Our team will play on the ground mostly, but we can mix things up with the occasional long ball. When it comes to shots on goal, Schweinsteiger and Ronaldo can be devastating from distance, outside the box. Ronaldo will take most of our free kicks on goal, but Alves can pitch in too, especially if we want to use Ronaldo's exquisite heading, making him a target along with Piqué and Vidic. And if Schweinsteiger isn't providing quite enough defense in his deep-lying role, I can always bring in yet another Spaniard, Sergio Busquets (Barcelona/Spain) off the bench. (Nobody said I couldn't have a bench!)
But the idea here is entertainment. I would rather win 6--3 than 1--0 every time. Some might call that approach naive or irresponsible, but I would call it a throwback. It's always a pleasure and a revelation to watch a black-and-white game from a World Cup of long ago, in which the men seem to be playing a completely different sport from today's. There is far less hard and cynical tackling, far more open space and creativity—and, surely not by accident, far more goals. The defensive soccer of more recent World Cups is here to stay, unfortunately, but we can counter it with talent and vision and movement. That's what my World XI is all about.
What it is not much about, surprisingly, is Brazilians. What does it say about the state of Brazilian soccer that an 11-player team that is meant to highlight the best of the Beautiful Game contains just one Brazilian (Alves)? Perhaps we're still dealing with the effects of Dunga's disastrous term in charge of the Seleção, when its mentality changed and its nickname became (of all things) the Warriors. Maybe the shortage of Brazilians on the World XI for '11 is due to the injuries of Kaká, the underachievement of Robinho and the steep decline of Ronaldinho. With the next World Cup taking place in Brazil, we can only hope that the return of the jogo bonito under new Brazil manager Mano Menezes will fulfill all the promise of youngsters such as Neymar, Paulo Henrique Ganso and David Luiz.
But for now the game's gold standard is distinctly European—Spanish, really. Who knows how much longer there will be places at the highest level for Casillas (age 30), Xavi (31) and Villa (29)? For the latter two, in particular, the downward slope might be steep. But for now, in 2011, let's celebrate the Spanish flavor of the World XI with a glass of the finest Cava. This is champagne soccer, folks. As you read about the 11 exceptional players on the pages that follow, be thankful that we've had the opportunity to drink their finest vintage.