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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 6 hours ago
Read
Dec 24, 2010

Global Team of Year

Julio Cesar - Inter Milan. He has not gained the same kind of press as some of his rivals, but the Brazilian is perhaps the best in the world between the sticks. His reflexes have saved Inter on numerous occasions and his flying save to deny Lionel Messi in the Champions League semi-finals has to go down as one of the best. A commanding and agile goalkeeper, he has formed the backbone of the Italian champions over the last five years and was a major part of their Treble-winning success this year.

• ESPNsoccernet Review of the Year
• ESPNsoccernet staff's picks

Philipp Lahm - Bayern Munich. Lahm leaps ahead of Daniel Alves because of the Brazilian's failure to knock Maicon off his perch for his country. The German defender has been one of the first players on the team-sheet for club and country for years and provides an attacking outlet as well as defensive solidity, even if he is open to attacks from the air. A naturally two-footed player, his versatility is important and helped Bayern reach the Champions League final, while also sealing a domestic Double of league and cup.

Carles Puyol - Barcelona. A more committed defender, you will not find; Puyol embodies the spirit of defending, throwing himself in front of shots and tearing into tackles. The Spanish veteran suffered from criticism last year, but has bounced back to become the foundation of Barcelona's domestic success and Spain's domination of the world stage. While he was partly responsible for Spain conceding just two goals in South Africa, he also proved to be an important player at the other end of the pitch as he netted the winner against Germany.

Gerard Pique - Barcelona. Alongside Puyol's brand of committed, all-action defending, Pique brings the cool head and distribution that makes the two players dovetail so well. Not short of aggression and power himself, the former Manchester United defender can control his opponents in the air and on the ground, while also providing a platform for his more creative team-mates to attack. Adding to his medal collection with another La Liga title and the coveted World Cup, has there ever been a player who has achieved more after leaving the Red Devils?

Ashley Cole - Chelsea. The one English player to emerge from South Africa without disgracing himself, Cole's form for his club has elevated him into this side. There are few players at left back who can come close to matching Cole for stamina, skill and drive down the flank and, this year, he has been at the top of his game. Dovetailing exceptionally well with Florent Malouda on the left for Chelsea, his ability to get forward creates space for his team-mates, opens up opposition defences and was one of the major reasons that the Blues were able to claim a league and cup Double.

Bastian Schweinsteiger - Bayern Munich. The subject of speculation over his future, 'Schweini' has committed himself to Bayern for the next six years and the fans will breathe a sigh of relief, so important is his contribution. Playing in a more withdrawn role for Germany, the midfielder's vision and distribution gives his sides a solid base and he is not afraid to put in tackles to win the ball back either. A creative defensive midfielder, his versatility allows him to move around the pitch with freedom and his role in Germany's run to the World Cup semi-finals just a few weeks after winning the domestic Double was vital.

Xavi Hernandez - Barcelona. A passer of such incredible accuracy, his completion rate throughout the World Cup was 89% and he set a new record for completing 599 passes out of 669 attempted in Spain's seven games. As a playmaker for Spain and Barcelona, he is extremely influential in the possession form of the game that both sides play and often is responsible for splitting an opposition defence apart with an incisive pass. With a goal threat as well, there is no one in the current game who can match Xavi's distribution and his skill on the ball.

Wesley Sneijder - Inter Milan. The creative hub of Inter's midfield, Sneijder can consider himself incredibly unlucky to have missed out on FIFA's Ballon d'Or nominations this year after a starring role in the club's Treble of league, cup and Champions League. A gifted passer, Sneijder also brings a goal threat that saw him haul Netherlands into the final of the World Cup off the back of his five goals in seven games. For that reason, and for the fact that his play is so integral to Inter's success, he edges out Andres Iniesta in central midfield - although FIFA evidently disagrees.

Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid. A player who continues to divide opinion, Ronaldo's stats can't be argued with. With 17 goals in 15 starts this year, as well as one in four at the World Cup, the winger's direct running and quick feet still have him at the top of his game. His love of the theatrical and supreme confidence, that often overlaps into arrogance, make him a hard player to take to heart, but his influence is still felt for club and country. Others may be easier to like, but few have the ability to turn a game on its head like the Portuguese.

Lionel Messi - Barcelona. The world's best may not remain so for long, but he is still considered to be the most talented attacker on the planet. His close control, devastating pace and dribbling ability mark him out above his peers and only his performances at the World Cup for Argentina - where he didn't score - can be considered a low point. Consistently finding the net for Barcelona, he has hit over 40 goals in two consecutive seasons and looks odds on to do so again as he has 25 in 25 this season.

Carlos Tevez - Manchester City. For all his temperamental antics, and potential to quit football if he can't get a transfer away from City, Tevez has netted 39 goals in 60 games for the club and is in incredible form. Showing an ability to lead the line on his own, his power and drive, alongside his trademark determination and stamina, have seen City rely on him almost too much. He claimed a starting berth for Argentina during the World Cup and a stunning strike against Mexico (as well as an offside one) saw him receive deserved plaudits. Perhaps now not the most popular of players, but still one of the best this year.

SUBS:

Iker Casillas - Real Madrid. World Cup winner and captain of Spain, he is still a top-class 'keeper, whose save from Arjen Robben in the final was vital.

Fabio Coentrao - Benfica. A breakthrough season for the left back saw him star at the World Cup and also in Benfica's Double-winning season.

Lucio - Inter Milan. On the ball, he is one of the best defenders around and was a vital component of the Inter defence that performed so admirably domestically and in Europe.

Sergio Busquets - Barcelona. A composed defensive midfielder who starred for Spain and Barcelona will his short passing and tough tackling.

Andres Iniesta - Barcelona. An incisive passer, his vision and skill on the ball make him one of the best, but his goal stats are not as impressive as his central midfield rivals'.

Luis Suarez - Ajax. With 49 goals last season and 11 goals so far this season, the Uruguayan had a great year, but will only be remembered for his World Cup handball.

Diego Milito - Inter Milan. Integral to Inter's success, the striker was incredibly left out of FIFA's first shortlist and deserves his place for his Champions League performances.

  • ESPNsoccernet staff's picks

    John Brewin: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Puyol, Lucio, Lahm; Xavi, Sneijder, Muller; Messi, Iniesta, Cristiano Ronaldo. Subs: Casillas, Pique, Ozil, Villa, Bale, Forlan, Tevez.

    Dale Johnson: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Pique, Lucio, Lahm; Cristiano Ronaldo, Schweinsteiger, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi; Eto'o. Subs: Casillas, Puyol, Bale, Sneijder, Muller, Forlan, Villa.

    Dom Raynor: Julio Cesar; Maxi Pereira, Lucio, Pique, Lahm; Cambiasso, Messi, Sneijder, Xavi, Robben; Cristiano Ronaldo. Subs: Casillas, Coentrao, Ozil, Alonso, Muller, Forlan, Villa.

    Tom Adams: Casillas; Maicon, Lucio, Pique, Coentrao; Schweinsteiger, Xavi; Iniesta, Sneijder, Messi; Forlan. Subs: Julio Cesar, Lahm, Puyol, Robben, Cristiano Ronaldo, Muller, Villa.

    Robin Hackett: Julio Cesar; Lahm, Lucio, Puyol, Cole; Schweinsteiger, Xavi, Sneijder; Cristiano Ronaldo, Eto'o, Messi. Subs: Casillas, Pique, Bale, Iniesta, Muller, Villa, Tevez.

    Mark Lomas: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Pique, Lahm; Schweinsteiger, Sneijder, Xavi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi; Forlan. Subs: Casillas, Puyol, Robben, Cambiasso, Ozil, Tevez, Muller.

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