Been so lazy since the end of the World Cup should have had this on sooner but where would a football blog be without picking my World Cup XI, nowhere, so to fall into line, and probably the umpteenth list you’ve read here’s my team, just a note I have picked this team as an actual team that I would hope has a balance that would work well together, so not England then.

FORMATION 4-2-3-1

For the English media this is been a revelation for anyone who watches football outside of the British Isles it’s a formation you will be well aware of, very successful throughout the tournament and dominating any team that tried to go 4-4-2 against it, I’m sure you’ll see more and more teams adapt to this system throughout the season.

 

“Too inexperience” “They’ll miss Ballack” “Not as good as past German teams” all these things were said about Low’s side before they had even kicked a ball, that all stopped once they played Australia, Low had picked a side with pace, athleticism, a really good team and work ethic, and on top of that he got his tactics spot on for the knockout stages until they came up against Spain, and even having the bravado to come out after the games and explain how he had beaten England and Argentina, I think this shows the confidence in the man, that’s the attitude I want in a leader of men.

Mentions: Oscar Tabarez (Uru) Bob Bradley (USA) Diego Maradona (Arg)

I found this a hard choice, quite a few keepers impressed in the Group Stage, and a few shown in the knockout stages, You have to pick someone that really turns up when it counts, Iker saved Paraguays penalty and Santa Cruz’s chance in the Quarters, then in the Final with Robben through on goal on his left foot, Casillas had the presence of mind to left his leg and provide the vital touch, keeping the game at 0-0 and of course Spain went on to win the trophy surely a pivotal moment and that’s what you want in a Goalkeeper, Stekenlenberg probably had a better final than Casillas, however when he was most needed he produced the good, Saint Iker indeed.

Mentions: Vincent Enyeama (Nig) Maarten Stekelenber (Ned) Eduardo (Por)

I will confess that Jorge is a player that wasn’t on my radar before the World Cup, with every game that I watched he just grew and grew, great performances against France and South Africa, Solid against Korea, he was unlucky to miss out against Holland in the Semi-Final and they really missed him, having to re think the whole system to nullify Robben, If Fucile had been there It would have been a different game I think, came back into the side against Germany and he didn’t miss a beat, Muller didn’t have an easy game, making him come inside more often, Fucile never looked out of position very often, the Porto full back has a good future ahead of him.

Mentions: Fabio Coentrao (Por) Gio Van Bronckhorst (Ned) Carlos Salcido (Mex)

Many sites and pundits I’ve read or listened to have mentioned Gerald Pique quite a few times, for me the rock in Spain’s defence has been Captain Fantastic himself, showing that he can play with the same passion and intensity as he can for Barcelona, he may not have the pace he once had, however his positioning and awareness is top notch, a few seasons ago questions had been asked of Puyol but under Guardiola he has blossomed again and looks like a defender on top of his game.

Mentions: Joris Mathijsen (Ned) Jonathan Mensah (Gha)

At 31 this was probably his last World Cup, with a disappointing season behind him (relegated with Hertha) he came to the tournament with question marks over his ability, I thought he answered all those critics, up against some young forwards Gyan, Defoe, Messi he never looked worried, dealt with all the youthful exuberance with a calmness and typical German efficiency, a nice way to finish his International career with his first goal for his country, and a derserved place in my team.

Mentions: Diego Godin (Uru) Antolin Alcaraz (Par)

High hopes were had for this Ajax youngster, picked him out in my 32 players to watch piece, and he didn’t let me down, look wise past his years, showing good positioning a willingness to get forward, maybe didn’t reach the byline as often as I would have likes but played well front to back, had a very solid final for such a young player, made some great challenges on Pedro and Iniesta and didn’t seem overawed by the occasion, a target now for some big teams, not surprising to be honest.

Mentions: Phillip Lahm (Ger) Sergio Ramos (Esp) Maicon (Bra)

I must confess I had not seen much of Bayern Munich this year, only the 2nd half of the later stages of the Champions League so I was unaware of how good Bastian had performed in his newly found position for his club, so seeing him play there for his country was new to me, and boy did he impress, always making sure he had time on the ball, the ability to beat a man to find more space, his passing was deliberate, some of the runs were superb exemplified by the run for Friedrich’s goal against Argentina, a joy to watch in the middle of the park, so commanding for what is still a young player.

Mentions: Mark Van Bommel (Ned) Michael Bradley (USA)

The heart of the Spanish engine room, I would call him the Leonardo Da Vinci of the Tiki-Taka masterpiece, so eloquent on the ball, made more passes than any other player in the tournament, I don’t remember a bad one, doesn’t break forward as often as he used to, he does find space better than most players in the world, just a joy to watch.

