Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

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Liebster Award

A few days ago, somebody commented on a post of mine telling me that he had nominated me for a Liebster Award. Naturally, I assumed it was spam. But I went to his blog and read the post where he accepted his award and nominated myself and another blogger for whatever this award was. There were a bunch of rules that went along with it which he posted that made the award seem like one of those awful email chains, but unlike those, there were no bogus consequences listed if I didn’t accept the award. At the very least, it seemed a genuine compliment that he thought my blog was worthy of any award at all.

So I looked up the Liebster Award on Google and found a ton of interesting results – look it up yourself if you don’t believe me. It turns out that this award is an unofficial welcome from the blogosphere to new bloggers. It’s been around since 2007 and while the rules have slowly changed over the years, it’s pretty legitimate. The award is meant to help bring attention to the “best new blogs” and is meant to help them earn new followers and readers by linking them to other blogs. So in other words, the chain is only meant to help the bloggers out, opening up their readership. Even if only a few people click on the links to the other blogs, it’s worth it if it brings in new faces to the site.

Despite all this, I wasn’t planning on accepting this award because I didn’t want to answer the ten questions asked by my nominator. However, over the last few days I have reconsidered. With my viewership going into a post-World Cup slump recently, before picking up a bit yesterday, I decided I needed to thank him for representing all those reading my blog and appreciating it. I owe it to all my readers to respond to this gesture. So I accept the Liebster Award, and thank James Bromley for nominating me. (The link to his blog is here: jamesbromleyblog.com)

So without further ado, I plan on following the rules of this award, continuing the tradition of welcoming new writers to the blogosphere.

The rules of this award are as follows:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
2. You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.
3. You must nominate your favourite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.
4. You must come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

James Bromley has given me the same questions he was asked, so I will now answer those.

1) Where is your favorite place?

I’d be inclined to say Fenway Park, home of my beloved Boston Red Sox. It’s a beautiful ballpark and some of my favorite memories have happened there.

2) Who is the best Bond?

I can’t say I’m the biggest James Bond fan, but I have liked Daniel Craig in the role in the two Bond movies I’ve seen. I’ll go with him.

3) Name three things that you are proud of.

I am proud of my sports writing achievements, both with this blog and at my college newspaper. I am proud of my ability to continue to stay motivated every day as I write multiple posts for this site. It’s tiring at times, but I couldn’t imagine stopping unless I absolutely have to. And I’m also proud of being from the Boston area and going to the One True School.

4) What was the last thing that made you laugh?

I laugh often. Some would probably say I laugh too easily. But I enjoy being happy. I certainly laughed last night when I was out golfing with my friend. I remember one instance when he pointed out how I instinctively put tees behind my ear after I tee off. I laughed at that one.

5) Do you do any regular exercise/sport?

I play pick-up soccer and basketball pretty often, and I have played a lot of tennis over the years.

6) Do you have any pets?

Nope. Never have, never will.

7) What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

I really have no idea. I’d probably surrender pretty quickly. I don’t do well with zombies.

8) What was the last book that you read and enjoyed?

I typically do more writing than reading, but in my English classes last year, I particularly enjoyed reading Ernest Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying.

9) What annoys or irritates you?

Sports wise, it annoys me when players don’t take accountability for any transgressions. It’s okay to make a mistake, but you have to be able to own up for it.

10) If there was a movie of your life, what would it be called and who would play you?

I don’t think my life would make for a very interesting movie. But it could be about living with many severe food allergies. So I guess it would be called 100,000 Lightly Salted Rice Cakes. I was once told that the late Gregory Peck would play me in a movie. I don’t know why, but I’ll go with a young version of him to play me in this hypothetical situation.

Now comes the time for me to nominate three other blogs for this award. Obviously, they don’t need to accept this by making a similar post on their blogs, but they should feel free to continue the tradition. I hope that they at least appreciate the gesture. These are three of my favorite blogs to read, and I would like to get them a few extra readers if nothing else. If they want to accept, they should comment on this post and I’ll tell them what their questions will be.

Play the Advantage – This was my favorite blog to read every day during the World Cup. It’s a commentary on referees, but taken to a level I never knew possible. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Observation Blogger – There’s a lot of great sports content on here both about baseball and soccer. Definitely worth checking out.

