Throughout the World Cup, I'll be posting best elevens for a given set of games. For the group stage, it'll be after every team has played a game, then two games, and so on. I figure if I'm going to watch every game (and thus not sleep), it should amount to something more than a badge of honor. A blog post might not be much, but it's something.
Before we get into the full group and honorable mentions, I'm naming Mesut Ozil (Germany) my player of the round. Yes, he did get booked for diving, and he also faced a truly woeful Australian side, but he was in total command of Germany's opener from start to finish. Even though he didn't get a goal himself, I thought he was the key reason that Germany was able to play at the high pace that left the Socceroos in the dust. Australia even deployed twin destroyers in Vince Grella and Carl Valeri, and yet Ozil looked barely bothered by their efforts. I'm guessing most Germans are pretty happy he chose to represent die Fußballnationalmannschaft instead of Turkey. In a tournament that has lacked in high-quality offensive performances, Ozil is the easy pick as the standout thus far.
Beyond the jump is my full best eleven now that everyone has played one match in the 2010 World Cup:
This group will be lined up in a 4231, mostly due to the lack of brilliant attacking play. Hopefully in the next round, there will be enough quality performances by strikers that I can list more than one.
Goalkeeper: Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria) The Super Eagles lost 1-0 to Argentina, but Enyeama was not at all to blame for the only goal conceded. In fact, without the Hapoel Tel Aviv shotstopper, Nigeria may have ended up taking a real beating against Lionel Messi and company. Honorable Mention: Tim Howard (USA)
Right back: Steve Cherundolo (USA) Cherundolo managed to literally run James Milner off the field, forcing Fabio Capello into a rather embarrassing early substitution. Throughout the game, whenever the Yanks needed an intelligent, confident, simple piece of soccer, 'Dolo delivered. This might have been his best showing in a US shirt. Honorable mention: Winston Reid (New Zealand)
Center back: Stephane Grichting (Switzerland) Grichting did an outstanding job marshaling the Swiss back four against the virtually endless stream of attacks produced by Spain. When Philippe Senderos was forced off through injury, I thought that the Swiss would eventually break down the middle. Steve Von Bergen came on and did alright, but to me the key was that Grichting stepped up to really dominate his penalty area. Honorable mention: John Mensah (Ghana)
Center back: Antolin Alcaraz (Paraguay) Alcaraz scored the goal that gave Paraguay what may turn out to be a crucial point against Italy. However, even without it, I think he would have made his way onto this list. Whoever Italy sent into his area was promptly unable to get a moment's rest, and in the end the Azzurri could only pull even when Alcaraz's defensive partner, the more well known Paulo da Silva, lost Daniele De Rossi on a free kick. Honorable mention: Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Japan)
Left back: Gabriel Heinze (Argentina) A typically brave, physical showing from Heinze was capped off by scoring the only goal against Enyeama and Nigeria. Fine, he was unmarked, but doesn't he get a little credit for ghosting away from his marker? Heinze contributed enough to the attack and the Nigerians really didn't get much going in attack. Honorable mention: Fabio Coentrao (Portugal)
Defensive midfield: Gokhan Inler (Switzerland) The Swiss didn't just hold Spain off by defending in their box. Much like last year's 2-0 win for the United States over Spain in the Confederations Cup, it required an amazing amount of hard work in central midfield. Inler seemed to be everywhere for the Swiss, even making a few important charges forward to help relieve the pressure on Switerland's defense. Honorable mention: Sami Khedira (Germany)
Central midfield: Kim Jung-Woo (South Korea) Kim was probably the driving force behind South Korea's confident 2-0 win over Greece. Kim made use of an obvious advantage in speed and mobility against a plodding Greek midfield, but he also out-foxed his opponents frequently. I felt he deserved a lot more press than he got; along with Inler, I think he was the closest to challenging Ozil as my player-of-the-round. Honorable mention: Kevin-Prince Boateng (Ghana)
Right winger: Alexis Sánchez (Chile) Sanchez functioned as the driving force behind Chile's entertaining play, which probably deserved more than a 1-0 win (hopefully Humberto Suazo will be fit to play the next match). Sanchez tormented Emilio Izaguirre all game long, and also escaped any attempts at a double-team as well. Sanchez didn't produce a goal, but I give him high marks for entertaining. Honorable mention: Siphiwe Tshabalala (South Africa)
Attacking midfield: Mesut Ozil (Germany) Already went over Ozil's superb showing. Honorable mention: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Left winger: Lukas Podolski (Germany) What is it with Podolski? Put him in seemingly any shirt other than Germany, and you have a talented-but-flawed attacker. Give him that Germany shirt, though, and he's virtually unstoppable. Podolski used his speed to torment Australia all game long, and scored a goal that proved you can hit the Jabulani ball at full power and keep it from flying 20 yards over the goal. Honorable mention: Gelson Fernandes (Switzerland)
Striker: Miroslav Klose (Germany) Klose played a pretty solid game, troubling the sluggish Australian defense frequently. He scored once, could have had a hat trick, and was his typical World Cup self. It must be mentioned, though, that he didn't really sparkle. This spot is almost his by default after so many strikers were not sharp. Honorable mention: Jong Tae-Se (North Korea)
Agree? Disagree? Curious to know who just missed out? Have at it!