Corona Retro-Teams: Team of the World Cup 2006

Was the 2006 World Cup a good one? It sure involved some memorable moments, some legendary performances, and is widely credited with changing Germany’s image in the world for the better. But when it comes to the actual football, I think the picture is a mixed one. There was one classic game, the semi-final Germany – Italy, but I think this is about it. Fantastic performances could be seen on the individual level, but rarely on the collective. Argentina’s performance against Serbia & Montenegro might be the clearest exception. Tactically speaking, it was a very conservative world cup. Defensive structure was king, attacking structure almost unheard of. ‘Tactics’ just meant fine-tuning the kind of medium-low zonal-marking block that almost every team fielded. Generally speaking, attacking hadn’t caught up with defending yet.

This blogpost tries to chronicle the exploits of the best players of the 2006 World Cup. You will find many players from teams who progressed far into the tournament. I think that is just the nature of knock-out style tournaments. Some of the players with the highest potential simply do not get the chance to shine because their teams crash out rather early. At the very bottom of the page you will find the updated spreadsheet of all my selections ever.

And, as always, enjoy!

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Team of the European Championship 2021

Euro 2021 is widely thought to be one of the better international tournaments in recent times. I agree. The ultra-cautious approach of the last World Cup and the last Euros was mostly absent and both we, the viewers, and the sport itself was better for it. It is fair to say that no single player had a tournament that ranks among the very best in history: there was no Zidane 2000, Iniesta 2012, or Neuer 2014, to name three recent(-ish) examples. Still, many players impressed and this blogpost triest to name the very best. A big thank you goes out to my co-authors Daniel Roßbach, Rob Fielder, Lewis Ambrose, and Niklas Baumgart. Daniel is a journalist for the Lausitzer Rundschau and your no. 1 source if you’re interested in the most recent Union Berlin pressing schemes. Rob is simply an authority when it comes to the history of football and the author of the only two histories of the World Cup and European Championship that can rightfully be called ‘complete’. If you like this blog, you will love his books! Lewis is a football writer for arseblog and One Football and, if I may say so, a damn good football player. (The Saka to Daniel’s Chiellini.) Niklas is a journalist at the world-famous Kicker magazine and his Baumgarts Fußballblog is perhaps the best German football history blog within the (broadly-speaking) analytical tradition. Highly recommended if you speak German! (It pains me to say that so far I cannot comment on the footballing skills of Rob and Niklas, but the day will come, my friends, the day will come!)

The co-authors enriched this blog by contributing player profiles, but keep in mind that the selection was mine alone. So if you are the kind of person who gets upset by selections like these, please direct your anger towards me. To immediately pick out one controversial decision: Jorginho is the 12th man, someone who did more than enough to warrant inclusion, someone who is among the top five players of the tournament, but who is relegated to the bench because there is another player in his position who I see narrowly ahead (primarily based on the match in which they met). Sorry, Jorginho.

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Team of the Season 2020-2021

Believe it or not, another football season has ended. This one wasn’t as disrupted by the Corona pandemic as the last season was, but it would be a stretch to call it a regular season either. Last season ended only in August, which meant that there was hardly any summer break and lots of matches had to be squeezed into an ever tighter schedule. Not the easiest of times for top performances. Still, some players defied the odds and produced performances of the highest calibre. This blog post chronicles their exploits.

Manager: Thomas Tuchel

Bench: Courtois, Oblak, Navas; Guerreiro, Angelino, Robertson; Rüdiger, Kounde, Nacho, Azpilicueta, T. Silva, Savic; Hakimi, Wan-Bissaka, Walker; Rodri, Kimmich, Busquets; Kroos, Barella, F. de Jong; De Bruyne, M. Llorente, Müller; Neymar, Grealish, C. Ronaldo; Benzema, Haaland, Lukaku; Kane, Son, Foden

Best Player of the Season: Robert Lewandowski

Best Team of the Season: Manchester City

Best Match of the Season: FC Liverpool – Manchester City 1-4, 07.02.2021

The selection is, as always, based on the two criteria quantity of performance and quality of performance. Ideally, the players selected have performed really well and did so for the whole season or substantial parts of it. The 2020-2021 Season is defined as starting with the final whistle of the 2020 Champions League final and ending with the final whistle of the 2021 Champions League final.

I want to thank my four co-authors Tobias Günther, Michael, Justin Kraft and Rob Fielder. The portraits they’ve written are the highlights of this year’s Team of the Season. I am very grateful to have you on board! The player selection is still done by me, mind you, so if you have any righteous anger to vent, please direct it at me.

Manuel Neuer (by Tobias Günther)
If you play as a goalkeeper for one of Europe’s big club sides, opportunities to show your full abilities tend to arrive only rarely in any normal season. However, the 2020-2021 season was by no means a normal season. Yes, the COVID pandemic still loomed large and empty stadiums were the norm. But football-wise, too, the season was rather unusual. Many elite clubs struggled. Bayern München, Manuel Neuer’s club, was no exception.

