The World Cup’s Winningest Losers
Bad news, folks. My sources are telling me that somehow, against all odds, America did not win the World Cup. I didn’t actually watch–I was probably busy “icing my bros” somewhere or ordering a new Ed Hardy shirt online or something less gay–but apparently a country called Spain beat something called The Netherlands yesterday to win the World Cup, and the US wasn’t even involved. After looking through pictures and scouring the Internets, my conclusion is that it’s true. العب روليت The US did not win their 50th straight World Cup, or whatever.
This puts me in a real downer of a mood. استراتيجيات الروليت How can I write a positive World Cup wrap-up with that idea needling my brain? Well the short answer is that I can’t, meaning that a negative World Cup wrap-up is in order.
But, well, let’s be fair. I’m not a negative person. Can we compromise? Yes, yes we can.
So, I present the 10 Losers of the World Cup That Actually Won. That is to say, the 10 players that aren’t on Spain–and thus did not win, so are, by definition, losers–that won the most in this World Cup.
10. Wesley Sneijder — The Netherlands
These first two are kind of the odd men in the bunch. The argument could easily be made the Sneijder was the best player in the tournament, but how do you improve your stock when you were just (arguably) the best player and (not-arguably) the lynchpin on the club that won both it’s domestic cup AND the Champion’s League, as Sneijder just was for Inter Milan? It’s rumored that he’s on his way to Manchester United, but that was a move that would’ve likely played out whether he had lit up the World Cup or Christiano Ronaldoed it. So he goes at the bottom of the list not because he was a lesser player than those that follow, but because those that follow had a lot more to gain from the World Cup.
9. Diego Forlán — Uruguay
Forlan was outrageous, no denying it. But, like Sneijder, he didn’t have as much to gain from this tournament as the up-and-comers given that, at 31 years old, Forlan has already enjoyed a great club career, including a stint at Manchester United and several magical years at a few of La Liga’s top clubs, Atletico Madrid and Villareal, where he combined to win two European Golden Boot awards. So his winningness wasn’t so much about improving his status at the club level as much as improving his career legacy and international acclaim. But if those things–legacy and international acclaim–are the currency of the World Cup, he got, like, a zillion moneys, and put together a World Cup performance for the generations.
8. Giovani Dos Santos — Mexico
I’m sure this wasn’t quite the breakout tournament that both Mexico and Dos Santos had envisioned, as Dos Santos failed to record so much as one goal or one assist in Mexico’s four games. He did, however, showcase his immense talents on the world stage, and they are undeniable. He was also, of course, one of three finalists for the FIFA young player of the tournament award, meaning people that know more about soccer than I do thought he impressed. So there’s that, I guess.
7. Michael Bradley — United States
It could be argued that Bradley wasn’t even the US’s winningest loser, as Landon Donovan has been linked in permanent transfer rumors to top EPL teams Manchester City, Everton and Chelsea, and goalkeeper Tim Howard came to be revered by some as one of the world’s five best keepers. Both, however, already had high profiles internationally, and neither had more to gain than Bradley. Just do a quick Google News search of Michael+Bradley+transfer and you’ll get hordes of fresh stories from multiple reputable sources that link Bradley, who currently plays for a smallish Bundesliga team that I can’t spell, to Blackpool (snooze), Tottenham (hmmm) and Everton (booya!). His strength and composure on the ball behind the attack would translate well to the EPL and, at 22, he’s improving at a jolting clip. Very attractive. I’ll stop my Bradley gushing here for the sake of space, but I’ll add that we’d might as well get used to the idea that Bradley will be our best player by 2012, if not sooner.
6. Keisuke Honda — Japan
Honda was already a very good player on a solid European club, CSKA Moscow, going into the Cup. After his terrific–and occasionally magical–play in the tournament, though, a move to one of Europe’s top teams is imminent as Chelsea, Manchester United and AC Milan are all lining up with interest in acquiring his services. With all of these top clubs calling, would it be too much to ask for a Japanese equivalent of “The Decision”? Better question: is there any other network in the world that would be as laudable as ESPN and run such wretch? Good God. North Korean television thinks ESPN is unethical.
5. André Ayew — Ghana
After three middling seasons at Marsielle in France–two of which were spent on loan–the World Cup might have been what Ayew, a 20-year old French-Ghanian, needed to gain some notoriety and consistency at the club level with a transfer likely coming. Ayew was sparkling for his international side that was one handball away from the semifinals. He will particularly be remembered in the States as the man that set up Asamoah Gyan’s go-ahead goal in extra time of the US-Ghana round of 16 match. While he’s far from a finished product, Ayew showcased enough creativity this last month to entice a large club, perhaps Bayern Munich, to purchase his services for the future.
4. Luis Suarez — Uruguay
It’s unfair that history will remember Suarez’s 2010 World Cup for one play–crapping on Africa’s heart with his handball on the goal line in stoppage time against Ghana–because he did far more than drive the final stake in the proverbial heart of the host continent. Forlan may’ve made headlines as the man that carried Uruguay to a fourth place finish, but none of it would’ve happened without Suarez’s stellar play throughout and, yes, his fortuitous handball. Following his exceptional club season at Ajax (where he lead the Dutch league in goals) with a stand-outish World Cup means large dividends for the 23-year old, who will likely find himself at either Chelsea or Manchester United in the near future. قواعد لعبة الروليت
3. Mesut Ozil — Germany
You say he looks like a bug, I say he looks like an alien, whatever. Ozil’s age (21) and brilliance this past month (one goal, three assists for the second runner up) look to spring Ozil from promising youngster to needed commodity. The attack-minded Werder Bremen midfielder figures to get about a bazillion offers in the 12 months leading up to the end of his contract and he can largely thank the exposure gained at the World Cup for each one.
2. Asamoah Gyan — Ghana
Like Suarez, Gyan’s 2010 Cup will unfairly be remembered for one moment. In Gyan’s case, it’ll be biffing the penalty created by Suarez’s villainous handball, knowing that a converted penalty would’ve effectively placed Ghana in the semifinals. I could care less. I was able to catch every Ghana game, and Gyan was–in my ding dong opinion–the second-best young player in this tournament. He was on an island as Ghana’s only striker throughout and created dangerous situation after dangerous situation. In the States, he’ll be more remembered for the defense-splitting, Howard-owning, go-ahead goal that knocked the US out of the tournament, and I think that’s fair. Missed penalty with an entire continent baring down on him be damned. He was great, and looks for all the world to be on his way to Liverpool.
1. Thomas Muller — Germany
Honestly, what can you say? The Golden Boot winner, only 20 years old, saw his international reputation go from “that young German striker that played pretty well for Bayern Munich this year” to “Jeeeeze. Say hello to the world’s next great striker,” or something to that effect. Sure he might have benefitted from a wide-open German attack, but sometimes fortune is fair and sometimes it isn’t. Maybe his high goal-and-assist tally involved some luck, but the end result is all most will see and remember, and it was sterling. As for now, the sky is the limit. Your move, Thomas.