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Coral’s worst World Cup XI

| 15.07.2014

While everyone reflects on great players at the World Cup finals in Brazil, Coral experts have been busy putting together an XI of talented that failed to perform. We pull no punches, so take a look at who made our all-star side of flops.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)
How the mighty have fallen. Spain skipper Casillas looked mentally shot after conceding five in the holders’ tournament opener to the Netherlands. So many self-inflicted wounds on La Roja when they needed leadership.

Casillas’ calamities were also matched by another longer-serving interntional number one Igor Akinfeev. The Russian custodian made mistakes that cost the 2018 hosts big time in Brazil. Fabio Capello looked decidedly miffed.

Right back: Dani Alves (Brazil)
Some statisticians rave about the marauding raids of Alves up from full back, but wait a second. Aren’t players in this area supposed to be able to defend? For all his attacking instincts, time and again he was caught out of position, prompting Samba Boys boss Phil Scolari to drop Alves.

Maxi Pereira is in reserve for his spot after his senseless sending off in Uruguay’s World Cup opener. The finals decidedly look like being the last for both him and Alves.

Centre back: Sergio Ramos (Spain)
Vamos Ramos. One of the least disciplined players in Spanish league history was hopeless in Brazil, as La Roja’s backline was breached seven times at the tournament. Like Casillas, Ramos’ international reputation is in tatters.

Phil Jagielka was none too clever in central defence for England either. The Everton man re-enacted recent Merseyside derbies by being caught of position for Uruguay’s Luis Suarez to effectively knock the Three Lions out.

Centre back: David Luiz (Brazil)
Without Thiago Silva to keep him in check, this Samba Boy went from hero to villain. Luiz, who netted a winning free kick in the quarter-final, was lynchpin in a Brazil backline that crumbled in the 7-1 semi demolition to Germany.

Portugal centre back Pepe shares a common bound with Luiz, in as much as he let his country down against Germany too. A moment of madness saw him headbutt Thomas Muller, a straight red followed and the Navigators lost their way to the tune of 4-0.

Left back: Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Cameroon)
Speaking of going head-to-head, this Indomitable Lion committed the cardinal sin of turning on his own teammate. Afforded no protection by Benjamin Moukandjo in a crunch clash with Croatia, Assou-Ekotto saw his own frustrations boil over. Cameroon conceded nine goals, the joint most of any competing nation.

Leighton Baines, no longer pushed by the consistent competition provided by Ashley Cole in recent years, flopped in a England shirt too. He was exposed horribly in the opening loss to Italy, and young Luke Shaw, who signed for Manchester United, will be breathing down his neck.

Defensive midfield: Alex Song (Cameroon)
What better way to help your country than hitting an opposition player in the back? Song made Mario Mandzukic a victim of his frustration, instead of focusing on providing support to the Cameroon attack.

Greece’s Kostas Katsouranis also saw red during the group stage, not knowing when to stop tackling. No guile from midfield was once again a major failing of the Euro 2004 winners, and these ageing legs have a limited future at best at international level.

Deep-lying playmaker: Steven Gerrard (England)
England expects, but Gerrard failed to deliver. So much more was needed from the Three Lions skipper, who was found wanting at this elite level. Like Katsouranis above, he is on borrowed time as an international force, and could yet walk away from it after reflecting on his dismal displays in Brazil.

Spain metronome Xavi Hernandez is also in this ‘seen better days’ category. The Barcelona pass-master has retired from international football, recognising his legs are gone. That explained La Roja’s demise.

Central midfield: Wilson Palacios (Honduras)
If anyone was more deserving of a red card, it was Palacios. His first half display against France would’ve tested the patience of referees from bygone eras. Palacios’ clash with Paul Pogba could easily have seen both men sent off, but bookings were deemed sufficient. Marching orders followed anyway and the hostile Hondurans’ performances were typified by this player.

Sulley Muntari pushes Palacios close for inclusion, but for breaches of discipline off the field. A reported altercation with a Ghanaian FA official is not the way to go about getting your World Cup business.

Box-to-box role: Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)
After a 20-goal-plus Premier League campaign for title winners Manchester City, an awful lot was expected of Yaya Toure. His displays for the Ivory Coast, however, were lethargic and lacking the customary power we saw week in, week out during the club campaign.

Brazil’s Paulinho was another box-to-box player that simply failed to live up to his billing. Like so many of the Samba Boys squad that Scolari stuck by so steadfastly, his performances compared to those of the successful Confederations Cup tournament last summer were way below par.

Striker: Diego Costa (Spain)
A Brazilian-turned-Spaniard was supposed to be an interesting subplot for this tournament. Costa choked big time in the country of his birth, however, and was roundly booed whenever he touched the ball by watching locals. It just didn’t work and he failed to fit into La Roja’s style.

Portugal’s entire strikeforce were similarly found wanting and, like Costa, clearly lacking match fitness. Paulo Bento went through front men like nobody’s business. Cristiano Ronaldo needed to give so much more, because the main centre forwards lacked mobility.

Striker: Fred (Brazil)
Nobody’s movement was poorer than that of Fred, though. Top scorer at the Confederations Cup, he toiled, and that is no exaggeration, ploughing a lone furrow up front for Brazil. Home fans turned on him, like Costa, but the Fluminense target man chose to retire from international football after the World Cup.

Gonzalo Higuain flopped in similar fashion. He netted just once all tournament, as Fred did, and spurned several chances in a tense final, which Argentina ultimately lost. Failing to even hit the target, when one-on-one with Manuel Neuer, sealed his spot as a reserve in our worst XI.



Jamie Clark

Athletics aficionado, die-hard snooker fan and Crystal Palace supporter Jamie has written for Coral since February 2014 after spells with Soccerlens and the Press Association as a digital journalist and copywriter. A former East Midlands sports correspondent and Bwin tipster, he is a graduate of both the University of York and University of Sheffield, with a Masters in web journalism from the latter.