We could make this easy- throw in the Spanish, the Germans, and Diego Forlan. But here is my World Cup XI picks. Remember this is a sort of subjective opinion of the best players, so what their team accomplished although influential, has less bearing. We could have put the whole Spanish defense in because they obviously won the World Cup but that's not the point.
Manuel Neuer (goalkeeper: Germany): Not even his country's first choice, Neuer had a flawless World Cup. He was calm, collected, showed great reflexes and fantastic ball distribution. Germany's quick counterattacking style had much to do with Neuer's ability to pick out the best player to carry the ball forward. John Terry found that out much to England's detriment. Neuer beats out Iker Casillas purely on this strength. And yes, he also made some pretty great saves against Serbia and Spain. Both losses but not because of him.
Fabio Coentrao (left back, Portugal): Anyone following Benfica should be familiar with his name. On a Portugese team that seemed devoid of endeavour except for that North Korea game, Coentrao made these bombing runs down the left and whipping in quality crosses to Hugo Almeida. He was also very quick at tracking back and showed he could tackle and make timely clearances. Ashley Cole came with a bigger reputation but really did not do justice.
John Mensah (right center back, Ghana): Powerful and battling. Mensah was out there in full force matching the Germans and the Uruguayans in defensive intensity. It took an inspired goal by Mesut Oezil and a spectacular free kick by Diego Forlan to bypass that obdurate heart of the Ghanaian defense. Against Uruguay, Mensah neutralized Luis Suarez and made Germany feel Klose's absence. He may have missed that PK but Mensah gave Ghana's defense the shape and discipline against their higher flying opponents.
Madjid Bougherra (left center back, Algeria): A surprising choice. But Boughie was a rock in a decidedly underwhelming Algeria team. Go beyond Algeria's first round exit and you will see why Algeria ground England to a draw and made USA sweat agonizingly for one of their most famous wins. He won all his tackles. Cleared the ball out of danger effectively and used his height and physicality to disrupt the fast running Americans and neutralize Wayne Rooney. No wonder they love him at Rangers.
Jorge Fucile (right back, Uruguay): One tough uncompromising dude. Does anyone remember him flying through the air and landing sickeningly on his head? That was a scary, scary moment but Fucile was up within moments and battling the Mexicans. He shut down the left against the Germans and forced them to go right to win third place. Fucile will never be mistaken for a goalscorer like Maicon but for general all round disruption, running end to end, chasing balls, and saving a goal through a timely tackle - he is your man.
Xabi Alonso (center midfielder, Spain): He continues to show why Liverpool miss him- Alonso also showed why you don't have to be Mark Van Bommel to successfully hold midfield. A disciplined presence anchored in the center of midfield, Alonso proved to be a seamless relay between the backfield and supporting Xavi, the creative engine of the Spanish midfield. Not afraid of letting fly from distance, he provided the Netherlands with a clear choice - his clean, hard tackling.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (center midfielder, Germany): Schweini was a peripatetic midfielder, roaming through the length and the breadth of the pitch, involved with virtually every aspect of attack and defense- providing the assists for Mueller and Klose to pick apart Argentina. Probably his finest match. Running tirelessly for almost 80 km in his six matches he forged a tight relationship with Thomas Mueller, Mesut Oezil, and Sami Khedira. Not shy with his tackles either and amongst the better defenders in this World Cup.
Thomas Mueller (right attacking midfielder, Germany): Sensational World Cup for this barely 21 year old. Five goals, three assists. The world became familiar with the figure of the lanky Bayern Munich striker flying in from the right to administer the coup de grace on England and Argentina. Gerd Muller said it best: "The lad has everything. He's quick, he shoots with both feet, he's good in the air, and he makes terrific runs down the channels. He's a quick thinker, he reads the game well, and he has that precious nose for goal."
Xavi (centre attacking midfielder, Spain): Passer extraordinaire. The man who symbolizes tiki taka, controls the cadence and the pace of a match like Herbert Von Karajan. It may take some time but Xavi will pick apart that defense with a precise pass. Against Netherlands, each time the Spanish attack got thrown off under intimidation, there was Xavi resetting the attack. He is one of the great Barcelona number 4's but his evolution as an attacking midfielder is the real story. Against Netherlands 97 passes with 90 accurate. 15 deliveries into the penalty box. With Xavi around, there is always a chance that you will win.
Andres Iniesta (left attacking midfielder, Spain): Silky smooth, fantastic ball control. Iniesta may cut a slight, pale figure but he can glide effortlessly around those big defenders on that left channel. And yes, he seems to have a nose for the big moment- against Chelsea last year in the CL semi-final and now against the Netherlands. Great first touch to control that Fabregas pass and boom the ball sent rocketing past Stekelenberg breaking Dutch hearts. Great comeback too from an injury plagued season at Barca.
Diego Forlan (centerforward/ attacking midfielder/ second striker, Uruguay): The story on Diego Forlan was that he was a fox in the box and during his Man Utd days, not a particularly good one. But this was not a Gary Lineker type of opportunism- this was a player who was dazzling in his array of attacking skills. Free kicks, corners, volleys, sizzling open field shots, and assist man. He did it in the penalty box, he did outside the penalty box. And he won't be at Atletico much longer either.
On the bench:
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Spain), Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)
Defenders: Maicon (Brazil), Carles Puyol (Spain), Paulo Da Silva (Paraguay), Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (Netherlands)
Midfielders: Keisuke Honda (Japan), Landon Donovan (USA), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Mark Van Bommel (Netherlands)
Strikers: David Villa (Spain), Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
What are your choices?