World Cup 2010: Team Of The Group Stage

Goal.com selects the best XI from the opening 48 games of World Cup 2010...
Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper:

Diego Benaglio - Switzerland


Although the Swiss have bid farewell to the World Cup at the group stage their netminder has been outstanding. The Nati have conceded only once in two World Cup tournaments; they were breached for the only time against Chile while down to 10 men. The Wolfsburg 'keeper kept command of his area and made a string of fine saves, especially in the opening day win over Spain.

Defence:

Gregory Van Der Wiel - The Netherlands


The Netherlands have been formidable and any perceived question-marks over the standard of their defece will have to wait. While John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen have dealt adequately with attacking threats from the opposition, the right-back Van Der Wiel has been providing them for the Oranje. The Ajax flanker works tirelessly in both directions and has been a real find for Bert Van Marwijk at these finals.

Diego Lugano - Uruguay

Yet to concede, Uruguay are shaping up to be a contender for this World Cup's dark-horses. Their attacking trio of Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani may be winning plaudits for their work at the business end but it is the captain and company that are giving them the platform to decide matches. Oscar Tabarez has switched between his formations, now utilising a back-four, and Lugano has been rock solid.

Lucio - Brazil

Another South American team who mean business at the back are Brazil. Lucio has been awesome at times for Dunga's team, winning the ball and distributing it effectively. A vital presence in the line-up as he is capable of winning his individual battles as well as forming a functioning unit alongside Juan.

Carlos Salcido - Mexico

To add yet more Latino flair to our defence is PSV's Salcido. The diminutive left-back has struggled at club level but looks assured and reinvigorated for El Tri at this finals. A feature of their play has been the ability and willingness of Salcido to race forward and deliver crosses and shots. He has yet to be found wanting defensively either. Just pips Uruguay's Jorge Fucile and England's Ashley Cole to the spot in this line-up.



Midfield:

Michael Bradley - USA

Landon Donovan may have grabbed the headlines with his two goals in the group stage but the economic and precise use of the ball by the coach's son has been the USA's most subtle weapon. A solid midfielder who does not 'go missing' in games and is equally adept at winning the ball as giving it. Chipped in with a vital equaliser against Slovenia too.

Keisuke Honda - Japan

Arguably the player of the tournament to this point. He opened the scoring for the Blue Samurai at these finals against Cameroon and demonstrated how a Jabulani should be addressed with a wonderful free-kick against Denmark. He has done much more than that; his hold-up play, vision, pace and physical power have given Takeshi Okada's side a new lease of life as an attacking force.

Mesut Oezil - Germany

Germany have been lacking a genuine playmaker for some time but have unearthed a diamond in that position in Mesut Oezil. He orchestrated Die Elf's opening day trouncing of Australia and won the group for his side with a crucial , sweet strike against Ghana on the third matchday.

Lionel Messi - Argentina

The best player in the world is beginning to shine for his national team too. He has led Argentina fight from the front and was even awarded the captain's armband for the win over Greece. Playing in a slightly different role than his usual right-wing slot at Barcelona, the Flea has been nonetheless effective, making goals, attracting defenders' attention and providing key passes. Now, if he could only score...



Attack:

Diego Forlan - Uruguay

Since withdrawing behind the striking duo, Forlan has wreacked havoc. Running from slightly deeper areas, the Atletico Madrid forward has created space for Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. He scored two goals against South Africa too in his 'No. 10' role.

David Villa - Spain

It took Spain a while to get going as a whole at these finals and likewise, El Guaje was a slow starter too. Goalless against Switzerland, he has scored in every game since. Two terrific strikes against Honduras were followed up by another scintillating display against Chile. He will take some marking and will provide a completely new threat to the as yet unbreached Portugal defence.