An alternative ‘Team of the World Cup’

The Rio Report

You’ve probably already read about seven thousand articles laying out a World Cup 2014 ‘team of the tournament’ featuring a starting XI of the best players, in a realistic formation of positions.

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This particular crack at a retrospective piece on the event in Brazil, however, will try something a little different.

Throughout the World Cup, several nations have received widespread praise for a specific aspect of their game. Just imagine if there was a a hypothetical XI that possessed the attacking flair of so-and-so, the defensive discipline of blah-blah and the team spirit of whatstheirname?

So, without further ado, here is the real dream team of the World Cup:

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Ruthlessness: Germany

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After making Cristiano Ronaldo and friends pay dearly for Pepe’s red card, swarming the USA for a winning goal despite only needing a point to secure the group’s top spot and then laying waste to hosts Brazil in devastating fashion, any team as cold-blooded and driven as the Germans would stand a great chance in the matchplay environment.

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Stylishness: Colombia

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Reputations and big names are all well and good, but there’s no replacement for going out there and getting it done. And despite a modest World Cup history and no star man Falcao, Colombia were easily the sexiest team at the tournament. James Rodriguez went into supernova status, but throughout the team, players possessed a sense of style even the casuals wanted to watch.

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Attacking: Netherlands

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They may not have been quite as prolific in the knockout stages as they were in their group, but Netherlands were good for goals, their quarter-final and semi-final performances notwithstanding. Their late rally against Mexico proved they can find the back of the net even under immense pressure and urgency; their goals came from almost every part of the team and they even stuck five past the defending champions.

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Defending: Argentina

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They may feel that they could and should have kept one or two more clean sheets, but Argentina’s back line and off-the-ball enforcement in midfield was as miserly as it was surly and helped get the South Americans to the final, whether Lionel Messi was on song or not. And while the tournament has featured tons of brilliant keepers, Sergio Romero is right up there.

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Resolve: United States

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Football is full of sides who look a million bucks when things are going smoothly, but cannot dig deep and find what it takes to win in the face of adversity. Stuck in the group of death, the Americans were as defiant as their fans were loyal and punched above their weight on limited resources to qualify before giving Belgium a late scare after going 2-0 down.

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Passion: Brazil

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Okay, so the home side were unconvincing in victory and downright pathetic in defeat. But while their ability can be mocked to kingdom come, there’s no questioning the intensity and passion of the players, judging by their spine-tingling national anthem renditions and floods of tears. Neymar’s plight alone was contagiously emotional.

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Work ethic: Costa Rica

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“Who will join Costa Rica in leaving Brazil early?” – That was the question raised by many regarding England, Uruguay and Italy being drawn together. Perhaps those three nations had the same mentality, as they struggled their way towards finding out who would in fact join the Central Americans in the last-16. And the underdogs grafted their way to a dramatic last-eight exit, too.

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Leadership: Mexico

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Miguel Herrera has transformed a Mexico side who struggled to qualify for the tournament for the first time in ages into one of the better teams to grace Brazil. His cartoonish passion on the touchline rubbed off on his players, too. And in four-World Cup veteran Rafael Marquez, even the lesser members of the Mexican team had an on-pitch leader they’d go to war for.

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Team spirit: Algeria/Greece

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A split award here for two sides not only expected to bow out after three fixtures, but to do so after three dour, negative performances. Instead, the Greeks and the Algerians provided excitement even when they set themselves out defensively against stronger opponents, largely due to how determined they were to play for each other and surprise the world in Brazil - and this news piece from Greece during the event enforces that.

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Belief: Uruguay

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It would have been even more impressive had it shown in their actual footballing performances, but the way the entire nation of Uruguay came together as one to somehow convince themselves that Luis Suarez did not bite Giorgio Chiellini, and then, when that was unequivocally proven, that he was the victim of a witch-hunt… well. Let’s just say that sort of blind positivity can often be an asset.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe

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