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My (very subjective) team of the FIFA World Cup

The penalty shootout is a tragic way to lose a match. (AP Photo / Franz Mann)
Roar Rookie
15th July, 2014
22

Apologies in advance if you clicked on this expecting to read an article on the best of the best from Brazil 2014.

In fact if you did it’s probably best if you read no further, as the below squad has been assembled with scant regard to any of their footballing ability.

Instead it is a collection of individuals who brought untold joy to my rather juvenile footballing mind during this World Cup. That being said I’d also love to hear which players brought a smile to your face over the past 31 glorious days of football.

Keylor Navas
This squad would have lost all credibility without a Tico on the books – and who better to have than Keylor Navas. Costa Rica’s indomitable keeper cum captain was at the heart of their magical run that saw the mighty Ticos belittle a string of highly fancied opponents on their way to the quarter finals.

While many keepers have impressed in this World Cup, I don’t think that any did as much as Navas in dragging their team over the line. Only conceding two goals, one from the penalty spot and the other with his defence down to ten men, he was truly the chastity belt of Brazil 2014.

He also receives extra credit for his second round penalty heroics, which prevented a potential repeat of Portugal ’04.

Gary Medel
Even if Medel wasn’t my favourite player of the cup (which he was), he would’ve made my squad anyway via his very Chilean first name. Gazza epitomised all that was great about Chile’s World Cup tilt.

As the man they call pitbull – I’m guessing as much for his atheistic qualities, as for his efforts on the pitch – was unrelenting, passionate, professional and above all bloody effective in playing his more fancied and better preened opponents off the pitch. Don’t believe me? Then watch the Cardiff City man’s performance against Brazil, where he ran his body into the ground for 109 minutes, while carrying a thigh strain.

In the process he neutralised one of the faces of the World Cup, picking up a cheeky little slap to the back of the head from the Brazilian ‘maestro’ Fred for his troubles. The sight of the great man in tears as he was stretchered off in Belo Horizonte, his mind still willing after his body had long past forsaken him, was for me one of the more heartbreaking images of the cup.

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Benoît Assou-Ekotto
As a Tottenham fan I feel obliged to stand up for an ex-Spurs squad member. The now QPR man was widely chastised for head-butting teammate Benjamin Moukandjo during Cameroon’s loss to Croatia, however I feel that his actions were wildly misunderstood.

I’d ask you to please take a minute and look at his haircut for god’s sake. I mean who in their right mind thinks that they can do any damage with a head-butt when they have the equivalent comfort of a Sealy Posturepedic on their cranium.

Now I’m not one to defend the average IQ of the professional footballer, but even I don’t think they can be that stupid. No, Benoît is simply a caring teammate who after seeing Moukandjo physically and emotionally wrecked watching Croatia walk in their fourth goal, simply offered him the cushiony comfort of his afro to rest his weary head.

Assou-Ekotto, you are absolved in my books, as if you had of actually wanted to cause some damage surely you would’ve gone down the Song route.

David Luis
I did like the fact that the raw passion of the Brazilian nation became encapsulated in the body of someone who looked like they were about to audition for the Brazilian version of the IT crowd. However, I’ve my reason for picking David Luis is more because he generally looks like a nice guy – a rare commodity in the world of professional sport.

I must admit to being heartbroken watching his interview after the disaster that was the German game, especially after seeing him console James Rodriguez four days earlier in Salvador which for me was one of the moments of the Cup.

Both events showed his class as a human being and David all I can say is look on the bright side, at least you don’t have to play for Chelsea next season.

Patrice Evra
Previously I’d always looked to the German coaches for the latest in World Cup fashion trends. Klinsmann was a sight for sore eyes with his incredibly cut shirt in ’06, while Joachim Löw one upped him with a knitted sweater/suit combo in South Africa.

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Unfortunately both have been disappointing this World Cup with Jurgen looking to appeal to the sartorially challenged Americans in trackpants and a polo shirt, while Löw’s dark attire looked as if he was attending a funeral – he must have seen the Brazil result coming.

Thankfully up stepped the French, who while lacking in most areas, do make up for it by being masters at the effortlessly dapper. So impressive did they look on arrival for their quarter final in their meticulously tailored suits that I forgot my golden rule – never bet against Germany – and wasted $20 on them sneaking into the semi-finals.

As a result, I could’ve picked any Frenchman in this team however, as I’m in dire need of an extra defender I’ve gone with their stalwart left back Patrice Evra.

Patrice, I don’t care if your World Cup ended in a whimper, as long as you bring some of that stylish elegance to this squad you’ll always be winner in my book.

Matthew Leckie
One of the standout Socceroos of the tournament, Leckie instead makes the team for embodying the professionalism needed if Australian football is to prosper at this level – that is he’s not afraid to dive.

His little self-induced tumble in the box against the Dutch may have brought the ire of some fans, but I say fair play to him. Plus Leckie’s subsequent retort to Ron Vlaar’s stern rebuke also showed every young Australian you can dive without loosing any of your Aussieness.

