World Cup 2014 Week 1: Team of the Tournament
The World Cup is only a week old, but we’ve already seen some amazing games, last-second heroics, and world-class individual contributions. Let’s put together a team of the tournament so far. Doing a whole starting XI at this point isn’t so easy, so we’ll keep it to a keeper, two defenders, two midfielders, and two forwards. I’ll look to push that out to a full lineup after the tournament. Those defensive midfielders need love too.
Goalkeeper: Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
The Mexican keeper has not allowed a goal through two matches thus far, including an absolute world-class performance against the host country of Brazil. Ochoa made one of the World Cup‘s best saves on a Neymar header that kept the score at 0-0 all the way through the game to get a crucial point. The Ajaccio keeper has been on the last two World Cup squads, but did not play either time. It’s his time to shine and he has risen to the occasion. If Ocho can keep Croatia out of his net, he’ll send Mexico through to the knockout stages. The match’s demand has grown over the last week, and the price to get in on TicketCity is currently up at $414.
Defender: Mehrdad Pooladi (Iran)
Never thought I’d have an Iranian player on this list, but here we are. Pooladi had standout performance in Iran’s 0-0 draw to Nigeria, including six tackles and a header to clear the ball off the line. It’ll will be very hard for Iran to keep anyone else off the scoresheet this tournament, but if Pooladi continues his strong play he’ll give them a chance to at least stay in the game.
Defender: Daley Blind (Netherlands)
Blind made the assist on what might be the goal of the tournament, a bomb to Van Persie that he headed over the keeper. He’s made lots of good runs forward, opening up play up the middle. Blind has played just as well defensively on a team that looks poised to go far in the tournament.
Midfielder: Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Robben was named the most impressive player in the tournament thus far by BBC Sport voters, and it’s no surprise. He’s been electric for the Dutch, and has led them to two big wins, including a thrashing of defending-champion Spain. Robben’s three goals are tied for the tournament lead with teammate Robin Van Persie, Karim Benzema, and Thomas Muller.
Midfielder: James Rodriguez (Columbia)
James Rodriguez has been the x-factor for a Columbian team missing its best player (Falcao), and the results have them going into the knockout stages with a game left to go in the group. Rodriguez has two goals and Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox said he was the World Cup’s best player thus far, high praise from one of the best analysts out there.
Striker: Thomas Muller (Germany)
Hard to quantify this one since he’s only played a single game so far, but Muller was outstanding in Germany’s 4-0 thrashing of Portugal. Muller’s movement is always outstanding, and again he put himself in the right position to score. His hat-trick has him tied with three other for most goals, but he’s a game behind. If the first game is any indication for both teams, Germany should put a few more on the board against Ghana.
Striker: Robin Van Persie (Netherlands)
How could he not be on this list. Three goals, including the goal of the tournament at this point. Van Persie helped send Spain home early and he’ll need keep it up if the Netherlands wants to win their group over a Chile team that looks better than ever.