World Cup First and Second XIAs usual, there is a temptation to scribble out what is seen to be the team of the tournament. Of course, the temptation is to load up with attack-minded players, leading to an unbalanced team, but this is Fantasy Football, and flair always wins out over workmanship.
- Gianluigi Buffon: Reliable and commanding. Although ably protected by a strong back four, he made some crucial saves against Ghana, Germany and France that led them to the World Cup.
- Philipp Lahm: Practically unknown before the World Cup, his beautiful curling right-footed shot in the opening game changed all that. Comfortable with both feet and always up to get forward, he provided width and attacking options for an otherwise systematic German team.
- Lúcio: Who says Brazillians can't defend? Reliable and consistent, he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
- Fabio Cannavaro: Man of the tournnament for me. Entered the World Cup as the best central defender currently in the world, and left adding the words "perhaps of all time". Intelligent and athletic, he single-handedly neutralised Henry in the final, as well as covering the foraging Zambrotta and the inconsistent Materazzi. His positioning is immaculate, as demonstrated when he was found twice in two on one situations against France, but made light work of it. And all this without being booked once throughout the tournament.
- Roberto Ayala: Understated full-back who kept Argentina's defence steady, with the initiative to step up when the game was lagging.
- Arjen Robben: Phenomenal in the first game, quietened down a lot after that, he still had the explosive power to change games. Unlucky not to get more against Portugal.
- Maxi Rodríguez: Hard-working with excellent technique, responsible for some of the more outrageous goals of the tournament, including the classic extra-time strike against Mexico. Was the difference when Argentina went forward.
- Zinedine Zidane: Inappropriate use of the head aside, he ably led France through the latter stages by example. His touch is as elegant as ever, with only stamina letting him down (as well has his temper). Played with his heart more than any other player.
- Franck Ribéry: Unknown before the tournament, he crashed into the scene with explosive running and delicate dribbling. Better finishing would have completed him, but is good enough to pin most left-backs to defence (including Grosso in the final).
- Hernán Crespo: Or "Herman" as I like to call him. Deadly finisher, just needed to have a little more luck and he would have gotten the Golden Boot as well. Wasted on the Chelsea bench.
- Miroslav Klose: Has a knack of performing well during the World Cups, and then mothballs into silence in between. Strong, good in the air, and hungry for goals, he helped be both a target man for Germany as well as a point for Podolski to play off.
- Oliver Kahn: Was top-class in the third-place playoff and would not have looked uncomfortable in the first team from the off. Has a more commanding presence in the box than Lehmann, and some argued would have organised the defence better against Italy. On the other hand, he doesn't seem as agile as the Arsenal keeper.
- Ashley Cole: Industrious and quick, he was very competent in defence, as demonstrated when he took Figo out of the game against Portugal. Kept making overlapping runs on the left flank despite Joe Cole's best efforts to not pass to him. Unfortunate he wasn't able to show his best attacking tendencies.
- Carles Puyol: Victim of Henry's inexpliable collapse which led to the goal that put Spain out. Otherwise, commanding in defence, and actually kept France quiet for most of that game.
- Olof Mellberg: Strong in defence, anticipating and defending aerial attacks with aplomb. Unfortunate to be on the wrong end of a confident German team, playing for a Sweden that decided to forgo it's attacking tendencies.
- Gianluca Zambrotta: Although not the best defensively, he more than makes up for it in attack. His opening goal against Ukraine showed the best of him, cutting in from the right-hand side and unleashing a powerful shot from outside the box.
- Cristiano Ronaldo: Put aside his sense of sportsmanship, Ronaldo is a player that can make a difference in a game by himself. Although relatively quiet in the opening matches, he gradually became a tormentor down either flank, although favouring the left. Eventually, the only way to stop him (as France demonstrated) was to put two defenders on him whenever he got the ball.
- Michael Essien: The steel in the Ghanian midfield that turns them from a naive all-out attacking team, to one that does so in the knowledge there is some reliable cover. May have made the difference against Brazil.
- Kaká: Quick and smart, the Brazillian impressed in patches. With a little more luck, could have made a more lasting impression on the tournament.
- Lionel Messi: Fast, agile, always threatening, it is puzzling why he wasn't put on against the Germans, instead of Cambiasso. Didn't but should have had more game time.
- Didier Drogba: Doesn't always impress a club level, but there must be something in the fabric when he puts on his national jersey. Strong, dominating and influential for Ivory Coast, it is unfortunate that they had to play against Argentina and Holland in their group games.
- Marcus Allbäck: In a tournament with few impressive forwards, he caught the eye with his graft and never-say-die attitude. Was the difference against Paraguay, and almost led Sweden to a victory against England. Surprisingly timid against Germany.
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