Heart Beats Football – This is a wonderful blog about a wide variety of soccer stories, but specifically about France and French players across the globe. I really like the writing style of this one.

I’ll let them know I have nominated them, and hopefully they’ll accept. But overall, this award is about recognizing other great blogs and these are three deserving of attention. So please check them out.

I will get back to regular sports content before the day is over. But I felt I had to acknowledge this award, because I really appreciate my readers welcoming me to the blogosphere.





Rating the Arsenal Performances at the World Cup

Making the transition from World Cup content to Arsenal content, I would like to write about Arsenal’s players in Brazil. The Gunners sent nine players to Brazil for the World Cup. Three of those players got knocked out in the group, three exited in the quarterfinals and three come back to London as world champions. Here, I would like to assess each of those players individually. And for the record, I am not including new signing Alexis Sanchez in this list. And as far as Joel Campbell, I left him off this list as he has yet to train even once with the club. However, I’ve had extensive coverage about Campbell over the past month which you can search for if you want to see that. Here is a link one of those pieces.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (England) – Having overcome injury concerns late in the season to make the final roster for Brazil, the Ox was terribly unlucky to pick up another injury in England’s final preparation friendlies. The hope was that he’d make it back in time for the final group game, but by then, England was already out, and Oxlade-Chamberlain never saw the field. It was a huge blow to the youngster, but one that might ultimately be beneficial. The added rest will hopefully mean he’s fit and firing by the opener, and he shouldn’t have to miss much of preseason. With other players in his position coming back from extended breaks and injuries, the Ox should be in line to start a few games early on, giving him a chance to show his continued development.

Jack Wilshere (England) – Wilshere was a frustrated figure for England in Brazil. He came off the bench to mild success in the opening loss to Italy, was an unused substitute against Uruguay, and started the meaningless game against Costa Rica. At times it looked as if Wilshere felt sorry for himself, but mostly it looked like he thought he should be the first name on the teamsheet. That was seen as confidence a year or two ago, but with mixed results lately, it looks a lot more like arrogance. As the young midfielder might be looking at a lot of time on the bench this year, he’ll need to channel all of those negative feelings into making himself better. Going out and smoking cigarettes on his holiday isn’t a good way to show everyone that he’s working hard.

Santi Cazorla (Spain) – While Spain was generally terrible in Brazil, Cazorla looked one of their better players when he was on the field in the final two games. He created a number of chances, and he was one of the few Spaniards to show any sort of urgency when they were down against Chile. Arsenal would seem to benefit from Spain’s exit, as Cazorla could be ready for preseason. And as he gets older, more rest can only be a good thing for the veteran midfielder. It’ll be nice to have him fit for the Crystal Palace game. And as he’s already won a European Championship, Cazorla still carries the winner’s mentality.

Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium) – This was a thoroughly disappointing World Cup for the Arsenal captain. Even though his team made the quarterfinals, he made only one start, and had to come off with an injury. A year away from the first team at Arsenal saw him lose his place with the national team, and he had to watch his team struggle all tournament. This World Cup disaster will surely cause Vermaelen to reconsider his future as a Gunner. I expect him to leave the club by the end of the window.

Laurent Koscielny (France) – The Arsenal center back surely would have wanted to start for his country, and he will be massively disappointed in his place on the bench for much of the tournament. Especially against Germany, when he could have been on the field against a few of his Arsenal teammates, he was quite unlucky to have been on the bench. I certainly feel he’s better than Mamadou Sakho, so it made little sense to me. Being a defender, he won’t need much of a preseason to be ready, so there shouldn’t be too much of a worry there. But overall, Koscielny won’t look back on this World Cup with particular fondness.

Olivier Giroud (France) – Giroud’s World Cup was a mixed bag. In the group stage, he played his way into the lineup with a series of impressive displays alongside Karim Benzema. Against Switzerland, the big frontman grabbed an assist and a goal. But when France took on Germany in the quarterfinal, Giroud was back to the bench. From an Arsenal standpoint, it would have been nice to have seen him score a big goal in the knockout round, but alas, he once again failed to make much of an impact against the very best teams. However, Giroud did force his way into a very talented team for a few games, and that should be good for his confidence going forward.