Confronted by the monstrous Dutchman, Leckie offered the simple but effective Australian challenge of ‘fight me constable’. As Vlaar does actually look like an old school 1970s Bobby who would be happy to baton someone to death and then write it off as a minor misdemeanour, I thought Leckie showed great courage in standing his ground metaphorically if not literally. So welcome to the team Matthew for diving without becoming un-Australian.

Sulley Muntari
Muntari makes the team solely because he looks like Chris Partlow from The Wire. I was so sure that Marlo’s right hand man had turned out for Ghana, that I was half expecting him to start dropping bodies after they went 2-1 behind late on to Americans.

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Upon hearing that he was dropped for disciplinary reasons before the Portugal game, I was then waiting for news reports about bodies of the Baltimore based members of Team USA being found boarded up in some of Natal’s vacant row houses.

Alas, it wasn’t to be and Muntari was merely stood down for criticising the amateur nature of Ghana’s team management, before assaulting a Ghanaian staff member. And fair enough, Marlo would’ve never stood for such disorganisation.

Ezequiel Lavezzi
This guy has completely revolutionised how to deal with a coach who has the temerity to give you a verbal spray. First, you turn your back and pretend you’re not listening. Then when they least expect it return serve with a squirt from your Powerade branded water bottle, before having a cheeky giggle about their now water damaged suit.

What ramifications can you expect? A silly little fine and your coach defending you to the press, as he warmly congratulates you on being a positive influence to the team, i.e. none what-so-ever.

So well played Lavezzi, as while you were unlucky not to be crowned a world cup winner, you have completely rewritten the rule book for dealing with those pesky coaches who dare suggest you’re not doing your job out on the pitch.

James Rodriguez
Here, I must admit to my footballing ignorance. You see I wanted to get behind a South American team for the World Cup and plumped for Colombia – who I’d heard were talented and had a relatively easy group.

Unfortunately the only Colombian player I actually knew in Falcao got injured two days after I put $50 on them to make the semi-finals. Consequently, I sat down to watch their first game against Greece on the look out for a new Colombian to call my own.

Immediately a little white looking dude called James caught my attention, I mean what was he doing playing for Colombia? After hypothesising that he may have been a talented English youngster whose backpacking trip turned into a permanent stay courtesy of a love for the local produce, I decided I best do some research.

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This told me a few things. Firstly his last name is Rodriguez, I should be pronouncing his first name Hamez and Manchester United stupidly knocked back the chance to sign him. One thing was for certain though, I had definitely backed the right horse.

His outstanding performances during the cup saw him emerge as one of the players of the tournament. He was so good in fact that he almost didn’t make the team, purely as was I worried about accusations of jumping on the Hamez bandwagon.

Who am I kidding though, I’m loudly and proudly on that bandwagon and why not? The kid is gun.

Thomas Mueller
Would’ve got a guernsey for being the oldest looking 24-year-old at the World Cup, if not for the fact that Benjamin Button was handing out a masterclass in the number 11 jersey for Holland.

Not content with simply being a very old head on a young body however, the wily Jerry went above and beyond in showcasing a Jekyll and Hyde skill-set that secured him a place in my team. During pool play it was the tough, uncompromising socks down, bloodied cheek Mueller that caught my eye and almost had me mistaking him for a rugby player.

At this time I also became aware of the fact that he’d apparently taken nine World Cup shots for eight goals, highlighting the lad’s sheer class and efficiency. The icing on the cake though was the drama he seemed to create in almost every fixture. Sitting down to watch a German game it was a given that at the middle of every scuffle would be Mueller yapping away like an angry Ducky from The Land Before Time.

His status as pantomime villain was further set in stone with David Luiz’s comedic swing and a miss, as he tried to drill the ball into Mueller after a robust tackle from the young German.

So here’s to you Thomas Mueller. You are a young man (I know, I don’t believe it either) who can be exciting, infuriating, loveable, tedious, brave and damn right annoying all in the space of 10 minutes.

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Thomas I don’t know if you’re a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma or just very, very German, but either way I like you. You’re in my team son.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Call me vindictive, see if I care. Ok, so I do a little bit, but that doesn’t change the fact I quite enjoyed watching Ronaldo fail miserably at this World Cup. The thing is it could’ve all been so different Cristiano.

I was actually starting to warm to you before the ridiculousness of your shirtless Champions League goal celebration – although maybe I’m being too harsh, mate. I mean the fact you hadn’t been sighted before the unnecessariness of your naked eight pack might have meant your number seven jersey was actually a Harry Potter style invisibility cloak worn to confuse Athletico’s defence.

With time up you could’ve quite rightly been unveiling yourself to the watching global audience and if so I apologise, otherwise I’m sticking with my hunch that you’re a bit of a tool.

Either way I got great delight out of Portugal’s campaign crumbling around a captain who decided the reason they couldn’t win was because the rest of team simply wasn’t as good as him.

As true as that statement maybe, learn some class man! Otherwise I’ll have you subbed out of this team, as quickly as you can say “four more years”.