Perhaps dangerously, I have put together my World Cup squad before the final (before even the 3rd place play-off!). However, I have a fair number of Argentinians and Germans in my squad anyway, so the final shouldn’t make too much difference; it might shuffle the order, but probably little more.
So, here, with reasons plus the rest of my squad below, is my World Cup XI:
Now, here’s the full squad with reasons for inclusion.
GK – Victor Enyeama (Nigeria): I know he got a bit flappy towards the end of Nigeria’s second-round match, and this led to at least one of France’s goals, but he did do very well throughout the tournament and gets a place in the starting XI because he’s just so likeable. Perhaps not a great footballing reason.
LB – Phillip Lahm (Germany): One of the best full-backs in the world and Germany have looked better when he has been playing there. I’m playing him on the left because he and Zabaleta were my first choice full-backs, and I think Lahm is intelligent enough to be able to switch flanks.
RB – Pablo Zabaleta (Argentina): One of my favourite full-backs. Hasn’t set the tournament alight, but full-back isn’t a position filled with world-class talent and he is world class so he gets in.
CB – Mats Hummels (Germany): Centre-back is something of an area of expertise for ETNAR and so this was the simplest position to fill. I had a quick look at my CB ranking system (which I think I’ve finally settled on for the World Cup, after much tweaking) and Hummels and Van Buyten were the two best.
CB – Daniel van Buyten (Belgium): Statistically, by my working, the best centre-back of the tournament. The combination of him and Hummels would probably work well with the mix of youth and age.
CM – Andreo Pirlo (Italy): Does it need justification? One of the best passers of the ball in the world, tactically aware, and phenomenally fit given his age.
CM/DM – Javier Mascherano (Argentina): A great defensive midfielder, and would anchor it well, able to slot between or amidst the two centre-backs when the full-backs push forward.
AM/CM – Christian Atsu (Ghana): This is a surprise inclusion but I feel like my XI needs opportunity to be given to youth. Atsu did impress me a bit when I watched Ghana and, at just 22, he could improve into a good player. What is the World Cup about if not heart-over-head inclusions in your tournament XI?
RW – Neymar (Brazil): Partly driven by the fact that his tournament was cut short through injury, but also because he’s quite good too.
LW – James Rodriguez (Colombia): How could you not include the leader (at time of writing) of the Golden Boot in your forward line for your World Cup XI? Has scored goals, some quite good, doesn’t need to be justified further.
CF – Thomas Mueller (Germany): Second place (at time of writing) in the Golden Boot merits his inclusion, but also the fact that he’s a different type of forward to Neymar and James Rodriguez. More likely to poach goals than either of the other two, and that variety is useful.
S1 – Ochoa (Mexico): Were it not for the fact Victor Enyeama is so likeable, he’d be first-choice keeper. On this tournament alone (which is what a tournament XI should be based on) he’s a bloody solid back-up.
S2 – Shaw (England): My squad needs youth and, at 18, Luke Shaw is one of the most promising full-backs there is at the moment. Plus, I kind of felt England should have at least one guy in the squad, just for favouritism purposes, and Sterling got edged out by other players.
S3 – Blind (Netherlands): Unlike Shaw, he’s been a full-back who has actually done well at the tournament (plus he’s quite young, which is good for my squad’s blend). Also, I’ve put two RBs in the starting XI, so why not two LBs on the subs bench.
S4 – De Vrij (Netherlands): Back to centre-backs, ETNAR’s area of expertise. The third best centre-back of the tournament, so gets included.
S5 – Sokratis (Greece): Actually not the fourth CB of the World Cup, but the sixth. However, Cahill was fourth and including him felt wrong (for no real reason other than we were rubbish) and Vlaar was fifth, and it would be unfair to include too many Dutch defenders. As well as this, I wanted some national variation in my squad, and Sokratis fit the bill perfectly, so he gets in. Also, it’s something of a reward for Greece’s could defensive showing at this World Cup.
S6 – Schneiderlin (France): I needed some more youth in my squad’s midfield and I needed it in the defensive area. Another slight heart-over-head decision, as he’s been a favourite ever since a Southampton save on Football Manager Handheld, but that doesn’t meant hat he’s not a good, and promising, player.
S7 – Iniesta (Spain): OK, Spain didn’t have a great tournament, but I needed another great passer of the ball in my squad and I chose Iniesta over the other Spanish passers because, at 30, Iniesta has the most chance of being around at the next World Cup (I’m always thinking ahead).
S8 – Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): Again, he didn’t actually have a great tournament, however, I needed a bit of extra quality in the attacking midfield department. Should I sub CR7 on, the team would move to a more conventional 4-2-3-1 with a FORMIDABLE attacking 3 with Mueller (or Klose, below) up top as the poacher.
S9 – Alexis Sanchez (Chile): A good forward, fairly versatile, and seems like less of an ego than some of the other forwards I’ve got in the squad. If some of those go off in a strop, I feel like I’d be able to stick him on and he’d do a good job.
S10 – Klose (Germany): Broke Ronaldo’s World Cup record against Brazil, it would be harsh not to include him anywhere. Also one of the few out-and-out poachers at the tournament, and one of the best, so will give the squad a little more variety.
S11 – Messi (Argentina): Not had a great tournament but has popped up every now and then with a goal or a great pass. Perhaps the most talented super-sub any squad (real or imagined) will ever have.
S12 – Krul (Netherlands): Penalty specialist.
What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Who would you include (and take out)? Comment below or get me on Twitter @ETNAR_uk