Lukas Podolski (Germany) – While Podolski didn’t see much of the field, totaling zero minutes in the knockout round, he leaves Brazil a world champion. And watching him on the field in the postgame celebrations, you could see how much it meant to him. Although he didn’t play a whole lot, this summer should still do wonders for his confidence. Nobody can take away the fact that he is a world champion footballer. And hopefully he was playing up Arsenal to Sami Khedira for the last month. While he’ll miss much of preseason, Arsenal should be able to deal with his absence until he’s fit.

Per Mertesacker (Germany) – The big German center back started for much of the tournament, but lost his place in the final three games when Germany moved Philipp Lahm to right back. However, that decision was not a reflection on Mertesacker’s play. He was solid in the back, and represented Arsenal well with every header won. And of course, he comes back to the club a World Cup champion. He is already held in a high status in the dressing room and this should only further that reputation. I expect a fully fit Mertesacker to be ready for the opener, and he’ll be in a great mental state going in to the new campaign.

Mesut Özil (Germany) – Arsenal’s record signing received a ton of flak throughout the tournament for a perceived lack of effort. Compared to Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and many of his other world-beating teammates, his work rate wasn’t the best. However, despite being pushed out wide, Özil did play a lot of telling balls in the final third, and was unlucky only to garner a single goal and an assist. And he played his best game in the final, which should do wonders for his confidence. Being a World Cup winner could do more for Özil than anyone else, as he should now be of the mindset that he can be among the very best. Hopefully this means we will see Özil live up to his potential. While the Arsenal playmaker will miss much of preseason, this World Cup should do wonders for him for next season.

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A Tip of the Cap to Derek Jeter and Now a Needed Sports Respite

There was a time in the not so distant past when the All-Star Game was one of the highlights of my summer. I would look forward to it for weeks, devoting hours and hours to following vote totals, roster predictions and of course all the roster announcements and replacements. But as I sat on my couch watching the game last night, I realized I had done none of that this summer. Two days removed from the World Cup, it was finally time to move on to other sporting events. The next four years of sports before Russia 2018 officially began last night in Minnesota.

But of course the All-Star Game was much more about Derek Jeter than it was about the baseball. If there’s someone out there who doesn’t respect the retiring Yankee shortstop, I don’t want to meet them. Growing up a Red Sox fan, I was always taught to hate every Yankees player but Jeter and Mariano Rivera. They were different. And after saying goodbye to Rivera last year, we got to do it again this time with Jeter. There isn’t much to be said about the shortstop that hasn’t been said already, but he is something special. He was the face of baseball when I became a fan around the year 2000, and he remains that today. What Jeter has accomplished on the diamond is incredible, and he has done it in style. I wish him only the best in his final two and a half months in baseball.

The Air Jordan Jeter commercial that I’m sure you’ve all seen by now is incredibly well done and encapsulates how everybody feels. There is nothing but respect for the captain. Forgetting the fact that the now former Red Sox A.J. Pierzynski never caught Jon Lester, the commercial was an appropriate tribute to the Yankee shortstop by the footware company. It was fitting that yesterday’s in-game tributes began with Jeter tipping his batting helmet to everyone as he stepped to the plate. And of course he went 2-2 at the plate.

I thought he was taken out of the game too early though. That it was still light out when Jeter was called back to the dugout will make the moment less memorable than Mariano Rivera’s farewell last year. While it’s unfair to compare the two All-Star Game goodbyes, it’s inevitable to do so. And in my opinion, Rivera’s was done much better. Jeter’s All-Star Game suddenly wasn’t his any longer in the top of the fourth. I would have liked to have seen more of him.

As such, I wish there was less pressure on the managers to get every player in the game, as I really would have liked to have seen some of these pitchers go more than an inning. The game used to be decided by the superstars, but now it’s decided by the fringe all-stars in the later innings. Something has to be done so that we can have more star power playing in the important moments. Wouldn’t we all have preferred to see more from Clayton Kershaw for example?

On a different note, today is probably the slowest sports day of the year. But at least we get the ESPY’s tonight. The ESPN equivalent of the Oscars for the past twelve months in sports is always a favorite of mine. However, I don’t think Drake will do a particularly good job hosting the show. My all-time favorite ESPY’s moment was after the World Cup four years ago when Seth Meyers was the host. His German accent making fun of Paul the Octopus was too funny. Somehow I don’t think Drake will be quite as hilarious as the great Seth Meyers. But at least we’ll get a night full of highlight videos and celebrations of the great moments in the sports world. I wouldn’t dare miss it.