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Corona Retro-Teams: 2006-07

The 2006-07 season was in many ways a transitional season. The new world of Guardiola, prime-Messi and prime-Cristiano Ronaldo hadn’t arrived yet but the era before that had clearly ended. The Galacticos had broken apart, Zidane retired, Bergkamp retired, Roy Keane retired, Ronaldo… well, kind of retired, Ronaldinho past his peak, Mourinho’s Chelsea past theirs, Capello’s Juventus gone, van Nistelrooy had left United, Henry had played his last good season for Arsenal, and so on and so forth. Tactically speaking it was a rather dull time. Most teams played pretty much alike, with a focus on defensive stability, happy to nick a goal on the counter but unwilling and unable to build any kind of planned collective attacking effort. Doesn’t sound like I want to convince you to repeat what I did and watch your way through the season, right? Well, maybe not quite as extensively as I did, but there is greatness to be found in this era. The 2006-07 season featured some good, very good, even borderline outstanding performances by some players. The purpose of this post is to chronicle some of these exploits. As always, selection is based on quality and quantity of performance – and on nothing else. The 2006-2007 Season is defined as starting with the final whistle of the 2006 Champions League final and ending with the final whistle of the 2007 Champions League final. The 2006 World Cup is excluded.

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Corona Retro-Teams: 2007-2008

Manager: Alex Ferguson

Bench: Casillas, Julio Cesar, D. James; Lahm, A. Cole, Maxwell; Ferdinand, Demichelis, Chiellini, R. Marquez, K. Touré; Maicon, Ramos, D. Alves; M. Diarra, Cambiasso, Christian Zanetti; Xavi, Scholes, Javier Zanetti; Gerrard, Lampard, Alex de Souza; Ribery, Robinho, Hleb; Toni, Adebayor, Rooney; Totti, Agüero, Del Piero

Best Player of the Season: Cristiano Ronaldo

Best Team of the Season: Manchester United

Best Match of the Season: Manchester United – Chelsea FC , 21.05.2008

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Team of the Decade 2010-2020

I run this blog for two main reasons. First, in order to publish my Team of the Season selections. This is an ongoing project. I post a new Team of the Season after the end of every football season (usually shortly after the UEFA Champions League final). The second big project that makes up a significant part of the content posted on this blog is the Teams of the Decade project. I watched my way through male football history and compiled what I thought was the best XI for every decade. In order not to discriminate against players who reached their peak around the turn of a decade (say, 1978-1982), the project progressed in overlapping five year steps. So for example, the 1970-1980 Team of the Decade was followed by the 1965-1975 Team of the Decade. This second project was completed in 2017. Working my way back in time, I reached the 1950s which is the first decade for which enough footage of classic football matches exist in order for me to form my own opinion on the top players of the period in question. The project finished with a post about what I consider to be the Best XI in Football History and one about the Best Player. After having finished the 1950-1960 Team of the Decade there were simply no more decades in football history to write about.

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Team of the Season 2019-2020

Manager: Jürgen Klopp

Bench: ter Stegen, Courtois, Neuer; Robertson, Guerreiro, Gosens; Boateng, Ramos, T. Silva, Upamecano, Hummels, Kimpembe; Carvajal, Hateboer, Cuadrado; Verratti, Marquinhos, Fabinho; Thiago, Henderson, Goretzka; Müller, Dybala, P. Gomez; Neymar, Mane, Gnabry; Benzema, Immobile, Haaland; Ilicic, Mbappe, Sancho

Best Player of the Season: Robert Lewandowski

Best Team of the Season: FC Bayern München

Best Match of the Season: FC Liverpool – Manchester City 3-1, 10.11.2019

The selection is, as always, based on the two criteria quantity and quality of performance. The 2019-2020 Season is defined as starting with the final whistle of the 2019 Champions League final and ending with the final whistle of the 2020 Champions League final.

Jan Oblak
I don’t think we have seen any goalkeeper, at least among those on my radar, produce an absolute standout season. Until the match against Bayern, I had Marc-Andre ter Stegen down for a second consecutive year between the posts, but he was one of the players who had a nightmare in what was Barcelona’s most important match of the season. Hence I changed my mind.

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Standardization of pre-2014/15 Teams of the Season/Tournament

It’s been ten years now since I started compiling a “Team of the Season” at the end of every regular football season. Come late May or early June I reflected upon the season and about which players impressed me the most. Who did perform the best both in terms of quantity and quality of performance? Then I tried to squeeze the standout performers into a realistic (or semi-realistic) formation and added a bench with players who narrowly failed to make the cut. The objective was always to chronicle the exploits of those players who performed the best. This objective, at least partially, sprung from the realization that football awards do not adequately fulfill this task.

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Team of the Season 2018-2019


Manager: Erik ten Hag

Bench: Oblak, Ederson, Alisson; Alba, A. Sandro, Laporte; Koulibaly, Chiellini, Marquinhos; Lenglet, Skriniar, Vertonghen; Kimmich, J. Cancelo, Walker; Thiago, Fabinho, Busquets; Milner, de Jong, Gündogan; D. Silva, Reus, Neymar; Mané, Son, Tadic; C. Ronaldo, Lewandowski, Mbappé; Sterling, Ziyech, Salah

Best Player: Lionel Messi

Best Team: Manchester City

Best Match: Ajax Amsterdam – Real Madrid 1-2

Marc-André ter Stegen

Leaving ter Stegen on the bench was probably the hardest omission in the 17-18 Team of the Season. He was already great last season but de Gea just edged him out. This season things look a bit different. De Gea, for one, played much worse, emulating his World Cup rather than last season (especially during the final months of the season). And ter Stegen – well, it might even be true that his 18-19 was just a little bit worse than his 17-18. This may sound pretty negative but it is not meant that way: ter Stegen’s 17-18 was breathtakingly good and if his 18-19 is almost as good it must be brilliant as well.

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