by Jim Riggio - 05/24/2006
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It is never easy for a coach pick 23 players to bring to a World Cup - especially the top teams with a deep talent pool. Teams like Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France, Spain, England, Germany and the Netherlands always leave off some outstanding players. But there are some players that are usually a Must Have, and I have been surprised that some of those with that label will not be in Germany.
This year there have been quite a few interesting non-selections for some of the teams. However, defending champion Brazil didn't make any surprise picks. Therefore, the Brazilians, who were heavily favored before all the final rosters were to be submitted May 15, should now be considered even stronger contenders to win a sixth World Cup title. Perhaps the only weak selection for Brazil was goalie Dida, who struggled this past season with AC Milan. Club teammate Cafu, who will be attempting to be the first to play in four straight World Cup finals, also struggled with injuries. But aside from them, Brazil is stacked across the board.
Argentina had some stunning omissions from its roster, as the Inter Milan trio of Javier Zanetti, Juan Sebastian Veron and Walter Samuel were all left off the team.
Zanetti, a right-sided midfielder and or defender, is the former captain of Argentina's national team. Veron was a starting center midfielder for Inter this year and is still a quality player. Samuel, who moved to Inter from Real Madrid in the offseason, had been the heart of Argentina's defense along with Roberto Ayala. Although Samuel did not have his best season this year, he is still regarded as one of the world's top defenders.
Italy's selection of players was actually quite good in comparison to past World Cups. However, with a match-fixing scandal in its domestic league drawing lots of attention, it will not be a surprise to see Italy lose focus. Some may point to Antonio Cassano of Real Madrid as the biggest surprise of those being left off the team. However, Cassano has not shown the consistency to merit a spot on the team, and did not leave Italy in January on exactly the greatest terms.
France has quite a few big names left off its roster. Robert Pires of Arsenal, a starter in the UEFA Champions League final, was surprisingly not taken. Also left off was Ludovic Giuly of Barcelona, whose team defeated Arsenal, 2-1, in the Champions League final. And perhaps the biggest surprise was AS Roma defender Philippe Mexes. At 24 years old, Mexes is coming off an outstanding season. Italy would have almost certainly taken Mexes if he was Italian.
Spain's selections were quite good compared to others. Notably left off was Liverpool forward Fernando Morientes, who has had a solid career with the national team, but scored just nine goals in the Premership this year. What was surprising was to see Spain take just three forwards on its roster, including Raul of Real Madrid, who has struggled to maintain his health.
England's roster was pretty much as expected. England has a quality starting lineup, but must hope it does not run into injury problems. With the exception of its defense, it is not deep in other positions.
Although Germany made it to the 2002 World Cup final, the reality is that this team has taken a big fall in talent over the past decade. The Germans have used a number of players who were not born or raised in Germany. One of those players, forward Kevin Kuranyi, who was born in Brazil, was left off the German roster.
The Netherlands made some surprise picks, as AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf was left off despite an outstanding season. One would have figured that Coach Marco Van Basten's fine relations with AC Milan would have played to Seedorf's favor. However, in the end Van Basten preferred to go with a young lineup made of many players who play professionally in their native country. Van Basten played for AC Milan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and retired while a member of the club. In the past, Dutch teams have generally had a number of players from top squads like Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter Milan.
In the end the only way I see Brazil going down is if Dida does his best David Seaman imitation from the 2002 World Cup. Seaman, who was England's goalie, allowed Ronaldinho to score on a free kick that went right over his head. It ended up being the difference, as England was bounced out of the tournament.