Thursday, June 26, 2014

World Cup Best XI After Group Stage

Here is our second edition of the World Cup Best XI, and this one comes right after the end of the group stages. Once again, so that I can fit as many top players as possible into the starting lineup, I will allow myself a small bit of leniency with the positions.
Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico, Goalkeeper - Ochoa features in the starting XI once again, as he had another brilliant game against Croatia, following two huge performances against Brazil and Cameroon. Ochoa's reflexes and decision-making have been absolutely superb thus far and Mexico will need him to stay at top form if they are going to slip past the Netherlands.

Serge Aurier, Ivory Coast, Right Back - The only person to make this XI from a team who has been eliminated, Aurier has not been incredible so far, but other right backs have been so underwhelming that there are almost no other options. Aurier had two assists in his first game against Japan, but was kept quiet against Colombia and Greece, although he still put in solid defensive performances.

Kenneth Omeruo, Nigeria, Center Back - Omeruo, like Aurier, is a beneficiary of the fact that there have been very few impressive defenders so far in the tournament. Omeruo has led a surprisingly fantastic Nigeria back line, shutting down Iran and then Bosnia (he man-marked Edin Dzeko for much of the game). Though he struggled at times to contain Lionel Messi and the Argentinian attack, his talent was still able to shine through a couple times, as he made several outstanding tackles and clearances.

Johan Djourou, Switzerland, Center Back - After France demolished Switzerland in their second group game, the Swiss back line looked as if they were in shambles. However, Djourou helped them regain form against Honduras, and he looked like the man who we saw in the Swiss opener against Ecuador. Excluding the game against France, Djourou has been undoubtedly the best center back in the tournament.

Daley Blind, The Netherlands, Left Back - Once again, there haven't been too many defenders that have impressed so far in the World Cup, but Blind has probably been the best of all of them. After dominating in the Netherlands' first game against Spain, Blind struggled a bit against Australia, but then was back to top form against Chile.

Arjen Robben, The Netherlands, Right Midfield - Arjen Robben has been, without a doubt, the best player in this World Cup so far. He has tallied three goals and an assist, all of which have been vital to the Netherlands' dominant performances in Group B. Robben's speed, dribbling, and shooting are all fantastic, but the most remarkable thing about Robben's game is that everybody knows that he can only go left but he continues to succeed in doing it.

James Rodriguez, Colombia, Center Midfield - Everybody knew J-Rod was good, but nobody knew he was this good. Rodriguez has three goals and two assists for Colombia and is the main reason why the team has been so incredibly impressive. Rodriguez just moved to Monaco for about 45 million dollars, but his transfer stock has to be rising even more with his performances in this World Cup.

Neymar, Brazil, Left Midfield - Neymar was left off of our previous XI because, even though he was scoring goals, he wasn't having the consistent effect on matches that we expect out of him. Well, in his last game against Cameroon, Neymar finally showed off all of his talents with a dominant performance all over the pitch and was rewarded with two goals.

Thomas Muller, Germany, Striker - Questions were being asked about the German striker position before the World Cup started, but Muller, who is not a natural striker, has really dominated the role for Germany. With four goals already this year, Muller now has 9 total World Cup goals and is on pace to become the greatest World Cup scorer of all time.

Lionel Messi, Argentina, Striker - Does anybody still think that Messi isn't the best player in the world? The last thing that Messi had to do was to perform for Argentina at the biggest stage, and he has certainly done that so far, with an impressive total of four goals. He wasn't in our last starting XI because he wasn't dominating every facet of the game like he should (much like Neymar) but in his most recent game against Nigeria, Messi showed us why many consider him to be the best.

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