World Cup all-tournament team has a few surprises
By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2010 FIFA World Cup featured the four most recent World Player of the Year winners, but none of them performed well enough in South Africa to earn a spot on our all-tournament team.
Perhaps Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro, who won the award after the Italians won the World Cup four years ago, is past his prime. The others - Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka - were almost invisible, and less understandably so.
Instead, a new individual winner emerged, and you can take your pick between Spain's Xavi and Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder. It would be a miracle of one of those two doesn't win the award in January. Meanwhile, Uruguay veteran Diego Forlan played the tournament of his life, and 20-year-old German Thomas Muller reminded soccer observers of his legendary namesake, Gerd Muller.
Forlan won the Golden Ball as the top player, ahead of Sneijder. and Xavi, who settled for the World Cup title thanks to a 1-0 win over the Dutch. Muller was named the Best Young Player and also won the Golden Boot as the top scorer.
Spain's Iker Casillas captured the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper.
In the spirit of all the recent hardware distribution, here is our 2010 World Cup all-tournament team:
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)
Casillas arrived in South Africa as arguably the best goalie in the world, and leaves as the clear No. 1. Spain's captain, just 29, played his 111th match in the World Cup final. Although the Real Madrid man was not as busy as some goalies, Casillas had five shutouts in the tournament and made a few huge saves to lead his squad to the title via four 1-0 victories in the knockout stage.
Defender: Maicon (Brazil)
Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals for the second straight tournament, but Maicon does not deserve any of the blame. The best right back in the world just cemented his status as one of the elite players in the world. He provided offense and defense while still exhibiting the well-known Brazilian flair, and the Inter Milan superstar scored an unbelievable goal against North Korea.
Defender: Diego Lugano (Uruguay)
Uruguay was a different club when Lugano started, as evidenced by the fact that the team gave up just two goals in its first five games with him in the lineup. In the semifinals, Lugano sat out with injury, and the Netherlands capitalized by scoring three times in a 3-2 win. Uruguay's captain is a relative unknown, but look for the center back in Champions League qualifying with Fenerbahce.
Defender: Carles Puyol (Spain)
Puyol would be confused with comedian Carrot Top if his hair was orange, but there's certainly nothing funny about his play. The Barcelona captain is one of the most steady defenders in the world, and teamed with Gerard Pique in the middle in South Africa to make life pretty easy for Casillas. Puyol scored the winning goal in the semifinals against Germany as well.
Defender: Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Netherlands)
Van Bronckhorst announced his retirement before the World Cup, and the veteran ended his career in style. The Dutch captain started all seven games, with the final ranking as his last competitive match. Van Bronckhorst notched the best goal of the tournament in the semifinals with a 40-yard blast in a 3-2 victory over Uruguay, and anchored a solid back line.
Midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
Schweinsteiger has been a threat on the outside of midfield for years, but his move into the center last season for Bayern Munich led to his role as midfield engineer for Germany in the World Cup. Schweinsteiger made Germany forget that captain Michael Ballack was out injured, as nearly every play went through the 25-year-old, who is etching his name among the country's all-time greats.
Midfielder: Xavi (Spain)
Xavi's worst performance came in the World Cup final, but he did not play badly. Spain's midfielder maestro was impressive throughout the entire tournament and by leading Spain to its first title, may have positioned himself to take the World Player of the Year award away from Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi. Xavi was easily the biggest influence on Spain's title run.
Midfielder: Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
Sneijder nearly completed an incredible quadruple in the World Cup, but fell a bit short after leading Inter Milan to the Coppa Italia, Serie A and Champions League titles. The World Cup title would have sealed World Player of the Year, but even if Sneijder does not win it, he is still deserving. Sneijder not only set up the Dutch offense and chipped in on defense, but added five goals.
Midfielder: Thomas Muller (Germany)
Germany's 20-year-old sensation scored five goals (on just five shots on goal) and had three assists to capture the tournament's Best Young Player award - in addition to the Golden Boot as the top scorer in the World Cup. Muller settled for a four-way tie on goals scored with Sneijder, David Villa and Forlan, but the Bayern Munich man had the tiebreaker on assists.
Forward: Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
Forlan came within inches of winning the Golden Boot when his last-second shot in the third-place match against Germany smashed off the crossbar. Regardless, the Atletico Madrid star played an inspiring tournament to help Uruguay remain in the competition longer than any other South American team, including Brazil and Argentina. He owned the Jabulani in South Africa.
Forward: David Villa (Spain)
Villa was Spain's savior in the World Cup, scoring five of the country's seven goals through the semifinals and assisting on one. Although he was shut out in the final, Villa proved his worth with star teammate Fernando Torres invisible throughout the tournament. It is nice to have Xavi and company setting up goal after goal, but Villa did what strikers have to do, and that is finish.
Substitute: Miroslav Klose (Germany)
Klose, 32, had four goals in just a little over four matches - he was sent off in the first half against Serbia and suspended against Ghana - to increase his all-time World Cup total to 14 goals. He had three goals in knockout play, and could have tied or overtaken Brazil's Ronaldo for the all-time record of 15 but missed the third-place match with a back injury.
Substitute: Andres Iniesta (Spain)
Iniesta sometimes does not get enough credit playing alongside Xavi but he did not depart South Africa without leaving the most lasting impression: the game- winning goal in the 116th minute of the World Cup final. Xavi and Iniesta work together like no other midfield duo in the world, and were the biggest reasons Spain won Euro 2008 and its first World Cup.
Substitute: Philipp Lahm (Germany)
Lahm, 26, was the youngest German captain in World Cup history and did nothing to ruin his status as one of the game's best outside backs. If not for Maicon, Lahm would easily be the starter at right back. He started at left back in the last World Cup - when Germany also finished third - and could easily step into either spot.
07/11 20:35:44 ET