In a tournament that was more about team work, passion and togetherness, many so-called world-class players struggled to live up to their reputations. There were though, some surprise stars and some big names who made the world jump out of their seats. Here is my team of stars from the 2010 World Cup:
The Spanish ‘keeper was reduced to tears after Spain claimed their first World Cup triumph in their history. The 29-year-old was participating in his third World Cup and, after a shaky start against Switzerland in the first game, the Real Madrid star looked assured throughout. Casillas, as captain, had the honour of lifting the trophy for his country, and was voted ‘Goalkeeper of the tournament’ by FIFA.
The Benfica defender had a fine tournament within a side that disappointed greatly. With Cristiano Ronaldo struggling to live up to expectations, Portugal were knocked out by Spain in the quarter-finals. Coentrao, though, shone in South Africa, with many top sides now apparently in the hunt for the left-back.
A New Zealand player in the World Cup team of the tournament is not exactly the norm. The Blackburn Rovers centre-back, though, looked assured and strong amongst a team that went way above expectations, finishing third in the group, above Italy. Nelsongave the ‘All Whites’ much needed experience and Premier League quality to help them do their country proud.
Ghana performed above-and-beyond expectations and had the whole of Africa depending on them after they were the last representatives from Africa left in the tournament. A major part of the Black Stars’ success was the formidable defence, which was boosted by another star Kevin-Prince Boateng, who could also be a contender for a place in this team of the tournament. Mensah was on loan at Sunderland last season and there are rumours that the centre-back, who provided stability and experience alongside the youthfulness of Isaac Vorsah, could make a return to the Premier League this season. Mensah currently plays for French side Lyon, who will be eager to retain the services of the Ghanaian captain.
Brazil had a disappointing tournament, with stars such as Kaka and Luis Fabiano drastically under-performing. Juan, though, was the rock in a side that was more defensive than fans of Brazil are used to seeing. The Roma centre-back scored against Chile in the second round and provided strength and power to a side that lacked any diversity or determination under manager Dunga, who has now been relieved of his duties.
The German midfielder was an unexpected star at this year’s World Cup as Germany’s young side made it all the way to the semi-finals, where they were beaten by Spain. Schweinsteiger was a much needed head of experience amongst young players such as Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira, and the Bayern Munich winger possessed great technique and agile footing to control games, especially against England and Argentina.
Schweinsteiger’s club teammate may be more accustomed to playing through the middle for his side, but Muller made the right-hand side his own as he scored four goals in the tournament, a great feat for a player who hadn’t scored for his country before these finals. The Bayern Munich forward got a brace against England to send the disappointing nation home, with many teams in England now being linked to the striker. Muller, though, looks set to sign a new contract with Bayern. The German scored five goals in South Africa to put himself above players such as Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina and national teammate Miroslav Klose, who was denied the chance to match Brazilian forward Ronaldo’s World Cup record of scoring the most goals, after he was left out of the starting line up to face Uruguay in the third-place play-off. Muller was given the Young Player of the Tournament award by FIFA. Muller also won the Golden Shoe award, which is given to the top goalscorer in the tournament. As Muller was level on goals with David Villa, Diego Forlan and Wesley Sneijder, the award went to the player with the most assists, with Muller claiming the victory with his three assists.
The Spanish star scored the winner in the final and was by far the best player on the pitch, not just in the final but in every game Spain played in. His passing, first touch and eye for goal is something that can only be dreamed of by an Englishman, and the fact that he plays in a midfield that consists of Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso, whilst leaving out Cesc Fabregas, shows that Spain truly are the best team in the world and fully deserved their victory over Holland.
The Dutch playmaker scored five goals for the World Cup finalists, with Sneijder providing the skill and technique needed to supply players such as Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. Unlike teammates Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong, who seemed determined to kick teams off the park in most encounters, Sneijder looked to link up well with strikers and wingers, whilst taking control in games against Brazil and Uruguay. The Inter Milan midfielder was another player to narrowly miss out on the Golden Shoe award, with Muller claiming the prize on assists.
After signing for Barcelona before the World Cup had even began, many expected big things from the Spanish striker. He didn’t disappoint. Five goals and some wonderful performances have forced many to believe that he is the best striker in the world. He didn’t exactly set the world alight in the final, but Holland closed Villa out of the game, giving the striker no chance of creating anything in the match. The fact that Villa wasn’t a big part of the game may have contributed to the final being a poor showing, as Spain seemed to lack that cutting edge that the new Barcelona striker has. Villa narrowly missed out on the Golden Shoe award to Muller.
The Uruguayan striker may not have been all that impressive at Manchester United, but Forlan scored five goals in the World Cup, all of which were absolute belters. The Atletico Madrid forward played just behind Suarez and Edinson Cavani, and showed his experience and expertise in hitting the target on various occasions. These fine performances have lead many to believe that Forlan could make a return to the Premier League, with Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth the most linked side. Forlan, though, says that he is happy in Spain. Forlan was awarded the Golden Ball award, an accolade for the best player in the tournament which is voted for by journalists at the competition.
Manager: Joachim Low
The German manger made some questionable decisions when picking his 23-man squad, mainly the fact that he left out Torsten Frings, who many thought would be the man to replace the injured Michael Ballack. However, Low included Lukas Podolski, who had had a poor season at Bayern Munich but shone in South Africa, while youngsters such as Muller, Khedira and Mesut Ozil played starring roles. His German side brushed aside England and Argentina with 4-1 and 4-0 wins respectively, although they could not get past a surprisingly resolute Spain side. Low, though, showed that he wasn’t afraid to pick better players rather than bigger names, something that Fabio Capello could learn from.