We’ve had a couple days to let the World Cup settle and then disappoint all of us now that we have to wait 4 more years for it to start all over again. While we wait for World Cup qualifying to begin, here’s my Starting XI from this year’s Cup! (The best players and performance players from the Tournament) By the way, I’d play a 4-4-2.
STARTER: Iker Casillas, SPA
- It can’t be anyone else. The guy was an absolute wall for La Furia Roja. Just think about this for a second. Throughout the entire knockout round, in Spain’s 4 games, Casillas allowed ZERO goals. That’s right…NONE. Add in the fact that they only gave up 2 goals in group play, which 1 of them was a crazy sequence for the Swiss to defeat him, there’s no one else that can be the starting goalkeeper from this year’s World Cup. Also add in Spain’s 10 qualifying matches to get to the World Cup, Casillas conceded just 5 is another amazing statistic. Oh yeah, his girlfriend is quite the looker as well. That helps his case.
Maarten Stekelenburg, NED
- Stekelenburg might have been the starter if it wasn’t for the one goal he let slip under his right hand in extra time. Still, he gave up just 6 goals and had some incredible saves to preserve victories over Uruguay and Brazil. The Oranje were concerned where this team would be without Van Der Sar but Stekelenburg came in and performed magnificently.
Tim Howard, USA
- In my mind the 2nd best goalkeeper in the world, and he proved it at this World Cup. Yes, he gave up 5 goals in the Cup, but his 14 saves were spectacular and without him behind the defending 4 of the Stars and Stripes, it might have been a much shorter Cup. He also had a pretty nice assist to get the goal that put them through to the Round of 16 against Algeria after making a pretty darn good save on a header that was headed straight for the back of the net.
Justo Villar, PAR
- Helped to anchor one of the better defenses we saw at this World Cup. Granted, he didn’t have as many saves as Casillas or Howard, but he was the last line of defense that pushed Paraguay passed a tough Japan team and gave his team a chance against Spain. If he wasn’t 33 years old, he might get a chance overseas playing in the Bundesliga or somewhere else that could use a stout goalie like him.
Richard Kingson, GHA
- Find another goalkeeper that had more saves than Richard Kingson…yeah, that’s what I thought. 22 saves on the Tournament is a stat-line that shocked me when I first saw it. Some of the plays he made in the USA game still astound me and leave me dumbfounded. There’s a reason he’s playing in the Premiere League this upcoming year. This guy can make some clutch plays.
- How was Portugal able to shut-out so many opponents for so long? Well yes, their formation and defense does lend a hand, but 17 saves in 4 games will do the trick. Eduardo’s acrobatic displays in goal for Portugal were sensational, and even the 1 goal he gave up in his 4 games in South Africa came after he saved David Villa’s first shot. If only Christiano Ronaldo could have actually scored more than once on his 22 shot attempts. Eduardo will get a chance playing somewhere bigger than Genoa and Braga next season.
STARTER, Philipp Lahm, GER
- The captain of the Germans was brilliant in this year’s World Cup. He’s not the biggest, he’s not the strongest, but when you are 1v1 with Lahm, you are going to lose. Along with his tremendous defensive abilities, his crosses were phenomenal and his 1 assist to Klose was perfect. I’ll have him at left back any day.
STARTER: Per Mertesacker, GER
- Tell me now…would you want a 6’5 giant defending in the middle for you? YES PLEASE. Yes, he’s only 187 pounds and he does get pushed around a bit, but he is one of the best aerial stoppers in the game and is fantastic under pressure. I know the Germans conceded quite a few goals in this Cup, but if it wasn’t for Per in the middle, it could have been MUCH more.
STARTER: Antolin Alcaraz, PAR
- Did you know his name before the cup? I certainly didn’t. Well, you probably do now. Villar was fantastic in net for Paraguay, but Alcaraz’s abilities defending in the box and outside the 18 were nothing short of extraordinary. He’s not one of the biggest defenders you will find, but his abilities in the air and his goal and defensive play against Italy were the real reason why they were able to thwart the Italians and win their group.
STARTER: Maicon, BRA
- Not only is Maicon one of the fastest and strongest fullbacks in the world, he also has one of the best striking right foots for a defender. The goal he had against North Korea almost defied gravity the way it curved past the keeper on the goal-line. Yes, he is a great back to push up, but his defending is sometimes even more impressive. I mean ZERO yellow cards for the Tournament from a physical back like him? Smart and great on the ball, I’ll put Maicon over on the right side opposite Lahm.
