Team of the World Cup qualifiers: Dzeko & Van Persie spearhead European XI

Goal selects the standout performers on the road to Brazil, with Philipp Lahm, Mathieu Valbuena and Mesut Ozil among those to make the cut

Igor Akinfeev didn’t concede a single goal in Russia’s first five World Cup 2014 qualifiers and has only been beaten five times since, which earns him our goalkeeping slot. His presence between the posts is one of the major reasons Russia beat Portugal to top spot in Group F.

Philipp Lahm may well have operated in a central midfield role for Bayern Munich this season but he is a shoe-in for our right-back berth after another typically consistent qualifying campaign for Germany. Meanwhile, Dmitriy Kombarov lines up on the opposite flank – despite occupying a more offensive role for Russia under Fabio Capello.

A Belgian duo form our defensive base. Vincent Kompany – who made an impact in the attacking third with goals against Wales and Scotland – partners Jan Vertonghen, with the Tottenham defender featuring in every single one of the Rode Duivels qualifying fixtures.

Italy have been less than spectacular in World Cup qualifying but they were still first past the finishing post in Group B. Key to their success has been the form of Roma’s Daniele De Rossi, whose experience and know-how has seen the Azzurri remain unbeaten on the road to Brazil, so the versatile 30-year-old sits at the base of the midfield.

Two diminutive playmakers complete our trio in the middle of the park. Mesut Ozil has been Germany’s outstanding performer in qualifying, netting eight goals to become die Mannschaft’s top scorer and their match winner en route to topping Group C. Mathieu Valbuena, meanwhile, has come of age for France, even if his enterprising displays haven’t been enough to give les Bleus automatic qualification in Group I as they get set for the play-offs.

Goals are the dish of the day when it comes to our front three, with our forward line of Pedro, Edin Dzeko and Robin van Persie having racked up 25 between them.

Dzeko struck 10 times to fire Bosnia to the top of Group G, while Pedro’s eye for goal has been key for a Roja side who have proven quite profligate, having struck just 14 times in nine games. Van Persie rounds off our dream team having topped the qualification goalscoring charts and surpassed Patrick Kluivert’s all-time goals record in the process.

2 Replies to “Team of the World Cup qualifiers: Dzeko & Van Persie spearhead European XI”

  1. I think, the outsiders, i.e. the ones who are not rnidsieg in Germany have this crucial and pivotal advantage that they can choose the teams they want. Otherwise; the case is more like you support the (local) team, the team of your town; where you were born; where you grew up; the teams that your Elders have supported; and the team which they enriched in your blood—with enthralling tales of Older days, history,club heroes, legends—since childhood.I am of firm belief in that old maxim that You don’t choose the colors; colors choose you. And I do hope that that’s what happens to you as well i.e. colors choose you.In my first Bundesliga viewing season, Borussia Dortmund tamed Juventus in that European final. There they were playing against European mammoth of that time having names like: Zidane, Vieri, Deschamps, Ferrara, Peruzzi, Tacchinardi, Del Piero while Sammer was leading Dortmund with Chapusiat, Kohler, Stef Klos, Riedle, and of the most sensational Champions League sub appearance by Lars Ricken. A well deserved win to Dortmund but Juventus had fair share of hitting-the-post several times.Still, I didn’t have any team in Bundesliga having being chosen by the colors from almost all the leagues that I had been watching since 1995 final—barring La Liga as the moment for supporting a La Liga team (it turned out to be Villarreal) arrived in 2003-04 season. I was, like you, watching the teams play weeks in weeks out and reading books on German football and would get my hands on anything which had anything to do with Bundesliga and German football.By that time, huge respect for Borussia Monchengladbach, HSV, Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen,Hertha Berlin, Kaiserslautern and Stuttgart had clouded and surrounded my heart. Still, no Bundesliga team…It was 2000 that I began to follow Michael Ballack at Leverkusen and instantly became my favorite player. Here, we had such a huge and massive player who I thought was born in wrong times and had to be considered for German national team in 70’s playing alongside the Kaiser. Interestingly, he got the nick “Little Kaiser” in his youth as well. He intrigued me the most. I only used to watch Leverkusen to watch his game. That was mind-blowing. Having soft spot for another Rhein side Gladbach, I began to love this Bayer Leverkusen. And strangely, it was the match they lost to bottle their Bundesliga title on final day that the colors of this club came to choose me. Ballack scored an own goal. They only needed to draw the match to clinch their first ever Bundesliga title. They lost, Bayern won against Werder and title went to perennial champions Bayern Munich. Those images of Christoph Daum, then Bayer Leverkusen manager, still haunt me.Sweet pain. Empty Heart. Numb mind. Beginning of “Neverkusen”. Start of a journey well-trodden.In well-covered “Neverkusen Year” i.e. 2002 where they will march on to potential treble and turning it in to treble-horror (playing DFB-Pokal final, Champions League final, 5 point lead at the top of the league; losing all three fronts), my affection and love for the club peaked and reached another level.There you might be thinking that what’s wrong with this guy? His team lost the titles and he wasn’t frustrated? I don’t know, but beauty of this club is… they make you believe that they can win the titles, give you that feeling of “nearly being there”, and in the final moment they will take it all away and throw it in the winds… and then the feelings come… which can never be expressed, never will be explained… and somehow, they “tame” your wild heart and make you serene. I might be a psycho, then. But I really can’t explain it to you in words.I think that it also depends on your nature, too.If you want to go for a club and enjoy success instantly or over and over again then Bayer Leverkusen is not your club. Would safely suggest that go for Bayern Munich, then. If you want to support a team and enjoy its city on weekends with good beer then Hertha Berlin (getting promoted to Bundesliga next season) will be my recommendation (good beer rule applies to every city so it’s out of question from here on), If you enjoy the stadium culture i.e. banters, clamor, stands, lively atmosphere with some ultra coming over from all across Europe then both Dortmund and Schalke will be my recommendation. Funny thing is, you can’t support both clubs simultaneously hehe! (Let no other tell you different about Schalke and HSV… both are great clubs)If you want to go with the academy that produces best young guns and want to go through idolizing them and also facing a day of bidding farewell to those young guns when they can shoot the bullets better then Werder is your club. This club is really huge. It has been a magnificent journey and transition of a team with two important figures at their helm namely Otto Rehhagel and Thomas Schaaf.If good accounts is your thing then Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim should be considered. This also applies to Leverkusen (due to Bayer) but it has more than that. If you want to go with a club with bright future then there is Mainz. If you believe in cults and regardless of where they are playing and want to support them through thick and thin with some good weekends then St. Pauli comes that way. If you believe in “rising from the ashes” and want to oversee a period of transformation and being with the club in difficult times then HSV might be your thing. If you have penchant for “we have won a league title so we can do it again” then start supporting Stuttgart because they will finally do it; there is some aura of being resolute about them and famous for the region where they are from.I would, again, suggest that just go through these final matches, keep researching, and the time will come by the summer that you will have a team of your own.Having fascination towards the region and teams of Rhein; I “want” you to support FC Kf6ln; a lovely club; good squad; and massive potential to play in Europa leagues in upcoming seasons and doing quite well for foreseeable future.Wish you all the best, Michael. Let me know when you are finally done with your “hunt”.

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