By Bill George, Irish Examiner
It is a simple task to pick a team of the tournament from the Asia World Cup finals.
You begin by picking the German defence and you complete your team with the Brazilian strike force.
Only problem is, there is no room for 21 players on a football team.
That, in a sense, sums up just why the final was contested by these two teams.
When Brazil attack then everybody on the team is a forward with the possible exception of goalkeeper Marcos. Well, of course, there are players picked by Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari because their defence is stronger than their attack, but it would be an injustice to suggest that the giant Lucio, for instance, is not creative.
Like all the Brazilians, he is very comfortable on the ball and always prepared to carry it out of defence. His preparedness to take a player on not only confirms his technical skill, it also reflects his confidence in his colleagues.
It means he is satisfied there are people there filling the gap in case he loses it.
That is the beauty of Brazil: everyone wants to be on the ball and when they move it about they are practically jostling one another for a touch.
What satisfaction it must give to players who form a link in the chain that helps the ball from one position to another with accuracy and at pace!
Miroslav Klose is Germany¹s top scorer, an outstanding athlete and unusually strong in the air. His leap is extraordinary and helped him collect a bundle of goals. But he knows how to defend as well.
This is why Germany did so well in Asia. The team was as well balanced as an Olympic rowing crew and they worked extremely hard whenever they were without the ball.
All 11 players were quick to drop behind the ball and pressure the man in possession.
So I would settle for any combination of eleven players drawn from Germany and Brazil and back them to beat any other selection.
But to settle for that here would remove the satisfaction all football lovers derive from discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the great players.
So let¹s pick an XI not confined to the two finalists even if the first choice player has to be the German goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn.
There were some superb goalkeepers on show in Asia and few better than our own Shay Given. Turkey¹s goalkeeper, Rustu, had an outstanding tournament as had South Korea¹s Lee Woon Jae. Spain¹s Iker Casillas was another to shine and Brad Friedel of USA was good enough to grace any team. Kahn was simply the best.
Right-back is the Brazilian Cafu with Spain¹s outstanding Puyol his closest rival. America¹s Tony Sanneh was big, brawny and boisterous but Cafu¹s energy and his effectiveness in attack made him first-choice. He created chaos among opposing midfields.
Left-back has to be his colleague Roberto Carlos. It is fashionable in some quarters to criticise the little man for a perceived lack of defensive quality, but that argument will not be accepted here.
Centre-backs, in a 4-4-2 formation, are not quite as clear-cut. Ireland¹s Gary Breen and Steve Staunton are entitled to a mention here, as is Rio Ferdinand and Lillian Thuram.
The Italian centre-backs who were so good in the European finals two years ago, were upset this time by injury and suspension. The veteran South Korean Hong Myung Bo deserves a mention and would not be out of place in the best team.
Germany’s Ramelow came through very strongly in the semi-final against South Korea but Thomas Linke was their top man and he must get into the team.
There are some players whose involvement just cannot be disputed and amongst them are certainly Ronaldo and Rivaldo of Brazil.
Ronaldo’s rehabilitation after his horrendous couple of years with knee problems is probably the best individual story of this World Cup.
Rivaldo is a former FIFA World Player of the Year and his impact on this tournament illustrated why.
Here is a player who found it difficult to transfer his club form to the international scene and he was not the most popular international in Brazil prior to these finals. But no one will dispute his status now.
Damien Duff has to be included in any team I select and that is not an Irish bias. He would fit into Brazil’s team with perfect ease but he must play out wide, whether right or left is not that important.
Ronaldinho showed with his exciting run through the English defence to set up Rivaldo’s beautiful equalising goal, just what an exciting player he can be.
Brazil¹s midfielders, Edmilson and Roque Junior, also showed they can play a bit. Others like Turkey¹s Basturk, USA¹s Claudio Reyna, John O¹Brien and Landon Donovan, Italy¹s Francesco Tottiand Christian Vieri, Sweden¹s Henrik Larsson, Cameroon¹s Mboma and Eto¹o, Senegal¹s exciting Henri Camara and Papa Diop South Korea¹s Seol Kin Hyeon and Ahn, Turkey¹s Hakan Sas and Umit Davala all made significant contributions to the tournament.
Germany’s Torsten Frings had been outstanding throughout on the right for Germany, as full-back or as wing-half and he would fit in neatly with Cafu while Duff and Roberto Carlos would make music of a lyrical nature on the left. Pity the defenders facing those two.
That leaves two central midfield positions to fill on the basis that Rivaldo would slot in just behind Ronaldo. Mattie Holland was the equal of anybody in that defensive midfield role and with Edmilson alongside him, the squad of attacking players in the team would have a full licence to exercise their creative talents.
Bill George’s World Cup dream team: Oliver Kahn (Germany), Cafu (Brazil), Roberto Carlos (Brazil), Hong Myung-Bo(Korea), Thomas Linke (Germany), Torsten frings (Germany), Edmilson (Brazil), Matt Holland (Ireland), Damien Duff (Ireland), Rivaldo (Brazil), Ronaldo (Brazil).
Just two other selections, a manager and a top referee.
The manager must surely be Guus Hiddink, the Dutchman who made such a success of South Korea in the space of 18 months and the top referee for me was Sweden’s Anders Frisk.