Sergio Ramos, SPA
- If it wasn’t for Maicon’s incredible goal, Ramos would have probably garnered the other fullback for my starting XI. The chances he creates when he’s up the field are tremendous for a defender. He is one of the best in the world in pushing up the flank and putting balls in the box. Extremely aggressive throughout the entire Cup, he was one of the main reasons why Spain continued to halt counters from opposing sides.
Carles Puyol, SPA
- What else can you say about the little guy. Possibly the most aggressive central defender you will find in the game today, and his aerial acrobatics to defeat Paraguay were stunning. How does a 5’10 white guy fly through the air like that? He always seems to have a nose for the ball and he frequently has the ability to break up goal scoring chances. He will be 36 in 2014, and if the long-haired Spaniard isn’t starting alongside Pique, it will be weird watching the Red Fury without him.
- One guy you do not want to go up against in the air for a cross or a free kick is the big man from Inter. How he only committed 3 fouls in this entire Cup is beyond me with his extremely aggressive nature, but Brazil normally doesn’t turn out big guys that can play in the middle defensively. Lucio is that guy and he continues to do it game in and game out.
STARTER: Andres Iniesta, SPA
- He only scored two goals the whole cup, but his last will be the one that will be remembered forever throughout his homeland. A tiny guy to start in the midfield, his precision on the ball and his ability to create for his teammates have been exceptional the whole World Cup. Again, this is one of those guys that just has a nose for the ball. That’s probably why he suffered the most fouls from this World Cup: 25. And when you leave him unmarked outside the 18, he can fire from anywhere. He could be the most dangerous midfielder in the game today.
STARTER: Thomas Muller, GER
- A pleasant surprise from this year’s World Cup, the 20 year-old came out and performed on the biggest stage like he was an old veteran. He’s listed as a forward, but this World Cup might have shown that he could be fantastic as a midfielding striker. Very fast on the ball, and his ability to finish around the net is the reason why he gets the nod over his teammates Ozil and Schweinsteiger. Bayern Munich is one lucky team to have landed him at where he is in his career today.
STARTER: Xavi, SPA
- How does a guy with ZERO goals land a spot on Robby’s Starting XI? Simple…create ZILLIONS of chances. Xavi didn’t have one shot on goal the whole tournament. Not one. But his ability to pass to teammates and create on the ball were incomparable this whole Cup. His pass to David Villa to set up the goal against Portugal was a stroke of beauty. 1 assist? Pfft, big deal. 4 of David Villa’s 5 goals don’t even happen if it wasn’t for Xavi. Same with Iniesta’s 2 goals. The real MVP of this Tournament? It’s got to be Xavi. He was the one that kept Spain rolling in the midfield.
STARTER: Arjen Robben, NED
- How does a balding 26-year-old become so blazing fast? His pace on the ball is just incredible. There were so many instances in the Championship match against Spain where he just flew past Puyol and Pique to have chances on net. If it wasn’t for Casillas holding down the fort, Robben might have been the beneficiary of a couple more goals. Remember EA’s World Cup 2002 for Playstation 2? He’s the guy I think of when there’s a burning flame flying behind him when he’s all alone down the flank. Wicked fast, and a cannon for a boot, that’s Arjen Robben.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, GER
- A blazer down the wing, Bastian Schweinsteiger continues to break out when the World Cup comes along. Zero goals, but his 3 assists go along with Mesut Ozil’s tremendous play in the midfield. He didn’t make much of an impact against Spain, but the blowouts over Argentina and England showed this guy is one of the most dangerous midfielders when given space.
Wesley Sneijder, NED
- Sneijder was able to carry over his fantastic play for Inter in the Champions League to the World Cup and was excellent in front of goal. His 27 shots taken were the 3rd most out of anyone in this cup, and his 10 shots on goal made him so dangerous in the midfield. Granted, he did have a bit of luck on a few of his goals, Sneijder will be a guy that along with Robben will make up the most dangerous midfield in the coming years of European football.
