World Cup Early Birds
With the completion of the World Cup’s first round matches, who has impressed you most? TBR compile their best XI for the performances in Matchday 1 of the group stages.
Guilermo Ochoa – Mexico
Starting their World Cup campaign up against African side Cameroon, Mexico were always favourites to win this one, but came under a lot more pressure than they were expecting. Keeping one of very few clean sheets in the first round of fixtures, Ochoa kept the Cameroon side at bay, saving all 5 of the shots of target, the most saves to keep a clean sheet in the tournament so far.
Daley Blind – Netherlands
With no stand out right back and two stand out left back’s, Daley Blind makes the move over to the right hand side to make this side work. With Netherlands smashing Spain 5-1, the biggest result of the World Cup so far. Arjen Robben and Robin Van Perise stole the limelight with two goals each, but Daley Blind also had an outstanding game. Picking up the assist for “that” Van Persie goal, was the highlight of what was a fantastic attacking display, and even in defence he kept the attacking Cesar Azpilicueta in his back pocket as part of a back 5 Louis Van Gaal chose to use.
Jonathan Brooks – USA
Even before Brooks netted the 86th minute winner for the US, he had already put himself right into contention for this team. The Hertha Berlin man was solid at the back, keeping Asamoah Gyan quite for almost the full 45 minutes he was on. Came on at half time for Matt Besler, Brooks who was third choice going into the tournament, looks like he will be first choice from now on, after one of the most impressive centre back performances in this round of fixtures. A winning goal doesn’t help either.
Mats Hummels – Germany
Like Brooks before him, Hummels also bagged a goal in the first round of fixtures, at the hands of a helpless Portuguese side. Once Portugal were reduced to ten men, Germany were in cruise control, but any counter attack Paulo Bento’s side put together was stopped in it’s path by both Hummels and Mertesacker, with Hummels winning 92% of his headers, the highest in the tournament.
Ricardo Rodriguez – Switzerland
The actual left-back in my team goes to Rodriguez, the Wolfsburg man who can’t help but bomb down that left hand side for 90 minutes of a game. A late, late Swiss goal earned them a 2-1 victory over South American side Ecuador, and both goals were assisted by Rodriguez. Now 21, Rodriguez has attracted interest from all over Europe in the last few years, and his performance earlier this week reignited these interests back in England, with Liverpool sniffing around the youngster. He once again showed his attacking prowess, in what is the future of full back’s in world football.
Raheem Sterling – England
Thrown into the deep end by Roy Hodgson against Italy, the 19 year old looked like a veteran on the international stage. Sterling didn’t disappoint however, getting some early touches on the ball and firing a 30 yard striker which had almost everyone celebrating what we thought was a first goal and a lead, only for replays to show the ball rattled the side netting. Awkward. The youngster gave the fairly unexperienced Italian Gabriel Paletta a tough evening, getting past his man on more than one occasion, but just lacked a bit of end product at times. Overall, Sterling was one of many England’s youngsters who excited the nation with their first half performance against the 2006 World Cup winners, but with a 2-1 loss, Sterling will have to go again in a must win against Uruguay on Thursday.
Oscar – Brazil
The Chelsea man was very unlucky not to pick up the man of the match performance in the opening game of the tournament, with a goal and an assist to his name, adding the spark into Brazil’s opening game in front of the expectant fans. Wrapping his performance up with a late goal to seal the game, Oscar had one of the best performances of the round, and Brazil will be pinning their hopes on him to progress through the rest of the group games.
Andrea Pirlo – Italy
Once again, the Italian playmaker showed himself to be one of the most elegant footballers in world football, even at the age of 35. Arguably Candreva, his Italian team mate had an equally good game, but you can’t help but be mesmerised by the playmaker, dictating the tempo yet again, killing the game when it was needed, and taking the game to the English when he sensed they were on the back ropes. A 96% pass completion rate, Pirlo showed exactly what England miss in their side, a world class holding midfielder.
James Rodriguez – Colombia
The Monaco playmaker was always going to be one of Colombia’s key men with Radamel Falcao out of the tournament, and in their opening game against Greece, Rodriguez didn’t disappoint. Playing in the 3 in behind Falcao’s replacement Gutierrez, Rodriguez topped up what was a convincing 3-0 win for the Colombians with his first World Cup goal. An assist for Pablo Armero which got them off the mark, but the key from his game was the composure, and pockets of space he almost always seemed to have throughout the 90 minutes.
Thomas Muller – Germany
The first name that came to mind when discussing a best team so far, Muller was simply sensational. Joint top goal scorer, along with own goals, the Bayern Munich attacker deployed in a striker role bagged himself a hat trick to dispatch of Portugal with relative ease. Player a role in getting Pepe sent off, it was a cruise for the Germans in the end. A penalty, and two decent finishes saw Thomas Muller pick up the Man of the Match award, and fully deserved to that. Many expected Klose to start as the only recognised ‘striker’ in the squad, but he may struggle to beat the World Cup goals record with Muller playing so well. 8 World Cup goals in 7 World Cup games is a sensational record for the 24 year old.
Arjen Robben – Netherlands
A toss up between Robben and Van Persie after Netherlands handed out a 5-1 battering of reigning World champions Spain in their opening game in Group B. World class tactics from new Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal saw Netherlands win on just 36% possession, the most effective counter attacking style seen so far. Both Robben and Van Persie scored world class goals, so it was hard to pick between the two, but the touch and run for Robben’s goals are some of the best I’ll ever see in a World Cup, so for that reason it had to be him. Everytime he picked up the ball, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique were seen quaking in their boots, facing yet another rinsing in a terrible night for the Spaniards.