FIFA 2010 World Cup: Team of the Tournament So Far
The 2010 FIFA World Cup has been one of tense football, passionate fans, and vuvuzelas.
But what has really stood out in the first week of this year's competition has been the inability of the world's best national football teams to break down lesser opposition.
In the very first match, South Africa managed to draw against Mexico, a team ranked 66 places above them. Thus followed defeats for Spain, France, and Germany at the hands of Switzerland, Mexico, and Serbia, respectively.
These unforeseen scorelines have been due to several reasons: teams failing to gel, the inability of star players to perform under pressure, and the rise of less prominent footballers.
In this slideshow I summarize the best players of the FIFA 2010 World Cup, taking into account their individual performances (based on Man of the Match nominations, press ratings, and the Castrol Index) and the fate of their teams.
Goalkeeper: Jung Song Ryong (KOR)
South Korea's goalkeeper helped his team to a 2-0 opening defeat of Greece with a calm, assured performance.
To follow this, he was a big reason for Argentina not scoring even more goals against the Asian team in their 4-1 win.
He has made nine saves and has an overall pass completion rate of 66.2 percent. He is also one of few keepers to have gotten to grips with the Jabulani.
Right Back: Douglas Maicon (BRA)
Despite his side struggling to overcome minnows Korea DPR, Internazionale's marauding right-back Douglas Maicon was in scintillating form as he terrorized the left-hand side of the North Korean defence with his aggressive, purposeful runs.
He capped off a fine performance with his team's opening goal, a swerving thunderbolt from the byline.
Centre Back: Martin DeMichelis (ARG)
As with Chile's Ponce, Bayern Munich and Argentina's imposing centre back plays for a national team boasting an array of exciting offensive players.
In his team's opening defeat of Nigeria, DeMichelis shone out for his no-nonsense defending and physical prowess. Despite a costly error against South Korea, DeMichelis was otherwise faultless.
If his side is to make it to the final, they will need to defy critics and defend better than what their reputation suggests they are capable of. DeMichelis is likely to be a big part of this.
He has shown distinction in his passing (88 percent completion of 93 passes) and speed (top speed of 26.35 kph).
Centre Back: Waldo Ponce (CHI)
Chile lit up the World Cup with a dazzling display of skill against Honduras, which merited more than a 1-0 victory.
At centre back, an unusually named Walter Ponce provided the solid foundation for his team's flair players to pour forward frequently.
Ponce also completed 79 percent of his 52 passes and ran 10km, ranking him second of all defenders in the first round of matches.
Left Back: Gabriel Heinze (ARG)
Gabriel Heinze may not be hitting the heights of club football at Marseilles, having previously impressed at European giants Manchester United and Bayern Munich, but he is on form in South Africa.
He scored Argentina's solo effort to beat Nigeria and has completed 85 of his 111 passes. He also has a top speed of 27kph and has covered nearly 20 k in his two appearances.
Right Mid: Dirk Kuyt (NED)
Although the Netherlands are yet to really hit their stride, the team has nevertheless recorded two comfortable victories, more than what can be said for some of its distinguished European neighbours.
Kuyt, renown for his work ethic and passion at Liverpool, has had four shots and scored one goal.
His footballing brain and stamina will be essential to the "Oranje" if they are to capitalise on the poor form of other teams and spring a surprise by making it all the way to Soccer City.
Centre Mid: Arturo Vidal (CHI)
Arturo Vidal is certainly no household name in international football.
But his all-action display against neighbours Honduras put Tottenham Hotspur maestro Wilson Palacios in the shade.
In the opening match, he had two shots on goal, completed 78 percent of 58 passes, and dictated the tempo of much of the game.
Currently plying his trade at German club Bayer Leverkusen, there is likely to be a flurry of transfer gossip surrounding the 23-year-old's future in Germany is he can reproduce this form for the rest of his tournament.
Centre Mid: Mark Van Bommel (NED)
Expert at winning the football back from the opposition and ruthlessly efficient with the ball, it is no wonder that Mark Van Bommel has shone in a tournament where chances have often been at a premium on the final third of the field.
The Dutch veteran midfielder has covered 18 k in his two matches, completed 80 percent of a staggering 130 passes and had two shots on goal.
Along with Ibrahim Afellay, Kuyt, and Wesley Sneijder, Van Bommel forms part of one of the most balanced and talented midfields in the world.
Left Mid: Leo Messi (ARG)
Widely considered as the greatest footballer on the planet, Barcelona's superstar winger Leo Messi was instrumental to Argentina's two opening victories—even if he has failed to register a goal so far.
His statistics are also incredible! He has completed 72 percent of 140 passes, had 15 shots on goal, been fouled six times, and has a frightening top speed of 28.72 kph.
Be afraid when he hits top form!
Striker: Gonzalo Higuain (ARG)
Real Madrid phenomenon Gonzalo Higuain carried his goalscoring form from last season into Argentina's second group match against South Korea as he bagged the first hat-trick in the World Cup for eight years.
Having outshone Cristiano Ronaldo last season at the Bernabeu, he is now outshining the best player in the world, Leo Messi, in South Africa. Does this make him the best?
Perhaps not, but his stats are impressive: 3 goals, 11 shots on target, and an unbelievable top speed of more than 30kph!
Striker: Diego Forlan (URU)
Diego Forlan helped Uruguay put hosts South Africa on the brink of a World Cup exit with a stunning double last week, including a brilliant 30-yard dipping shot to open the scoring.
Forlan, a €25 million ($31 million) transfer target for Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, does not boast particularly outstanding statistics, but has managed 10 shots on goal and his work ethic and teamwork is often unappreciated.
Substitutes: Other Outstanding Players
Vincent Enyeama, goalkeeper, Nigeria
Antolin Alcaraz, centre back, Paraguay
Nadir Belhadj, left back, Algeria
Javier Mascherano, centre mid, Argentina
Alexis Sanchez, right mid, Chile
Giovani Dos Santos, left mid, Mexico
Thomas Mueller, striker, Germany
Castrol Player Index
1 Gabriel HEINZE 9.51 Defender
2 Waldo PONCE 9.33 Defender
3 Manuel NEUER 9.22 Goalkeeper
4 Antolin ALCARAZ 9.20 Defender
5 Gregory VAN DER WIEL 9.19 Defender
5 Gary MEDEL 9.19 Defender
7 JUNG Sung Ryong 9.15 Goalkeeper
8 LEE Jung Soo 9.12 Defender
9 Martin DEMICHELIS 9.06 Defender
9 PARK Ji Sung 9.06 Midfielder
11 Bakari SAGNA 8.97 Defender