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Joe Strange - My World Cup XI

Published: 11 Jul 2010 - 09:56:49

With Spain and the Netherlands battling it out in tonight's final in Johannesburg, I take a look back over the tournament to pick my best World Cup XI.

- Uruguay 2-3 Germany - Match Report

- Dream final for Van Bronckhorst

- Xavi - We need to be more clinical

Goalkeeper - Manuel Neuer (Germany)

At just 24-years-old and with barely a senior cap to his name, Neuer was thrown into the starting XI just before the start of the World Cup after regular number one Rene Adler picked up an injury. The Shalke stopper took the responsibility in his stride, turning in a number of impressive performances and conceding just three goals in six games.

Right-back - Sergio Ramos (Spain) 

Spain's rampaging right-back endured a tricky start against Switzerland but has gone on to show the world why he's one of the first names on the Real Madrid team-sheet. His love of getting forward has helped provide his country with some much-needed natural width.

Centre-back - Carles Puyol (Spain)

One of Ramos' defensive partners, Carles Puyol has continued his superb club form in South Africa. A rock in the centre of the Spanish defence, Puyol's bullet header to win the semi-final against Germany just gives him the edge over central defensive partner Gerard Pique.

Centre-back - Per Mertesacker (Germany)

Another member of the surprise German package, Mertesacker marshalled the back-four expertly throughout the group and knockout stages. Although they were eventually defeated 1-0 against Spain in the semi-final, the 6ft 5in central defender helped ensure the likes of Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and David Villa failed to get on the score-sheet against his country.

Left-back - Giovani Van Bronckhorst (Netherlands)

At 35-years-old and in his last ever tournament before retiring from professional football altogether, van Bronckhorst has provided both quality and leadership in equal measure. His stunning 35 yard goal in the semi-final against Uruguay will arguably be remembered as the goal of the tournament.

Right midfield - Mesut Ozil (Germany)

Reasonably unheard of outside of Germany before the World Cup, 21-year-old Ozil announced himself to the world with a series of fine performances for Joachim Low's youthful German side. His pace and ability to run at opponents were key in Germany's free-scoring run to the semi-finals.

Central midfield - Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)

A strong contender for player of the tournament, Wesley Sneijder has played an integral part in the Netherlands' unexpected to charge to this evening's final. After helping lead Inter Milan to an unprecedented treble last season, the former Real Madrid man has been in deadly goal-scoring form with five goals from midfield so far.

Central midfield - Bastien Schweinsteiger (Germany)

Despite the goals of strikers Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose, arguably Germany's most outstanding player in South Africa was central midfielder Schweinsteiger. Given extra responsibility after the withdrawal of the injured Michael Ballack, the Bayern Munich man stepped up with a series of immaculate displays, making huge contributions at both ends of the pitch.

Left midfield - Andres Iniesta (Spain)

Normally considered a central midfielder, Iniesta has blended seamlessly into the left side of Spain's magnificent midfield. One of only three Spanish players to score so far, the Barcelona man's quick passing and movement has been key to his side's domination of possession in most games.

Striker - David Villa (Spain)

What a summer it's been for Spanish front-man David Villa. After completing a £35 million move to Barcelona early last month, the former Real Zaragoza player has been in imperious form in South Africa, bagging five goals in six games so far. Tonight's final gives him the perfect chance to secure both the golden boot and player of the tournament awards.

Striker - Diego Forlan (Uruguay)

Any critics that Diego Forlan still had after his failed stint with Manchester United have been well and truly silenced over the last four weeks. The striker, currently plying his trade with Atletico Madrid, was in sparkling form for Uruguay, scoring four goals in his side’s run to the semi-finals, before adding a stunning volley to his tally in last night's third place play-off defeat to Germany.

SUBSTITUTES

Iker Casillas (Spain)

Johnny Heitinga (Netherlands)

Xavi Hernandez (Spain)

Arjen Robben (Netherlands)

Mark van Bommel (Netherlands)

Thomas Mueller (Germany)

Miroslav Klose (Germany)

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:joe strange
A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.

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