Landon Donovan, USA
- Scored arguably the greatest goal in USA futbol history against Algeria, and also had a firecracker that helped get the comeback started against Slovenia. Landon Donovan is the greatest player in the United States’ history. His 3 goals in the Cup kept the USA in it, and his leadership and tenacity on the field were what kept the Stars and Stripes fueled for winning their first group in 80 years.
Keisuke Honda, JAP
- Fabulous goal scorer for the Blue Samurai, Keisuke Honda is as reliable as his last name. One of the few Japanese players that could actually create his own shot and strike from outside the 18, Honda had excellent speed when pulling away from defenders and did a superb job at getting his teammates involved. CSKA Moscow will be lucky to keep him in Russia for the foreseeable future, but for now, Japan is no longer seen as a pushover away from their home country anymore.
Mesut Ozil, GER
- I had to pick 1 of the 3 fabulous midfielders from Germany, and I took Muller, but did Ozil break out in a big way for the Germans this cup. Can you believe him and Muller are both under 22 years of age? Shocking to think they’ve got 3 or 4 more Cups in them. Ozil had just 1 goal, but his 3 assists were so important when the Germans needed it most against England and Argentina.
STARTER: Diego Forlan, URU
- If there was a stronger word than exceptional, than that would be the word to describe Diego Forlan’s World Cup 2010. Almost unbelievable, he battled a nagging injury in the 3rd place game to score a brilliant goal off a bouncing cross to cement his place as the Tournament’s MVP. Before the Cup, people thought of Uruguay to be a formidable opponent in the group stage and possibly advance a game in the knockout round. But with Forlan’s free kick abilities and his finishing skills outside the box, Uruguay advanced farther than it ever had since winning the Cup in 1930. Teams will have quite a tough time containing Forlan and Luis Suarez for quite a long time, and there could be a new power rising from the football-crazed South America.
STARTER: David Villa, SPA
- Simply put, the best striker in the world today. You can make a case for Cristiano Ronaldo, or Messi and Tevez, heck even Wayne Rooney or his Spain teammate Fernando Torres, but David Villa is the best in the world as I currently write this. An innate sense to score goals, his best moments might not have been his goals, but the plays he made to ALMOST score. He was lucky to not have 1 or 2 more against Portugal if it wasn’t for Eduardo in net. And wow is he elusive. How a guy is able to maneuver around defenders with the ball like David Villa continue to leave me speechless. Imagine if Torres was able to bring the same performance as Villa in this World Cup. We might not have had the late heroics from Iniesta to defeat the Dutch, it could have been a blowout in the Cup Final. As of now, David Villa is the best the world has seen.
Robert Vittek, SLO
- If Slovakia had someone alongside Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel in the back, Slovakia could have made MUCH more noise in this year’s World Cup. But unfortunately, Vittek’s 4 goals weren’t enough to push Slovakia past the Dutch. To think that he had just 6 shots on goal and 12 shots total, Vittek was able to net 4 out of those 6 shots is extraordinary. He’ll get a shot somewhere in the club game coming up this fall.
Miroslav Klose, GER
- If he’s able to bring it for another Cup when he’s 36, Klose has a great chance to set the goal scoring record that Ronaldo has for Brazil. Not the most athletic or gifted player, Klose is just the kind of guy that finishes when in front of goal. He just gets the job done, and his play with Lukas Podolski really shined in Germany’s brightest moments of the 2010 Cup.
Luis Fabiano, BRA
- So he used his hands a couple times, big deal. His 3 goals in this Cup were fantastic. If him and Robinho can put some magic in 2014, Brazil will be back on the winning platform. Still, only 11 shots in the Cup are way too few for a striker of Luis Fabiano’s caliber.
Asamoah Gyan, GHA
- The Black Stars needed someone to step in and take over the goal scoring role that Michael Essien had carried for the last few years. Enter Asamoah Gyan, and his 3 goals from this Cup. Just a nuisance up top for opponents, Gyan will forever be known unfortunately for his penalty kick miss against Uruguay, which would have sent Ghana to their first semi-final in history. Still, his winning goal against USA was masterfully done and without him, Ghana would have fallen in the group stages. Don’t be surprised ifa team from Germany or Spain try and find a home for him, as he is in a terrible team in France currently.
There it is! My starting XI! Feel free to leave comments and feedback on what you think of my team. Until then, start counting down the days till Brazil 2014!