Mentions: Gilberto Silva (Bra) Raul Meireles (Por)

Big decision to make with this pick, could have easily been Wesley Sneijder but I think everyone got a little carried away with his performances, Mesut however took the World by storm, not a name everyone knew before the tournament his name is on the lips of the world now, great movement, vision, pace to beat a man, a youthful exuberance and naievity which makes him so dangerous.
Mesut has the world at his feet, I hope he can go on to delight us in future World Cups and seeing him develop more this season in the Bundesliga for Bremen (hopefully!)

Mentions: Wesley Sneijder (Hol)

This was a very hard decision, not whether Andres deserved to be in the team, but where to play him, I could have chosen him to play in Xavi’s role, Oezil’s role, which would have given space to Thomas Mueller, I think however, this decision for me brings balance to the side if it was an actual team, like he did for Spain Iniesta starts on the left but he has a license to roam into the midfield and provide support but is very active at breaking forward into the box and down the channels, lovely passer of the ball, finds space with ease, the awareness to know where and when to make runs is incredible, and compliments this with his goalscoring abilty, they say playing with great players makes the game easier, Andres must make it very easy.

Mentions: Robinho (Bra), Carlos Tevez (Arg), Jean Beausejour (Cho)

If the interest in the Spanish forward wasn’t already sky-high his move to Barcelona brought even more attention, after the first game when Spain failed to score and no one on the Spainish team impressed, it was Villa who announced the team to the tournament with his goal against Honduras, collecting the ball from the left, beat 2 men and his shot found the top corner, a quality goal that just summed up Villa’s excellence, he went on to score 5 goals in the tournament and was so important to the Spain team, without him they would not have reached the final.

Mentions: Luis Suarez (Uru), Asamoah Gyan (Gha), Luis Fabiano (Bra)

Voted player of the whole tournament and a very worthy winner, not only an excellent footballer but comes across as a really nice guy also, dangerous on both feet so I have no trouble playing him on the right, has the ability to come in off either flank, find space and if you give him space outside the box he will score goals, specialist from Free Kicks as he showed, the one person in the tournament that tamed the Jabulani ball, Captain and Cheerleader for his Country, a tremendous players, finally getting the Worldwide recognition for all his hard work, 2 Golden boots for his goals in La Liga and now a Golden Ball for his performances in South Africa.

Mentions: Thomas Mueller (Ger) - was so hard to leave him out, Arjen Robben (Ned), Lionel Messi (Arg)

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Morning all,I have been wanting to do previews since the start but not found the time, hopefully it can continue from today, not gonna be massive pieces, just players to watch, predictions, that kind of thing.

NETHERLANDSDENMARK – 12:30

This has the potential to be one of the great games of the tournament, 2 strong teams and both need a win to kick off their campaign.

***Players to Watch***

1.Gregory van der Wiel (Netherlands) - Impressive Ajax right back, will be unknown to most, loves to get forward, can play in a good cross, and can also defend pretty well.

2.Simon Kjaer (Denmark) - Palermo’s big centre back, tracked by all the big teams, a good tournament will see his value rise big test today against the Dutch forward line, interesting to see how he does.

3.Christian Eriksen (Denmark) - Rumours are this impressive teenager could start for Denmark today, the Danes have never fielded a teenager at a World Cup, the unknown midfielder has impressed at U-20 level, on the books at Ajax, reported he has already been shown round Real Madrid’s training complex, one to look out for.

JAPAN v CAMEROON – 15:00

Cameroon the 4th of the 6 African teams to play, pundits favourties of all the african teams to do well, with Eto’o, Song and Emana they have the ability to get out this group, I am wondering if Eto’o doesn’t score where the goals will come from, Korea showed on Sunday that you don’t need size and power to play well, Japan will take heart from this, the skills of Honda, Nakamura and Matsui will cause problems.

**Players to Watch**

1.Achille Emana (Cameroon) – Apart from Eto’o Achille is Cameroon’s highest scorer in the squad, can play off the front man or on the wings, very creative, loves bombing forward, powerful runner.

2.Shinji Okazaki (Japan) - A Player very much in form 16 goals in the last year make him a dangerous prospect, good movement off the ball works hard to find space, the Cameroon defence will have to stay alert.

3.Nicolas N’Koulou (Cameroon) - Strong central defender, had a starring role for Monaco this year, could be one of the stand out players in South Africa, has the experience of Rigobert Song potentially beside him.

ITALY v PARAGUAY – 19:30

The two big guns in Group F match up, both will fancy going through but they will not want to lose this, Paraguay have a talented squad, 4 quality strikers that will cause teams damage, a solid midfield and back line, the Italians will need to be at their best to dispatch Paraguay

**Players to Watch**

1.Lucas Barrios (Paraguay) – One of the great World Cup stories, 2 months ago he was Argetinian and had a great Bundesliga season, now he has his Paraguayan passport has scored 3 in 3 and could be the big goal threat in Group F

2.Antonio Di Natale (Italy) - Played as a subsitute most of his International career, now has the chance to shine, 29 league goals for Udinese is very impressive, pace, skill and an eye for goal, can’t ask for much else.