This week of rest from the sports world comes as a refreshing break after the World Cup. But after few light days, the sports world will begin to go back to normal by the end of the week, with baseball soon taking over the spotlight from the World Cup and NBA free agency. The Red Sox will then have an interesting week or two as they try and sort out whether they will be buyers or sellers at the trading deadline. And Arsenal have their first preseason match this Saturday. So while this might be the only three days in the year we get somewhat of a break from the sports world, it’ll be nice to recharge the batteries.


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Lasting World Cup Memories

In every World Cup, there are moments that stand the test of time, moments that leave their mark on all who watched. This was the third World Cup I can remember paying attention to. When I think back to my early soccer fandom at the 2006 tournament in Germany, I instantly think about Philipp Lahm’s screamer against Costa Rica in the opener, the Portugal-Netherlands round of 16 match with 4 red cards and 16 yellows, Maxi Rodriguez’s incredible stoppage time winner against Mexico, and of course Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt in the final. Had I been a better fan back then, the semifinal between Germany and Italy probably also would have been a standout game. The Portugal match for years was my favorite game I’d ever watched. Clearly, I didn’t know much back then.

When I think back to South Africa in 2010, the first image that comes to mind is Luis Suarez’s handball to save the quarterfinal match against Ghana. After that, I think about his teammate Diego Forlan and his free kicks, Michael Bradley’s equalizer against Slovenia, Landon Donovan’s winner against Algeria and Germany’s dismantling of England and Argentina in the knockout round. And of course I think about Spain and the brutal final against Netherlands. The images of Iker Casillas’s save against Arjen Robben, the karate kick from Nigel de Jong and Andres Iniesta’s winner will never leave me.

So now as this World Cup ends, it’s time to think about what the lasting memories will be from Brazil. When I think about this last month, a ton of images flood into my mind. I see Fred flopping in the opener, Casillas being made a fool of by Robben and Robin van Persie, John Brooks scoring the late winner for the U.S., Lionel Messi taking over against Bosnia and Iran, and of course I see Luis Suarez’s bite. And that’s just in the group stage.

In the knockout round, I think about Chile hitting the bar in the dying moments of extra-time against Brazil, Manuel Neuer playing the best game in goal I will ever see against Algeria, Wesley Sneijder tying the game against Mexico late on and James Rodriguez scoring a stunner against Uruguay. I think about Neymar getting his back broken and Tim Krul coming in to save the day in PK’s against Costa Rica. And then there was Germany 7, Brazil 1 – the most unforgettable 90 minutes many of us will ever see. Lastly, there was the bloody Bastian Schweinsteiger and the brilliantly taken Mario Götze extra-time winner in the final.

It’s hard to know which of those moments will stand out a number of years from now. But there is no doubt I’ll never forget Germany’s semifinal win over Brazil. And few will forget Suarez’s bite. In this country, we’ll probably also remember John Brooks and Julian Green, but will that be at the expense of recalling other special players in Brazil such as Costa Rican goalie Keylor Navas?

But regardless, there was plenty worth remembering from Brazil. It was a great four weeks. And now we have to wait another four years.

What will you remember from this tournament? Please comment below


My Best XI and Second Best XI From the World Cup

There were a number of standout performances at the World Cup. But I did my best to select the very best here. This is my World Cup best XI and second best XI. I tried to put players in their correct position, but I needed to be creative in a few areas to get the deserving players on the teams.

First XI

FW – Arjen Robben (Netherlands) – From the opening match against the reigning champions, Robben lit the World Cup up with extraordinary displays of pace and skill. When he wasn’t scoring goals, he was earning penalties or drawing two or three defenders to set up his teammates. Aside from his bald head, one wouldn’t have known Robben was nearing the end of his international career by his performances in Brazil.

FW – Thomas Müller (Germany) – Müller did it again at the World Cup, scoring another five goals and leading his country to the title. He was always in the right place at the right time, and his finishing was clinical. But beyond his goals, it’s his work rate that make Müller such a useful player. Never one to walk on the pitch, the lanky German made a number of impressive tackles in addition to all the chances he created on the offensive end. He could have won the Golden Ball.

