2010 FIFA World Cup: Starting XI Dream Team
This coming Friday, 32 teams will kick off their quest for football's ultimate prize.
With this year's talent pool being so deep, it makes one wonder what the world's best starting XI would look like if you had the best football players' services at your fingertips.
Wonder no more my friends.
Ahead you will find the world's starting XI. South Africa's "dream team" if you will.
A couple of notes: Players were kept in their natural/most effective positions, and I did my best to try to represent as many countries as I could so as to avoid a Brazil/Spain hybrid team. Also, all current injuries were taken into account.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)
A goalkeeper who some believe is approaching the twilight of his career, the Spanish captain is still everything you want to see in a goalie.
Since establishing himself as Real Madrid's starting keeper when he was barely 18, Casillas has not left the confines of Bernabeu—showing the loyalty and dedication it takes to be a rock at the back of a premier defense at any level.
Casillas is a shade under 6'0", so he's not the typical rangy and physically imposing keeper that has often dominated the world stage. However, for what he lacks in height, he makes up for in might.
In addition to possessing razor sharp reflexes, world-class positioning, and supreme technical and fundamental ability, Casillas is determined, fearless, and has heart.
Finally, and most importantly, the man has loads of experience and knows what it takes to win.
Right Back: Maicon (Brazil)
Brazilian headman Dunga's doing away with the "happy-go-lucky" all out attack approach that we've seen in years past has allowed Maicon to emerge as one of the best fullbacks in the world.
The 28-year-old was an integral piece of an Inter defense that stifled all of Europe this year and took home the UEFA Champions League Title.
Maicon is stout defensively, a real stopper on the outside who's not afraid of trying his skill in the attacking end either. He's probably the most well-rounded fullback in the world.
Plus, he's filled the boots of Cafu and you still know his name, that says a lot.
Center Back: Nemanja Vidic (Serbia)
Nemanja Vidic is an uncompromising defender who plays your grandfather's style of defense.
The furthest thing from Vidic's mind when he takes the field is looking cute in the attacking third. The Serbian captain has one goal: to keep you in front of him.
After being plucked from Moscow by Sir Alex Ferguson nearly four years ago, Vidic has quickly established himself as one of the best defenders in the world.
The 2008-09 Barclays' Player of the Year, Vidic delivers clean, hard tackles with laser precision, and owns his box with supreme aerial ability. He's a no-nonsense enforcer type of player who I'd want in the middle of my defense any day of the week.
Center Back: Carles Puyol (Spain)
Captain Catalan's unruly hair may be the only thing deserving more admiration than his defensive prowess.
Barcelona's rock on the backline has seemingly never had his starting spot in jeopardy and with 80 caps to his name, Puyol has become synonymous with Spanish football this past decade.
Another veteran who is no stranger to winning, Puyol is like the Troy Polamalu of football (European football, that is). He flies around the pitch with unrivaled bravery and intensity. Puyol completely exhausts himself during the course of a 90 minute match.
Another fearless leader of a defender, Puyol and Vidic may not make anyone quake in their boots going forward, but by God I don't know if anyone in the world would want to attack the middle of that defense.
Left Back: Philipp Lahm (Germany)
The little fullback has recently cemented himself amongst the greatest backs in the world by being named Germany's team captain for South Africa.
Lahm is alone at the top when speaking of attacking fullbacks. His ability in the offensive end is the envy of many an outside back and probably several struggling midfielders.
Lahm is a nightmare for defenders when he builds up a head of steam, he can beat you off the dribble, loves to cut in and have a crack from long range and even delivers a great wide cross.
Holding Midfielder: Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)
As much as I'd like to load up the world's starting XI with tons of offensive talent, a holding or defensive midfielder is one of the most important positions on the pitch, and Yaya Toure fits the bill.
At an imposing 6'3", Toure is a take-no-prisoners defender who has spurned thousands of Barcelona attacks during his tenure with the Catalans.
Toure's large frame belies his refined skill. A huge presence in the midfield both on the ground and in the air, Toure can also lend support to the offense with surging runs into the attacking third.
Creative Midfielder: Xavi (Spain)
Oh, don't act so surprised.
Every team in the world would love to have a Xavi in their midfield.
The pulse of whatever team he plays for, Xavi has played a huge role in Barcelona and Spain's rise to world fame.
The 5'7" wizard is the glue of the Spanish national team, finding teammates and setting up attacks with short, precise, and infallible passes. His control from anywhere on the pitch makes it appear as though the ball is connected to his boots by a string.
His artistic vision in the offensive end is mesmerizing enough to make even a devout Brazilian drool.
Xavi is the perfect choice to man the controls of the juggernaut that is the world's starting XI.
Wide Midfielder: Franck Ribery (France)
Another pint-sized wonder, Franck Ribery is one of the most dangerous men out wide in the world.
Although he can operate anywhere behind the striker, Ribery feels at home out on the wings, and his crossing ability and pace make him a top choice for a wide midfielder.
A bulldog of a player, Ribery loves to race past defenders to the byline where he can cut in or deliver a dangerous cross into the box. Despite how dangerous he is with the ball, Ribery has surprisingly good vision and can create plays effectively as well.
If you're a defender and you've diverted your concentration to look at Ribery's facial scar for a split second, then it's probably too late.
Winger: Lionel Messi
Even though his 5'7" listing is a generous one, there is no doubt that the Argentinian wonder boy is pound for pound the best footballer in the world.
At just 22-years-old, Messi has drank from the sweetest goblets of victory, and has tons of invaluable experience on the world's biggest stages.
Skillwise, Messi is unmatched. His agility prompts viewers to check and make sure their TV is not running on fast forward. He's a technical genius with a low center of gravity that can cut in and out of defenses almost at will, making even the most solid of backlines look like a house of cards.
He's even a good header of the ball! It's almost unfair.
While he is a prolific goal-scorer, Messi is prone to struggling at a pure forward position, but don't worry Lionel, there's plenty of room at winger on my team for you.
Attacking Midfielder: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
After Ronaldo torched Man U in a 2003 friendly, Sir Alex Ferguson's players insisted that the legendary manager "buy that kid". Apparently, the move paid off.
An attacking midfielder by trade, Ronaldo scores like he's a true frontman, a testament to his world-class skill.
He's recognized as one of the best dribblers and paciest attackers in the world, not a bad combination if you ask me. Ronaldo's shooting boot is also feared from almost any distance on the pitch, it doesn't matter if the ball's in play or standing still for a free kick.
To top it all off, Cristiano is also as dangerous with his noggin as he is with his feet, his lanky and athletic frame make him a dangerous header inside the box, thus completing his attacking repertoire.
One could easily make a case to insert Kaka into the starting XI over Ronaldo.
However, I don't turn off all the lights, light some candles and have a glass of wine while I watch Kaka do stepovers, do I?
Have I said too much?
Striker: Wayne Rooney (England)
England's Wayne Rooney has developed from a teen prodigy into the face of a nation in an alarmingly short amount of time.
An intense striker who can play anywhere across the top, Rooney plays like a mad man but has a plethora of on-field intelligence to fool even the best defensive strategists.
Appearing rather stocky on the field, Rooney has great athleticism and can score in a variety of different ways and his finishing ability has improved exponentially during his rise to national fame.
Rooney is no stranger to large expectations, so playing as the lone striker on the world's all-star team should be no sweat for the 24-year-old. Plus, he'll be reunited with his old club buddy, Cristiano Ronaldo.