back.
Center Back: Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Barcelona & Ukraine. While going to Barcelona was probably not the greatest decision for the young Ukrainian, Chygrynskiy is still a very powerful defender that can succeed when not playing for an ultra-offensive club.
Left Midfield: Yuri Zhirkov, Chelsea & Russia. Zhirkov is a perfect bench player because he can not only attack well, but fill in as a left back as well without losing much of anything.
Right Midfield: Luka Modric, Tottenham Hotspur & Croatia. Although more of a central midfielder, Modric simply was too good to leave off the squad.
Attacking Midfield: Arda Turan, Galatasaray & Turkey. An extremely gifted attacking player that truly has become the jewel of Turkish football.
Striker: Edin Dzeko, VfL Wolfsburg & Bosnia-Herzegovina. The big Bosnian striker can absolutely score at will and could cause havoc for defenders if paired with Arshavin and Ibrahimovic.
Manager: Miodrag Bozovic, FC Moscow (formerly) & Montenegro
The Count might not be known by too many. But as imposing as his 1.98m (6'6") stature may be, Bozovic doesn't have long before more know his name.
A primary candidate to be the next manager of the Russian national team, Bozovic has managed two very undermanned sides to glory in the RPL. First he took a no-name Amkar Perm side to the Europa league in 2009 when the club had only played top-flight football for four years before that.
He then nearly did the same for bankrupt FC Moscow, as the club had no business staying in the Russian Premier League, but Bozovic was a few points from taking them to the Europa League as well.
He has a history of working wonders with clubs that simply should not be winning. His teams are known for their defensive discipline as well as intelligent offense. He is manager that involves himself in the match and always seems to know when to take chances or when to hold back.
Defense wins championships, and Bozovic would be a great fit for this squad.