As this year’s tournament fades into memory, time has come for us to finalize our roster of the 2010 world cup’s best performers. Already we’ve scouted the goalkeepers, analyzed the defenders, and scrutinized the midfielders.
So, inevitably, now we turn our hand to the men who, more than anyone else, entertain, inspire and deliver rapturous delirium to the nation behind them.
Strikers, the men invariably at the business end of the pitch, inevitably win plaudits should they score the odd goal or two, but here, we intend to celebrate the best of the best.
1. Diego Forlan
In an incredible change of fortunes, the former Manchester United punch-line has emerged as one of the outstanding performers in the year’s World Cup.
Even the judgmental Premier League has come to reevaluate its opinion of the Uruguayan.
The South American talisman has been the driving force behind his country’s unexpected progression into the latter stages of the competition, reigniting memories of their 1930 and 1950 triumphs.
After a man-of-the-match winning display against France on the opening day of the tournament, the Atletico Madrid hotshot heartlessly fired home twice against hosts South Africa, precluding the first real lull in vuvuzela humming.
Not content with destroying African hopes by effectively eliminating the hosts, Forlan then exemplified his worth with another award-winning exertion against Ghana. Moreover, the Uruguayan demonstrated an effortless taming the Jabulani with a stroke of his right-foot from a free kick, beyond the grasp of the Ghanaian ‘keeper from an implausible angle.
Unfortunately for Forlan – whose goal tally has been nothing short of impeccable since his departure from the Premier League (winning the European golden boot twice), he narrowly missed out on claiming the Golden Boot award, despite scoring five times, because he made only one assist. But don’t let that fool you. No one is awarded the Golden Ball without proving how important he is to the team he serves, and Forlan on current form is irreplaceable.
No one would have predicted at the beginning of the tournament that 20-year-old Bayern Munich upstart Thomas Muller would walk away from South Africa with the auric footwear in hand. But, as surprising as Germany’s ability to once again defy expectations, the young forward, who has amassed a grand total of just 8 caps for his country, has done just that thanks to some clinical performances.
Setting the tone for the rest of his tournament, Muller provided the assist for the German’s first goal of the tournament against Australia. The German later got on the score-sheet himself. After scoring the third goal in the routing of the Aussies, Muller secured the routing of England in the first phase of the knockout stages by providing an assist for Lukasz Podolski’s emphatic finish and by finishing two incisive counterattacks.
Those breakaways became typical of Germany’s display in the latter stages and Muller was again involved in the side’s extirpation of Argentina.
The striker’s success coming inside from a wide position was indicative of how forwards were used throughout the World Cup and it’s clear to see why as the 4-2-3-1 and its similar variations were almost universally employed by the sides reaching towards the pinnacle of the competition. If anyone was still skeptical of forcing strikers out of their regular central position, consider them convinced by the laudable conduct of this promising young forward.
And you thought Muller was only good at Corners.
Once again the Spain and Barcelona hit-man has proven irrepressible on the grand international stage. Euro 2008’s top goal-scorer again made his indelible mark with another 5 goals, narrowly missing out on taking home the Golden Boot again.
Villa’s industry and commitment whether patrolling the left flank or spearheading the attack, has been vital to Spain’s campaign for world domination. Although successfully tamed in his first game against the Swiss, the 28-year-old sprang into life against Honduras with a fantastic goal, cutting inside from the left, leaving two men for dead, circumnavigating a third and, falling, firing the ball into the roof of the net. Villa scored again in that game against Honduras, a deflected shot from just outside the area, and had the opportunity to make it a hat-trick from the spot on the 63rd minute. Reflecting back on the tournament, Villa will probably believe that that miss from 12 yards cost him the prestigious prize that every striker aspires for.
In the knockout stages, the Spaniard popped up again to score two vital goals against neighbours Portugal and Paraguay. With the Spanish having their efficiency in front of goal debated, Villa demonstrated that it only takes one mistake, one opening or one opportunity for Vicente Del Bosque’s side to grab victory.
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