Top five players of the 2013 Confederations Cup

The Confederations Cup was a nice little break from the agony of no football which we have had to put up with since May. Here are my top five players from the tournament and why they impressed me.

Neymar – Brazil

This is probably the most blatant name on the list. Neymar entered the Confederations Cup still with a lot of doubters due to only really making a major name for himself in his homeland of Brazil. But after a recent big money move to Barcelona people were intrigued to see the lightweight Brazilian maestro.

He didn’t disappoint; during the opening game he hammered in a terrific half volley from outside the area in just the third minute. The rest of his performances followed suit as he scored four goals in six games as well as winning the golden ball for best player of the tournament.

His performances helped guide Brazil to victory, putting a man of the match performance in for the final. He played a big part in two goals and also grabbed one of his own, one of his trademark skilful bursts also saw the sending off of Spain centre back Gerard Pique, further compounding Spain’s misery.

Emanuele Giaccherini – Italy

One of the surprise packages of the Confederations Cup was Italy’s Giaccherini. He wasn’t really in favour at club team Juventus but it is well documentede that Italy manager Cesare Prandelli doesn’t take club form into account.

Giaccherini is a shining example of Prandelli’s policy as his performances were hard-working but most importantly, a key part to Italy’s play. Deployed in a role just behind the striker meant Giaccherini could shift across in his attacking midfield role offering support for strikers or popping up on either wing.

He scored one goal over the tournament but that doesn’t reflect the hard working nature of Giaccherini’s overall play for the Italian national team – one of the major reasons Prandelli uses him so readily.

Jordi Alba – Spain

Despite being on the losing side in the final, Jordi Alba can walk out of this competition with his head held high after another set of dazzling displays which only helped further his reputation as one of the finest left backs in world football.

Alba’s constant running and blistering pace up the left hand side were a key component of Spain’s attacking play. Defensively he’s no slouch either as he played a part in two of Spain’s three clean sheets.

Alba finished the tournament with two goals of his own after a set of performances in which he flourished with his pace, stamina and defensive attributes which were more than assured.

Andres Iniesta – Spain

If there was a player anyone would want for the big occasion in centre midfield it would be Iniesta. Like Alba, he was on the losing side in the final but he was one of few players who fought until the final whistle and that added to the qualities which the playmaker no doubt possesses.

Iniesta registered no goals at the tournament but his importance to Spain’s play going forward was paramount as he consistently dictated the tempo of matches he played in. He completed 337 passes of the 390 he attempted in the entire competition.

The creative midfielder was voted man of the match during Spain’s first game of the tournament in a 2 – 1 win over Uruguay which the Spanish dominated.

David Luiz – Brazil

His defensive attributes are usually questioned at Chelsea but while playing in his home country for his national team, David Luiz seemed to turn into a defensive genius.

His time at Chelsea has been inconsistent, he can go on forays forward from the back leaving gaps, or make mistakes which get exploited but Luiz became a defensive wall with the heart of a lion for La Selecao, his tournament being encompassed in one moment by his goal-line clearance in the final against Spain.

His popularity for both club and country though will never seem to waiver as he is a fans favourite among both Chelsea and Brazil fans, his popularity even more so following his performances in this competition.

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Top five left backs in the world

Felipe – Atletico Madrid

A surprise inclusion maybe but Felipe’s progress has been quiet but effective at Atletico Madrid as the club look to be playing Champions League football next season and he has also done terrifically to come back so well from a horrific leg injury he sustained in 2010.

Felipe’s ability in going forward goes hand-in-hand with his defensive stability which can be rare for a defender nowadays (believe it or not) and this is shown in his versatility down the left, being able to play either at left back or left wing.

He has amassed 256 career club appearances for Deportivo and Atletico Madrid, scoring 12 goals and he has four trophies to his name; one UEFA Intertoto Cup, one UEFA Europa League and two UEFA Supercups.

He has also made three appearances for the Brazilian national team.

Marcelo – Real Madrid

Marcelo has been compared to his legendary Brazilian compatriot Roberto Carlos in many quarters due to his impressive defensive ability, overlapping runs, composure, vision and his left foot strike isn’t too shabby either.

It was feared that Marcelo’s spot at left back may have become usurped by Fabio Coentrao when Real Madrid signed the young Portuguese left back but Marcelo (when fit) has been able to hang on to his spot in the team, even moving Coentrao over to a defensive midfield role for a portion of his Madrid career.

Marcelo has amassed 256 career club appearances, scoring 23 goals and winning three La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, and two Supercopa de Espana titles. He has also made 18 appearances for the Brazilian national team, scoring four goals and winning two Olympic medals (one bronze and one silver).

Leighton Baines – Everton

Baines is the man who everyone believes will be Ashley Cole’s successor for the England left back spot, and it’s hard not to see why.

He has been in fantastic form for Everton over the past few seasons and is one of the hottest properties in England due to his defending abilities as well as his terrific delivery from open play and set pieces, with suitors including Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham.

In 2011-11 the Toffees left back played every minute of every game that season, a run which ended after 99 games. During the 2010-11 season he racked up 11 assists, making him the highest assisting defender in the league, 5th highest assister overall. His partnership down the Everton left with Steven Pienaar this season was widely seen, for a while, as the most effective in the Premiership.

He has made 405 club career appearances to date, scoring 26 goals, a great deal of those 26 goals coming from either penalties or free-kicks which Baines is a master of. He has also won a Football League Second Division title. He has made 15 appearances for England, scoring one goal.

Marcel Schmelzer – Borussia Dortmund

Firstly, Dortmund have been a breath of fresh air in European football and Germany over the past couple of season; secondly, what an under-rated player they have at left back!

Schmelzer’s ability in the tackle and reading the game has helped not just him, but it has helped his team’s meteoric rise to one of the biggest forces in European football. His left side partnership with Marco Reus is also one of the most solid in Europe.

He has made 153 career club appearances, scoring three goals; winning two Bundesliga titles and one DFB-Pokal. He has also made 11 appearances for the German first team.

Jordi Alba – Barcelona

The Barcelona youth product returned to his boyhood club after a seven-year absence and he has quickly established himself as the team’s first choice left back, as well as the Spanish national team left back.

The world started taking notice of Alba after he switched positions from winger to a more defensive role and was proving key to former club Valencia and their Champions League ambitions. A transition which has ultimately proved fruitful for Alba. His performances at Euro 2012 for the successful Spanish side saw Barcelona come back to swoop for their former youth product.

Since re-signing for Barcelona, Alba has been widely regarded as the best left back in the world, not just for his defending, but again like most of the left backs on this list, his ability to get forward and be a menace to other teams. His pace, vision and delivery have been a key part of Barcelona’s play this year while they try and take their La Liga crown back from Real Madrid.

Alba has made 183 career club appearances so far, scoring 15 goals, he has also made 17 appearances for the Spanish national team, scoring two goals. One of those goals came in the Euro 2012 final against Italy which saw Spain retain their European crown.