Picking the best XI in South Africa
By GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency
GROUP STAGES BEST XI
Eduardo (POR) - I had Kiwi goalkeeper Mark Paston in this spot until Eduardo came up with a couple of huge saves against Brazil: In the first half, robbing Nilmar; and in the second half touching away a deflected ball going top corner. Not conceding a goal in the "Group of Death" is deserving of this allocation. Eduardo has been fantastic.
Honourable mention - Mark Paston (NZ)
Diego Lugano (URU) - The leader of a back four that hasn't conceded a goal. In fairness, any of the Uruguay defenders could have made this list. I love the way Jorge Fucile plays as well -- gets stuck in and wins tackles. Lugano does a bit of it all, so he gets the nod.
Lucio (BRZ) - The guy is as commandeering as it gets. He's tough to beat, passes effectively (91%), can get forward and plays with a lot of confidence. I know Brazil has conceded two goals, but the captain is something special. He completely shut down Cristiano Ronaldo on Friday.
Ricardo Carvalho (POR) - Fellow back Fabio Coentrao could have well took this spot, so I'll mention him here above the honourable mentions. But it's Carvalho who continues to impress internationally. Super composed and steady, he gets the job done. Not many a centre-back as solid as he in the world. He's also completed 89% of his passes.
Honourable mentions - Gabriel Heinze (ARG), Gary Medel (CHI), Gregory Van Der Weil (NED)
Landon Donovan (USA) - Clutch, personified. The pacey U.S. winger stepped up and scored massive goals, scoring the first against Slovenia and the goal to send the U.S. through to the knockout stage in time added on against Algeria. His ability to step up has people talking he's the best American player, ever.
Keisuke Honda (JPN) - If you're looking for a player with pizzazz and class, go for a drive with Honda. His free-kick goal against Denmark not only was the finest set piece of the tournament, but also turned the game on edge, propelling Japan to an unlikely Round of 16 birth. Honda has special talent, and has been a pleasure to watch.
Rafael Marquez (MEX) - the captain simply gets the job done. Whether it's scoring, as he did against South Africa, or rending the French centre-midfield useless, Marquez has been magnificent. His defensive pedigree has helped him play with ultimate poise, dominating the centre of the park.
Mark Van Bommel (NED) - Steady, steady, and more steady play. That's what you get from Van Bommel. The veteran allows so much to happen in the attack on front of him. The way he reads the game and dominates the ball is outstanding.
Honourable mentions - Michael Bradley (USA), Alvaro Pereira (URU), Mesut Ozil (GER), Matias Gonzalez (CHI), Kalu Uche (NGA)
Diego Forlan (URU) - Forlan will remember his wonder-strike against South Africa, but he has done so much more. A tactical move to drop Forlan into a deeper position, almost giving him free-reign to roam in attacking positions has paid off. There may be no player more important to their team's long term success in the tournament.
Alexis Sanchez (Chile) - The kid we saw play in Canada at the U-20 World Cup is for real. He's lively, makes intelligent runs and has a nose for goal. You can't ask for anything more.
Lionel Messi (ARG) - The man somehow hasn't scored a goal, yet is the tournaments most dangerous player by far. Robbed by the woodwork or robbed by goalkeepers is the only way Messi has been held back. His 11 shots on goal can be attributed to his ability to create. As can the 10 fouls he's drawn.
Honourable mentions - Katlego Mphela (SA), Chu Young Park (KOR), Lucas Barrios (PAR)
Diego Maradona (ARG) - The icon has not only been the most entertaining quote but also the brightest tactician. His hybrid, attack-based system has worked like a charm. Maradona has a bevy of talent at his disposal and used it all effectively. Even after qualifying for the next round, Maradona still fielded a highly competitive line-up while not taking silly chances with players on cards.
Honourable mention - Oscar Tabarez (URU)