The World Cup Group Stage has finished. Our soccer writers, Ty Duffy and Mike Cardillo, present their Best XI teams for the tournament thus far.
Forwards: Neymar, Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema. Not much to quibble about here really. Robin Van Persie has an opportunity to creep into this group in the knockout stages.
Midfield: Midfield is defined loosely. A team for this tournament just needs more attackers. Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez have been two of the most dominant players in Brazil. Yohan Cabaye’s presence was missed in France’s third match (not to mention the second half of Newcastle’s season). Thomas Muller is a machine.
Defense: Not a great tournament for defenders. Old Man Rafa Marquez has led a resolute line for Mexico. Columbus Crew’s Giancarlo Gonzalez has had an excellent tournament against some of the world’s top forwards with Costa Rica. Kostas Manolas was the best among Greece’s eight center backs.
Goalkeeper: I’ll let Memo Ochoa defend himself.
Forwards: Robben, a winger at the club level, was a revelation at the top of a Dutch attack that’s produced a tournament-high 10 goals so far. I’m opting to leave Neymar and his four goals off the list as more of an indictment of Brazil’s underwhelming group stage performances.
Midfield: Cheating a bit here, listing Müller as a midfielder. Although he doesn’t do much, Müller continually finds himself in the right place to score goals — four of them for Group G-winning Germany. James and Juan Cuadrado have been as good as advertised for Colombia — the most fun team in Brazil. Call me a homer, but I’m listing Jermaine Jones for a pair of blood-and-guts performances (Ghana/Germany) and his game-changing goal vs. Portugal.
Defense: Giancarlo Gonzalez is vote for Costa Rica and the tactics of coach Jorge Luis Pinto. Gary Medel isn’t a central defender by trade, but filled a role for Jorge Sampaoli. Chile was sharp during the group stage and did shut out Spain. Medel completed 92 percent of his passes and amazingly only committed three fouls. Danny Blind has been my favorite player to watch who I’d never previously seen play prior to the World Cup. Can’t wait for an English team to over-pay for him and then completely misuse him in the Premier League.
Goalkeeper: Ochoa, whose game vs. Brazil is probably the best individual showing at the tournament so far.
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