FIFA’s announcement of the world team of the year this week has provoked criticism, with all 11 players competing for teams either in Barcelona or Madrid. Atlético Madrid’s Colombian sensation Falcao is the only player not playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona.
In particular, there has been criticism from those who believe Chelsea, winners of the Champions League, deserve recognition in the team. Petr Cech, Frank Lampard, Ramires and Didier Drogba were all sensational in those Champions League games as Chelsea remarkably made their way to the final in Munich, where they beat their hosts, Bayern. Yet those same players were rather absent as Chelsea were easily brushed aside in the race for a top four place in England. World XIs are meant to be rewards for quality and consistency during the calendar year. Chelsea’s stars showed their ability in a run of cup ties, but their efforts in England could not even match those of Newcastle, who finished above them in the Premier League.
Many journalists who are members of the ‘Ashley Cole – best left back in the world’ camp have questioned the Englishman’s omission. Marcelo, better than Cole? They certainly have a point with that particular claim. Yet Cole is not as good as Barcelona’s Jordi Alba, surprisingly omitted. He is also second best to Bayern Munich’s Phillip Lahm, who enjoyed another solid year, and the Italian full back Federico Balzaretti. The Roma and then Palermo player shone at the European Championships, where his forward running was a key feature of a sprightly and attacking Italy side. He outshone Cole in the quarter final of the tournament. Cole’s claims to be the world’s best left back were over a couple of years ago.
There is some credence to suggest Iker Casillas should not be in the team. He may have had a good Euros, but he has hardly been spectacular in recent months. Rather than Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon should have been selected. He has been irrepressible for Juventus, a team who have just reason to feel mystified as to how none of their number have been chosen for the world XI. They went unbeaten through last season, have been brilliant again this, and their key players – notably the back four of Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci – have been among the world’s best in their positions. They have formed what is surely the finest defence in the game today. And then in front of them are the magical trio of Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and of course, Andrea Pirlo. How Pirlo has been omitted is anyone’s guess. The star of this magical Juventus team and the Italy side which did so well at the Euros, he is deserving of a place alongside the stars of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Borussia Dortmund have been one of the teams of the year, their superb form bringing them a second Bundesliga title in a row. Although it is hard to pick out individuals from a team containing talents such as Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski, they surely deserve one to be selected in the world team. In a year without an outstanding right back, Dortmund’s Lukasz Piszczek has put up a good claim to be the world’s best in his position, and his forward surges have been a key part of their success. Manchester City have won their first league title in decades, snatching a dramatic Premier League crown from rivals Manchester United back in May, Sergio Agüero and Yaya Touré both sensational. And what about Montpellier? The French outfit stunned Paris St Germain by winning Ligue 1 with one of the smallest budgets in the league. A literally come from nowhere title victory which merits acknowledgement, in particular the contributions of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Younes Belhanda and Olivier Giroud. Shakhtar Donetsk too would justify a mention. They enjoyed a simply remarkable run in the Ukrainian league, and have international validation by their performances and progress in the Champions League. They however, have not won anything on the world stage, and so their players have not quite done enough to merit inclusion.
Other teams who were overlooked in the world team of the year include Zambia, whose victory in the African Cup of Nations was built on solid defensive work and intelligent counter attacking, orchestrated by coach Herve Rénard. It is hard to find a place in the team for players who have not shone outside of the African continent though, but they deserve a mention. And then there is the Corinthians side who have won both the Copa Libertadores and the Club World Cup this year. That team is surely justifying a mention, given that they are officially at least, the world’s best team of 2012. Leandro Castán, since departed for Roma, deserves his place in this team, having marshalled a miserly defence which conceded only four goals during the Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup combined.
This is Football.co.uk's World XI of 2012, with players rewarded for both achievements during the year as well as consistent brilliance throughout 2012. Each player is accompanied by the name of the team they have been primarily rewarded for their performances with.