3.Oscar Cardozo (Paraguay) - Most likely to start on the bench, Santa Cruz getting the nod on experience, Oscar will come on at some point and he is deadly, can score from anywhere on the pitch, goals out of nothing he is a deadly predator 26 goals in 29 games for Benfica, not somone to leave unmarked.

**PREDICTIONS**

Now so far is this tournament I am off to a great start, I have predicted the score in all 8 games, and got every one wrong, I predcited correctly Argentina, Slovenia and Germany would win, but got the scores wrong, so I have an on going joke that I will get every result wrong, so here goes Day 4.

NETHERLANDS 3 DENMARK 1

JAPAN 0 CAMEROON 1

ITALY 2 PARAGUAY 2

If you agree or disagree let me know, give me your predictons

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GROUP E

Gregory van der Wiel – Netherlands – 8 caps (0 goals)

The once troubled centre back was the present that Marco van Basten left on his departure from Ajax, turning Gregory into a full back was a masterstroke, loves to bomb forward and deliver crosses and still has his centre back instincts when it comes to defending, a bit of an unknown quantity in the Dutch team, his name will be well known come July.

Christian Eriksen – Denmark – 3 caps (0 goals)

Described as “one of the hot young prospects in any squad in the World Cup” Christian cause a bit of a interest frenzy in a recent Denmark U-20 game, scouts and agents running for their phones and laptops, only to find out he had already had a tour round Real Madrid’s training complex, not seen him play myself but very intrigued to see what he is capable of.

Shinji Okazaki – Japan – 24 caps (16 goals)

A striker in form, 16 goals in the last year, helping Japan to qualify for the World Cup, saw him for the first time against England in the recent friendly, he had good movement and awareness, a couple of half chances he may have done better with, with service coming from Honda and Nakamura he could have a chance to fire his way into Japanese folklore.

Nicolas N’Koulou – Cameroon – 6 caps (0 goals)

A very promising defender that has come from the same academy as Samuel Eto’o and Carlos Kameni, he recently played at the 2008 Olympics, has recently broke into the starting line-up for his country after an impressive season for Monaco, his performances has led the likes of Arsenal, Lyon, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla to show a interest, I predict more teams to join that list in the coming weeks.

GROUP F

Giampolo Pazzini – Italy – 8 caps (1 goal)

I haven’t personally seen a lot of Giampolo since he scored the first goal at the new Wembley Stadium, he had a great season at Sampdoria this year scoring 30 goals and helping Samp reach the Champions League for the first time since they reached the final at the Old Wembley stadium, looking forward to seeing what he can do in the Azzuri blue this summer.

Lucas Barrios – Paraguay – 3 caps (3 goals)

This is a player I am excited for, it could be one of those fairytale stories, moved to Borussia Dortmund from Colo-Colo last summer and he’s had a great season 19 goals in one of Dortmund’s best seasons for a while, I thought he was going to be in the same situation as Darren Bent, scoring goals in the league and not going to the World Cup, but then the Argentinean born forward got a life-line, he received his Paraguayan nationality in March (his mother is from Paraguay) then had to denounce his Argentinean nationality as the country doesn’t recognise Dual-Nationalities.

Lucas hasn’t looked back 3 goals in 3 games, known as being a penalty box predator also good in the air, is the script written for Barrios to lead Paraguay to a place in football history, a Quarter-Final place would be a great result.

Winston Reid – New Zealand – 3 caps (0 goals)

A player I have never seen play, but doing some research I picked him as my All-White player to watch, born in New Zealand but moved to Denmark when he was 10 this towering centre back made waves in Danish football and played for Denmark for the U-19, U-20 and U-21, however in march he declared he would play for New Zealand and made himself available for selection, making the 23 man squad he made his debut against Austrailia in a friendly match, impressing manager Ricki Herbert in his performance.

He has played 85 games for Danish club side FC Midtjylland at only 21 he sounds like a great prospect.

Miroslav Stoch – Slovakia – 12 caps (1 goal)

Another young exciting prospect due to make his bow at the World Cup, was signed for Chelsea in 2006 at 16 years old, spent 3 years in the reserves making 4 senior appearances, he was then sent to Dutch club FC Twente on loan under the tutelage of Steve McClaren, playing 32 games scoring 10 goals and lifting the Dutch title, not a bad season.

Miroslav mirrors his game on the skills of Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, which combines to a winger that loves to score goals, this talent has lead him to change club again, signing with Fenerbahce for next season, I have no doubt he will be a star in Turkey, a player for Italy and Paraguay to fear come June, he will for sure turn a few heads.

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