This is a guest post by Brian Mechanick.
Last week, the TSG crew decided to embark on a fantasy draft of epic proportions. The rules were simple and they were threefold:
1. Draft a starting 11 and three reserves using World Cup players
2. You can only pick one player from each team
3. You must pick one player from every confederation and they all must start (New Zealand counts as Asia)
You can read the results here, but here at TSG we play to win. Note, since a crew member could only take one player from a team, how and when you selected a player from Brazil made a difference. This is why Matt was able to take Dani Alves with his last pick and I was able to grab Rafael Van Der Vaart near the end as well.
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The two winners will then go head-to-head. Voting is open until Friday evening.
Semifinal #1 – Brian vs. Tuesday
Brian: You’re not going to find a more balanced team than my world-class squad. Leading the team of course is Xavi, dictating play from deep as he distributes to my dynamic front four. Pairing with Xavi is Daniele De Rossi, who plays deep and acts as a bulldog ball-winner for my team, covering for the fullbacks when they make runs forward.
My front four plays off of Xavi’s excellent distribution. In Milito I have Rooney’s coveted target forward that can give him space, except Milito himself can score at prolific rates. Rooney gets to stay high with Xavi’s balls, not dropping deeper to gain a touch like he has with England. In Ribery and Van der Vaart I have two wingers who can interchange sides. They will start on their off-footed sides, giving them the impetus to slash in against slow-footed center halves, but can easily switch sides to gain control out wide and cross balls into the confident heads of the forwards.
In defense I have the world’s best centerback in Lucio, whose play can shut down any attack as we saw with Inter Milan. Pairing with him is Kolo Toure, giving me another experienced defender with the athleticism to stay with forwards and clear balls with his head. I’m going to instruct my fullbacks to stay at home for the most part, but on the counter-attack both Maynor Figueroa and Jerome Boateng can get forward and add width to my slashing wingers. And of course the eternal Mark Schwarzer, fresh off leading Fulham to the Europa League final, organizes and controls from between the posts.
In the end, my squad can run an approach that both can assault a defense without leaving itself vulnerable at the back. If I need a late goal, Forlan can come on and pinch one, and if I want to park the bus look for Rafa Marquez to help shut it down. Throw in a free-kick specialist in Stankovic who can fill in anywhere in the midfield, and you have the best team out of all of these sides.
Tuesday: Fullbacks are the most important players on the pitch, so I made Brazilian right-back Maicon my first pick to ensure I had a pair of World Class players on the flanks in he and Germany left-back, Philipp “Eyebrows” Lahm. England’s former captain John Terry remains a solid ball-winning center-half who is fantastic in the air and should pair up well with the pace and ball-playing ability of Real Madrid’s Portugual’s naturalized Brazilian defender Pepe.
Mark Van Bommel anchors my midfield. The Dutchman is an under-rated player, excellent at breaking up attacks and providing defensive cover for the forward runs of my fullbacks. At the same time he offers more than most holding players while in possession, being a good distributor of the ball who is able to set a high tempo in possession. He is paired with Spain’s Cesc Fabregas, should offer penetrative passing and directness while also being capable of dominating possession with fullbacks eagerly pushing on in support of the attack.
Up top I have Gonzalo Higuain leading my line. I’ve taken a page out of Mourinho’s CL-winning playbook to put Samuel Eto’o in an advanced role on the right wing. In addition to being a threat to get behind the defense, the Cameroonian has proven capable of putting in a serious defensive shift, coming all the way back to the fullback slot to help out when required. Left-footed Japanese free-kick specialist Keisuke Honda starts in the position he played for CSKA Moscow in Champion’s League knock-out ties against Sevilla and Inter. On the left I field Florent Malouda in a slightly less advanced position, able to slot back to reinforce central midfield on the fly.
In Alexis Sanchez, I can bring on an attacking player off the bench who can bamboozle defenders with his dribbling, or replace Honda and play the “Boy-Wonder” in the Robben role, cutting inside from the wrong flank while Lahm provides width on the overlap. Frankly, it was 100% worth taking a flyer on Drogba with my final pick: without his elbow injury he would’ve gone far sooner in the process. If he regains fitness to play a significant role, this bet could have a significant pay-off, allowing the more direct approach of a traditional 4-4-2 to get quality balls into the box in search of a late goal.
Semifinal #2 – Matthew vs. Shaun
The key to Team TSG or The Flying Hovestads is versatility and speed. Concrete defense and distribution from the middle. To beat team TSG with our roster and multiple formations, your only chance is to attempt to catch it on the counter after you’ve packed 10 in the box for almost 90 minutes. Did I mention that protecting against that counter are twin Energizer bunnies J.S. Park and Landon Donovan and should it get to the ultimate, well, I’ve got Hugo Lloris between the pipes.
The key to this whole team is Sneijder–a more complete player in my mind than Xavi–orchestrating the passing with an array or short linking to Landon and Park, over the top to Gervinho or feeding Ronaldo on the run.
I mention Yakubu because in the event that the opponent’s defense presses up the pitch, I’ll swap in Yakubu, one of the better true target men at the World Cup, to receive the ball and lay it off to whoever is trailing.
Gervinho, who I probably selected too early in the draft, nevertheless turns out to be godsend as he plays striker for his club side, but alternates between mid and winger for the Ivory Coast.
And how about that versatility? In Schweinsteiger and Hamsik, I have to very steely stronger players that I can use in a 4-2-3-1.
In facing Shaun…
Shaun does have way too much offense. It’s almost unfair. One problem for him against the Hovestads? He’s not going to be able to get them the ball. Lacking any true linking players beyond Kaka and likely employing a 3-man backline Shaun’s firepower is going to sit…and wait…and wait.
For my match-up with Shaun, I’m going to be extremely disruptive in a 4-3-2-1, keeping my middle three narrow and forcing Shaun’s team to play to the wings where they really don’t have true wing players. Gerrard and Dempsey like to wander in when attacking, not around the outside.
Then upon the turnover, it’s going to be a lights-out speed attack either up the flanks or through the middle. If he thinks, Tim Cahill covering over a 3-man line of Evra, Yobo, and Carlvaho (playing out of position), he’s sadly mistaken and in for a long day.
If Shaun goes defensive with a four-man back, then I’m just going to use Sneijder, Donovan and Park a little further up the pitch to link, through and around and create scoring opportunities galore for Villa and Ronaldo.
This is not the world’s greatest defensive team but it’s versatile and the firepower and creativity is AWESOME. Having Cahill just in front of the back 3 will help shore things up at the back as the Everton and Australian is a tenacious beast with great distribution. He doesn’t have to get it too far as Kaka or Robin van Persie will come back to gather the ball. Cahill’s main responsibilities will be defensive but obviously we will want him up there for corners.
Out wide I’ve got Gerrard and Deuce who will create havoc by not traditionally playing their positions but cut in from their respective wings. This team will be susceptible to the counter attack but by the time their opponents score, this team will already be up by 3 goals. Buffon is the worlds best if not in the top 3 so a lot will come down to him. I have full confidence in the Italian number 1.
Messi and Torres will be up front with Torres being able to play target as well as out and out striker. Should Messi drift wide as he is want to do, RVP will be able to fill in his position as well as Gerrard or Deuce…NASTY!
The versatility comes in the options of the bench. Protecting a lead we can pull off a striker and one of the wide players and replace them with Subotic and Palacios and go with a 4 – 5 – 1. Palacios will pair up with Cahill and Subotic will go in the center with Carvalho taking the RB spot. Now this team becomes a lot more formidable defensively without giving up too much in attack. Having Suazo to come on for either striker is a luxury that few can boast.