x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Fantasy football: picking the best XI

With the World Cup done and dusted and with a first hand account, our reporters put together their dream team squad and it includes some surprise names.

Asamoah Gyan, right, provided needed firepower for the Black Stars and showed his mental strength against Uruguay.
Asamoah Gyan, right, provided needed firepower for the Black Stars and showed his mental strength against Uruguay.

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas (Spain): A sprawling, quarter-final penalty save from Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo at Loftus Versfeld Stadium immortalised Casillas as the first goalkeeper in football history to save two penalties in normal-time at different World Cups. With Holland content to counter Spanish attacks in the final, it was Casillas's toe that deflected Arjen Robben's goal-bound shot and kept his side's tournament dream on track.

Right-back Philipp Lahm (Germany) Promoted to captain after an injury to Michael Ballack, only Lahm could have kept Spain's Sergio Ramos out of the best XI. Composed and confident in defence, Lahm's eagerness to burst forward underlines Joachim Loew's exciting brand of counter-attacking football. The direct style is built on rapid surging decoy runs from his full-backs and Lahm is one of the fastest around.

Centre-backs Gerard Pique (Spain) The Barcelona centre-back cemented his position as one of the best defenders in the game with an array of assured displays en route to the final. Technically brilliant, strong in the air and deceptively quick, Pique, 23, was a rock in the Spanish defence alongside Carles Puyol. Pique's comfort on the ball also ensured versatility, as he showed with his marauding runs through the centre of the midfield. Arne Friedrich (Germany) A masterful reading of the game underlined this uncompromising centre-half's tournament. Although not the quickest of combinations, Friedrich's unwavering partnership with Per Mertersacker was the heart of a cohesive German defence that conceded only twice en route to the semi-finals. Friedrich even got on the scoresheet in Germany's 4-0 rout of Argentina.

Left-back Fabio Coentrao (Portugal) Portugal's somewhat defensive strategy in South Africa required frequent lung-bursting forwards forays by their attacking full-backs. Coentrao's silky feet and blistering pace threatened Ivory Coast, devastated North Korea, scared Brazil and tested a tightly knit Spanish back-line. The tough-tackling Benfica defender's prowess kept the likes of Salomon Kalou, Maicon, Dani Alves and Iniesta in check at the back. The epitome of a modern full-back.

Fabio Coentrao (Portugal) Portugal's somewhat defensive strategy in South Africa required frequent lung-bursting forwards forays by their attacking full-backs. Coentrao's silky feet and blistering pace threatened Ivory Coast, devastated North Korea, scared Brazil and tested a tightly knit Spanish back-line. The tough-tackling Benfica defender's prowess kept the likes of Salomon Kalou, Maicon, Dani Alves and Iniesta in check at the back. The epitome of a modern full-back.

Right-midfield Thomas Muller (Germany) Golden Ball-winner Muller, 20, scored five goals and laid on three assists in Germany's run to the semi-finals. Nominated for Young Player of the Tournament, the Bayern Munich prodigy was suspended for Germany's 1-0 loss to eventual winners Spain. Minus Muller's tireless movement in the channels, a previously efficient attack looked leggy and shorn of ideas.

Centre-midfield Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) Passing skill and range have always been notable attributes in the powerful playmaker's arsenal, but the manner in which Schweinsteiger conducted Germany's measured dismantling of England's highly regarded midfield was impressive in its simplicity, authority and industry. A tremendous run, mesmerising dribble and deft assist against Argentina marked Schweinsteiger's arrival as a world-class player.

Left-midfield Andres Iniesta (Spain) Already considered one of the best midfielders in the world, Iniesta was sublime against Chile and Paraguay, offering an outlet to his defence, refusing to be dispossessed and creating chances for David Villa. In the final, the Barcelona playmaker grew in stature as the game progressed. Picking up the ball, he was drawing fouls, beating players and feeding the forward-line and it was fitting for him to score the winner.

Strikers David Villa (Spain) Five goals and an assist saw Villa, the Spanish striker, play a part in every one of his country's first six goals this summer. His speed and trickery in the area caused opponents problems as they battled to deal with the threat of Barcelona's newest signing. His opening goal against Chile - an instinctive, first-time, left-footed strike from 40 yards - was masterful, while his first of two against Honduras saw him beat three defenders before firing an unstoppable drive into the top corner.

Diego Forlan (Uruguay) The Uruguay striker was rightly awarded the Golden Ball, for the tournament's best player, for his displays en route to the semi-finals. Playing in a deeper position, behind Luis Suarez, Forlan enjoyed a more roaming role and was able to shoot clinically from distance. A superb free-kick against Ghana was followed by a rasping, swerving drive that left Holland keeper Maarten Stekelenburg with no chance. Asamoah Gyan (Ghana) In a Black Stars side lacking firepower, the Africans turned to Gyan and he produced, scoring against Serbia, Australia and the United States. Gyan will be remembered for his missed penalty in the final minute of extra-time during Ghana's quarter-final loss to Uruguay, but his spot-kick seconds later in the shoot-out could not have been struck sweeter and showed the Rennes striker's mental strength.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, Germany He was lucky against England, when Frank Lampard's shot crossed the line, but Neuer, above, saved his country several times en route to the last four. Left-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Holland The now-retired Dutch captain's thunderous semi-final strike from 30 yards is surely a contender for goal of the tournament. Centre-back Antolin Alcaraz, Paraguay The Paraguayan centre-half was solid in defence and dangerous in attack; he scored a brilliant header against Italy. Right-midfield Giovanni dos Santos, Mexico The speedy wideman shone in South Africa with his delivery and dribbling ability. He offered a constant threat from the right. Left-midfield Andre Ayew, Ghana The zippy winger was sorely missed against Uruguay. His earlier creativity on the left caused teams problems. Strikers Landon Donovan, United States He put personal turmoil behind him to score three goals, including a last-gasp strike against Algeria and a cracker against Slovenia. Miroslav Klose, Germany The prolific marksman was unplayable against England and finished as the joint top-scorer, but agonisingly one short of the all-time World Cup record.