GK: Iker Casillas (Spain) After a subpar season, Iker reclaimed his crown. Spain gave him no margin for error. He did not make any. He became progressively imperious, mustering crucial saves in each knockout match. Casillas proved he is, quite simply, the best goalkeeper in the world. His girlfriend’s not bad either.
LB: Fabio Coentrao (Portugal) The 22-year-old was a revelation at this tournament. He was quick, creative and skillful going forward, while being steadfast defensively. He linked up well with Cristiano Ronaldo. He was versatile and dominant. Not surprisingly, the world’s biggest clubs took notice.
CB: Carles Puyol (Spain) It’s hard to choose between Captain Caveman and his partner Gerard Pique. Pique is the better passer, but Puyol is the better defender. He was staunch, unyielding and a consummate leader, anchoring the tournament’s best back line. He scored a magnificent header to put Spain through to the final.
CB: Diego Lugano (Uruguay) Forlan gave Uruguay the goals. Lugano gave them the “garra churra,” the fighting spirit. He was a physical defensive presence, well positioned and great in the air at both ends of the pitch. Unfortunately, he hurt his knee during the quarterfinal and missed the semifinal. Uruguay were a different team without him.
RB: Sergio Ramos (Spain) Ramos gave his best effort for club or country since Euro 2008. He was defensively sound and one of Spain’s few persistent, direct threats in the final third. Ramos played with an awareness and intelligence to his game that’s often missing. He almost made me miss Dave O’Brien’s over-embellished “Rrrrrramos!” Almost.
M: Xavi Hernadez (Spain) Xavi was himself, which is the world’s best ball-playing midfielder. It’s impossible to take the ball from him. He passes with a laser-sight. He has unequaled vision. He plays with the uncommon elan, that makes challenging tasks look easy. He was named best player at Euro 2008. He could easily have been in 2010. Xavi hit 2006 Zidane level.
M: Bastien Schweinsteiger (Germany) Schweinsteiger was an attacking winger until this season, but German injuries forced him into a central holding role. He was under enormous pressure to replace Michael Ballack. He did superbly. He controlled the midfield and dictated the tempo. He was a stopper at the back. His natural creativity incited German counterattacks. He was the tournament’s best all-around midfielder.
M: Thomas Muller (Germany) He had a stellar rookie season at Bayern Munich and continued his form through the World Cup. Despite losing his international virginity in March and having just two previous caps, he performed like a seasoned Lothario in South Africa. Five goals, three assists, one Golden Boot and one Best Young Player Award. Like Jozy Altidore, he is only 20.
F: Diego Forlan (Uruguay) Forlan won the Golden Ball, deservedly. Often self-reliant at Atletico Madrid, he was perfectly prepared for his Uruguay role. He handled all the playmaking. He was a goal-scoring threat himself. He mastered the Jabulani Ball and was lethal on set pieces. He was the best player on the pitch in every match he played. He even found time to enjoy some meat.
F: David Villa (Spain) He was one of the few incisive players for Spain, carrying the goal-scoring load nearly single-handedly en route to the final. He was underwhelming when played through the middle, but was lethal when playing with Torres and darting in from the left.
F: Mesut Ozil (Germany) Ozil flourished in a floating attack role behind Klose. Germany hoped he would contribute in the group stage. He was the tournament’s best player. He was slowed a bit in the knockout round, but only because teams game planned to stop him. He showed world-class vision, intuition and technical ability. He had the foresight to get rid of this hairdo before his career defining moment. If Werder Bremen let him leave on a free-transfer after next season, he will be a very, very wealthy man.
[Photo via Getty]