Now that the World Cup is over, here are my choices for the BRM's All-Tournament Team, the players who gave their best and entertained us during this wonderful World Cup.
Goal: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
Buffon, facing shame back in Italy for his role in a match-fixing scheme (which will now probably go unpunished in the wake of Italy's World Cup victory), was far and away the best keeper of the tournament. His save on Zinédine Zidane's thunderous header in extra time was the save of the tournament and Buffon staked his claim as the best in the world.
Defense: Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)
What can you say? He was the best player in the tournament and deserves the Golden Ball. A rock solid defender. World class tackling. Character on the pitch. Captained his team to the title. Bravo, Fabio.
Defense: Lilian Thuram (France)
Was at the right place at the right time for France and was the general in charge of a very organized back four. I also love that he took no shit from French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen. "We are all Frenchmen!" indeed.
Defense: Philipp Lahm (Germany)
Lahm exploded on the scene with a wonder goal in Germany's opening 4-2 defeat of Costa Rica and went on to have a blinder of a tournament. An exciting defender who created a lot of opportunities going forward.
Defense: Miguel (Portugal)
Miguel was the most outstanding defender on a tough defensive team that ground their way to the semi-finals. Portugal was probably my least favorite team, as I don't think the diving of Ronaldo and his bunch did anything positive for the game, but Miguel was quality. Sure, there is a case to be made for Lucas Neill (Australia) among others (Materazzi did score twice in the final), but I'm going with Miguel.
Midfield: Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina)
Maxi Rodriguez scored some wonderful goals during the tournament and lead Argentina to the quarterfinal against Germany with his wonder strike in extra time against Mexico. His stock rose with this performance and he played terrific football.
Midfield: Zinédine Zidane (France)
Sent off in the final after scoring, but quite frankly, he lifted France on his shoulders and got them to the ultimate match. If he could have completed his quest and won the World Cup, he might go down as the greatest player of a generation. Now, he remains an enigma, but there is no doubting his greatness.
MIdfield: Stephen Appiah (Ghana)
Stephen Appiah played his guts out for Ghana, the team that shocked the world and escaped the Group of Death. His penalty against the USA was the deciding goal that saw Ghana through, and his quality shone throughout the Black Stars' campaign.
MIdfield: Gennaro Gattuso (Italy)
Sure, Patrick Viera (France) scored more goals, but Gennaro Gatusso was superlative in the unglamorous (and very important) role of defensive midfielder. I would argue that no player in this World Cup had a more positive impact on his team than this ball winning, counter attack destroying d-mid. He's not pretty, but he's not supposed to be. A monster on the pitch.
Forward: Miroslav Klose (Germany)
You don't win two Golden Boots in a row and fail to make the All-Tournament Team. Klose was huge in the clutch, sending Germany into extra time against Argentina and scoring five goals in the tournament. Tremendous.
Forward: Fernando Torres (Spain)
He’s young, he’s fast and his clinical finishing built hope into every Spaniard’s heart. A great tournament for Torres; He‘s one to watch in the future and showed tremendous quality for as long as Spain were able to stick around. Here's hoping he doesn't end up at Manchester United as it would be a shame to have to hate his guts after such an entertaining performance. [Grin]
Golden Ball for Best Player in the Tournament: Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)
See above. Solid, steady and professional all the way. Italy’s Capitano was the best player in the Cup.
Young Player Award: Franck Ribery (France)
He was electric on the wing for France. The only question is, where will France be in four years? Can Ribery be the lynchpin for a new France side?
Goal of The Tournament: Esteban Cambiasso of Argentina vs Serbia-Montenegro
One of the great goals of all time. 24 uninterrupted touches by Argentina before Cambiasso buries it. Amazing teamwork.
Congrats to all the teams and players. Time to begin the long countdown to South Africa 2010!