FW – Lionel Messi (Argentina) – The winner of the Golden Ball for best player at the World Cup, Messi was incredible in Argentina’s first few games, showing the world why he’s considered the very best. His stoppage-time winner against Iran was just one of many magical Messi moments from the first four games. However, Messi’s effectiveness dropped significantly when Argentina’s tactics turned more defensive. And in the World Cup Final, he needed to be better.

CAM – James Rodriguez (Colombia) – Nobody will mispronounce the young Colombian’s name anymore. James ran rampant in Brazil, making everyone forget about Falcao. He scored in every single game he played, and most of his goals were absolute beauties. He was adventurous going forward, with a lethal combination of strength, speed and vision. His play in this World Cup won’t soon be forgotten, and he looks to be world superstar in the very near future.

CM – Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) – It’s a toss-up between Toni Kroos and Schweinsteiger for this spot in the midfield, as both Germans were outstanding in the middle. But Schweinsteiger gets the edge for his improved play as the tournament wore on. Once Philipp Lahm moved to right back, Schweini found his ideal spot in the defensive midfield role. His distribution was excellent against Brazil, and in the Final against Argentina, his combative instincts halted countless counter attacks. His man-of-the-match display in the final gives him the nod in this spot. He could have been a worthy Golden Ball winner himself.

CDM – Javier Mascherano (Argentina) – Mascherano arguably had a better case for the Golden Ball than his teammate Messi. The defensive midfielder was the key to Argentina’s success, the main reason why his country didn’t trail at the World Cup save for the last few minutes of extra time. The Barcelona man was impeccable in his defensive role, always being in the right place for timely interceptions and tackles. And going forward, his distribution was usually spot on. It’s hard to say what his best match was, because he was great in all of them.

LB – Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) – While Vertonghen might say he hates playing left back, he sure plays the position well. Belgium wasn’t particularly impressive going forward as a team, but most of the time they found success, it came down the left. Vertonghen got the winner against South Korea, and in the round of 16 against the United States, he was the most dangerous player on the field. His defending was also solid on the left side of defense. He’ll have a hard time convincing everybody he’s better at center back.

CB – Mats Hummels (Germany) – The big German defender was excellent in the air, giving Germany the edge on every set piece, both offensively and defensively. Particularly against France, Hummels’s physicality kept talented strikers off the board. His tackling was spot on and while he lacked pace, he compensated well with his positioning. He looks to be just about the best defender in the world at this point.

CB – Ron Vlaar (Netherlands) – The veteran defender surprised nearly everyone with his consistently impressive play in the back. Alongside two inexperienced center backs, Vlaar provided the much needed composure in the back. His tackling was almost perfect, and his positioning was always spot on. That he missed a penalty in the semifinal shootout shouldn’t cloud the fact that he was brilliant in Brazil.

RB – Philipp Lahm (Germany) – While Lahm only played three games at right back, he earns this spot for his overall play over the course of the tournament. In his holding midfielder role, he helped key the 4-0 win over Portugal that got things going. And when he moved to defense, his runs down the right almost always led to a chance for Germany. Brazil had no answer for Lahm in the 7-1 thrashing. Defensively, in the right back role, I can’t think of a single mistake he made. The German captain looks eternally young.

GK – Manuel Neuer (Germany) – Not enough can be said about the play of Neuer at this World Cup. His performance against Algeria is one of the gutsiest displays we’ll ever see from a keeper. His ability to act as a sweeper was incredible to watch, and it proved effective time and again. His shot-stopping could not be questioned either. And as if Neuer couldn’t do everything else well enough, his distribution was the best of any keeper in Brazil. That he won the Golden Glove Award should come as no surprise.

Second XI

CF – Karim Benzema (France) – One of the early stars in this World Cup, Benzema was lethal in France’s opening games. His movement up front opened up spaces in the defense, and that was a huge part of France’s goalscoring form. His performances against Honduras and Switzerland were some of the best individual play in Brazil. While Germany shut him down in the quarterfinal, Benzema had a great tournament overall.

LW – Juan Cuadrado (Colombia) – While James was the undisputed star of Colombia’s World Cup journey, Cuadrado was the Pippen to James’s Jordan. The pacey winger was always on the move, wreaking havoc on defenses that couldn’t deal with his speed. His ability to get forward quickly sparked a number of brilliant counter attacks. Without Cuadrado, James wouldn’t have found as much space in the final third. Cuadrado’s goal and four assists were vital to Colombia’s quarterfinal run.

