Heads held high

June 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

Of the players leaving the World Cup early, there are some who should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. There are some who were lacking a bit of experience, or the nous for the big occasion; some were short on talent, others luck. And some were pretty good, but will be going home anyway. Here is my team of those who were eliminated, but did themselves proud along the way.

GK – Vincent Enyeama (NGA). Enyeama will be hoping that the staggering awfulness of Yakubu’s miss against the Koreans might lead to his slip against the Greeks being forgotten. And it deserves to be; he single-handedly kept the most ebullient attacking team of the tournament, Argentina, to a solitary set-piece goal.

DL – Reto Ziegler (SUI). Dealt with not one, but two world-class wingers – the soon-to-be-multi-million-pound David Silva, and the flier Jesus Navas – with an air of assured control that typified that Swiss performance. And, by doing so, got well and truly up the noses of everyone who believes football is about watching expensive footballers score pretty goals, which was mighty pleasing.

DC – Ryan Nelsen (NZL). The man John Terry dreams of being.

DC – Stephan Lichtsteiner (SUI). Not only kept out the finest attacking team in Europe, but did so – for the first half-an-hour – alongside Philippe Senderos. Give that man a cow.

DR – Nadir Belhadj (ALG). Well, I couldn’t think of a right-back, so I’m switching Belhadj. Mostly for the way he made Glen Johnson look like a clown.

ML – Siphiwe Tshabalala (RSA). What. A. Goal.

MC – Jeremy Toulalan (FRA). When all about him were losing their heads – and their dignity, and their reputation, and their self-control, and their jobs – he was a cool and calm midfield presence. One of very few French players not to deserve the abuse they’re getting.

MC – Alex Song (CAM). Mysteriously absent from the first game – Paul le Guen, tu es un berk – Song added poise and distribution to the Cameroonian midfield against Denmark, in a game they were incredibly unlucky to lose. Le Guen, who clearly dislikes being employed, promptly dropped him again.

MR – Gervinho (CIV). The outstanding player in the godawful draw against Portugal, simply because he played like he thought winning was better than not-losing. Sadly, his manager is/was Sven-Goran “Swash-Me-No-Buckles” Erikssen, and he was omitted against Brazil until the jig was thoroughly up. Not that he’d have changed the result, but he’d have been fun to watch.

FC – Fabio Quagliarella (ITA). Much like Toulalan, above, Quagliarella didn’t deserve the shambles of an impression of a football team that he showed up with. Quite how Iaquinta and Gilardino were chosen ahead of him is mysterious, though he has at the very least written his name all over the future of Italian football. Whatever that turns out to be.

FC – Jong Tae-se. The endless tears, the endless running. An absolute hero, and quite a talented footballer as well.

(Disclaimer. I haven’t seen every minute of every game that these fine figures of footballers have played, what with work and being abroad and so on, so I may not be looking at the complete picture here. However, all of the above impressed me in one way or another, and Glen Johnson is definitely a clown. So that’s okay.)

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