Saturday, July 10, 2010 ESPNsoccernet: July 11, 12:51 PM UK
World Cup Worst XI
Goalkeeper: Robert Green (England)
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In a World Cup where the brand of ball became first a noun and then a verb, plenty of goalkeepers proclaimed themselves Jabulani-ed. Sometimes, however, that was no excuse. Poor Robert Green committed the kind of mistake against USA that defines a career and not just a tournament. The basics are well known: Clint Dempsey shoots, Green lets it slip through his hands and acquires international infamy.
Right back: Jonas Gutierrez/Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina)
Right back can appear the easiest position to play on the pitch. Argentina, who didn't pick any specialists, proved that isn't necessarily the case. In the first two games, Jonas Gutierrez displayed all the positional sense of a left winger playing at right back; unsurprising, given that is what he was. Then centre-back Nicolas Otamendi took over. His duel with Germany's Lukas Podolski was among the most one-sided of the World Cup. Suffice to say that the substituted Argentine didn't win it.
Centre back: John Terry (England)
Perhaps the most elementary error a central defender can commit is to misjudge a goal kick and let it bounce behind him; that was what John Terry did when Miroslav Klose gave Germany the lead against England. There is a temptation to say Terry was all over the place but, more accurately, he was rarely in the right position and lacked the speed to get there. As it is cited as the reason for his dire display against the Germans, he plays as the right-sided centre back in this team.
Centre back: William Gallas (France)
Swift to blame Raymond Domenech after France's dismal campaign concluded, William Gallas nonetheless admitted his own form hadn't been brilliant. That is an understatement. His partnership with Eric Abidal rarely threatened to work and it should mark an undistinguished end to his international career.
Left back: Patrice Evra (France)
The Manchester United defender began his career as a striker. For 24 hours, he reverted to that role when organising the futile French boycott of training. It was not Evra's finest moment; nor, indeed, was it when Mexico's Pablo Barrera sped past him with unusual ease en route to winning the penalty for their second goal. Evra was duly dropped for the final game. As Raymond Domenech manages this team, Evra captains it (though presumably John Terry would attempt to take it off him).
Centre midfield: Gennaro Gattuso (Italy)
Time has been cruel to too many of the Italians. Four years ago, Gennaro Gattuso was the Azzurri's enforcer, an all-action midfielder at the peak of his game. Now only the trademark beard is the same; brought in to stop Marek Hamsik, an anonymous Gattuso was hauled off at half-time against Slovakia. It was a sad farewell to international football.
Centre midfield: Felipe Melo (Brazil)
Felipe Melo's short fuse had long been apparent in Serie A. When it became a problem on the international stage, it did so with huge consequences. Brazil were already trailing to Netherlands, after two goals credited to Wesley Sneijder but where Melo was partly culpable, when he planted his studs in Arjen Robben's thigh. Blaming the Dutchman for his dismissal was unfair; it was Melo's fault and it was the moment that effectively ended Brazil's World Cup hopes.
Right wing: Franck Ribery (France)
This has not been Franck Ribery's year. Overshadowed emphatically by Arjen Robben in Bayern Munich's fine campaign, he was suspended for the Champions League final. Eligible for the World Cup, he was shunted around the forward line, proving especially ineffective in the hole. While he set up France's only World Cup goal, scored by Florent Malouda, and was the better of two poor right wingers - Sidney Govou was shocking - Ribery's pedigree means he qualifies as the greater underachiever.
Left wing: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
FIFA presumably wouldn't agree with this; Cristiano Ronaldo was somehow named man of the match in each of Portugal's three group games. Perhaps it was merely wishful thinking, though the Portugal captain did have a fine second half against North Korea; then again, so did the entire side. But Ronaldo's only goal proved irrelevant and, when Portugal required inspiration against Spain, he was unable to oblige.
Striker: Wayne Rooney (England)
Four games, no goals: in everything other than a red card, Wayne Rooney's World Cup was rather too similar to his tournament in 2006. Then, as now, he did not appear to have fully overcome an injury; then, as now, the system did not seem to suit him; then, as now, a reputation as one of the world's leading players was not justified.
Striker: Nicolas Anelka (France)
The man who achieved the dubious honour of becoming the first player, among those who played in the World Cup, to leave it, Nicolas Anelka contrived to do rather more damage in his own dressing room - where his outburst at Raymond Domenech brought his expulsion from the French camp - than he did to opponents. Two anonymous displays may be forgotten easily, but the French civil war won't be.
Substitutes: Federico Marchetti (Italy), Gabriel Heinze (Argentina), Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Eric Abidal (France), Giorgios Karagounis (Greece), Claudio Marchisio (Italy), Kaka (Brazil), Sidney Govou (France), Alberto Gilardino (Italy), Fernando Torres (Spain).
Manager: Raymond Domenech (France)
Others failed, but none so humiliatingly and yet so predictably. That Raymond Domenech was out of his depth was obvious in Euro 2008, yet he retained his position for another two years. Tactics, team selection, man-management and even basic dignity appeared beyond him. That his players have queued up to blame Domenech is no surprise: the shock will be if any club or country offers him a swift return to employment.