CAM – Neymar (Brazil) – The poster boy of the tournament started brightly, playing some superb football in the group stage. He scored a number of big goals early on, and was the driving force behind nearly every Brazilian attack. However, in the knockout stage, he was noticeably quiet. Opposing tactics beating up the young Brazilian left him battered and eventually gave him a broken back. Neymar was the inspiration for an entire country. And without him, his team was nothing.

RW – Mathieu Valbuena (France) – The diminutive Frenchman put a poor club campaign behind him with a number of impressive performances in Brazil. He was France’s most consistent player, continuously using his guile and pace to create chances for his forwards. He may have only gotten one goal and one assist, but he was a true joy to watch on the right.

CM – Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland) – Shaqiri earns his spot in the Second XI for one performance. In a crucial group game against Honduras, he absolutely took over, scoring a brilliant hat trick and sending his country to the knockout round. The Bayern Munich man certainly left his mark on the World Cup with one of the performances of the tournament. He and his Swiss team were unlucky to lose against Argentina in extra-time. It has to be said that he is one to watch for 2018.

CM – Toni Kroos (Germany) – Kroos easily could have been in the best XI. He was incredibly consistent in the German midfield, and whenever he was on the ball, the opposing defense was on their heels. His set pieces were always dangerous, producing more goals than any other team from those opportunities. Kroos’s calming presence in the midfield also helped Germany settle whenever there a problem, as he rarely misplaced a pass. Like most of the German midfield, he played the game of his life against Brazil in the semifinal. A careless giveaway in the final could have been disastrous, but overall, he was outstanding this World Cup.

LB – Marcos Rojo (Argentina) – Left back was seen as a bit of a problem for Argentina coming into the tournament, but Rojo put in a number of assured performances. When he was called upon to attack in the first few games, he did so effectively. But in the semifinal and the final, he was needed in the back. And his disciplined performances helped stop Arjen Robben and Philipp Lahm. Both Netherlands and Germany attacked down his side, but he was always up to the task.

CB – Thiago Silva (Brazil) – The Brazilian captain was spared the embarrassment of the 7-1 semifinal defeat due to his own stupidity, but that loss only served to confirm how important the central defender is to his country. He kept together an undisciplined back line through the quarterfinal, putting in a number of strong performances himself. Against Colombia, he was Brazil’s best player. But that yellow card for blocking the goalkeeper’s punt will forever haunt Silva. However, he and Neymar might be the only Brazilians to leave with their reputations intact.

CB – Giancarlo Gonzalez (Costa Rica) – Few expected Costa Rica to make the run they did in this tournament, but much of that was down to their defense. Gonzalez could easily have earned a spot of the first team, but he narrowly missed out to Vlaar. The defender who plies his trade in the MLS was always in the right spot for the Ticos. His aerial displays and hard tackling kept the potent attacks of Uruguay, Italy and England stifled.

RB – Cristian Gamboa (Costa Rica) – The other standout Costa Rican to make my team is the right back, Gamboa. This position was the weakest one in Brazil, with few right backs consistently playing well. Gamboa wasn’t spectacular, but he was solid. And that assured presence on the right allowed Costa Rica to send men forward on the counter. Gamboa’s positioning was as good as any right back in the tournament.

GK – Tim Howard (USA) – The American keeper earns his spot on the team for making big save after big save. His 15 saves against Belgium will forever be remembered in the United States. He was also excellent against Portugal. He showcased his shot-stopping ability with a wide variety of saves, including impressive displays of balance and strength. Howard was tremendous.

Final Squad Member

GK – Tim Krul (Netherlands) – Every team needs a 23rd man, somebody who can make a difference in a singular cameo if called upon. Out of every single player at the World Cup, nobody made a bigger impact in their time on the field than Krul. While Krul only played a couple minutes, his substitute appearance for penalty kicks against Costa Rica was a brilliant move by Louis van Gaal. Krul did his job in PK’s, psyching out Costa Rica with trash talk and powerful saves. Krul’s success goes to show to that even a squad’s third goalkeeper plays an important role at the World Cup. For this reason, he earns the final spot on my squad, and an honorable mention in my Best XI’s of the tournament.

What are your thoughts on the best players in Brazil? Who did I leave out? Please comment below.