World football XI

1. Renaud Lavillenie
While he’s not the tallest on the list his shot-stopping potential is unrivalled. The upper-body strength and power required to be the world’s best pole vaulter could only lead to lightning-quick reactions and wrists of steel. That strong hand needed to scoop the ball from its top-corner trajectory, he’s got two of them.

2. Mark English
A smooth, elegant and effortless defender. Never looks under too much pressure, whether he’s casually dispossessing some of Europe’s best, or failing to track back. Divides opinion from time to time with his individual style of play and energy-conserving attitude, but simply too talented to leave on the bench.

3. Dafne Schippers
A one-for-all defender. Could cover anywhere along the back four as well as other areas of the pitch. The Dutch woman undoubtedly grew up watching the total football on display at Ajax and this ingrained her with the class, touch and poise of her country-folk. A pacey, yet robust defender, her heptathlete strength will be deployed in the form of Rory Delap-esque long throw-ins.

4. Justin Gatlin
Justin Gatlin, really? And the fastest man of 2014 at centre-half? Is it because of his exceptional leg speed or power and acceleration? No. Think Pepe for Real Madrid or Ryan Shawcross for Stoke City. Absolute hatchet-men with no morals or respect for the game. Willing to stray well beyond the laws of the sport in order to further themselves as players. Absolutely no respect for the well-being of their opponents. In this case he will also provide the legs where Bondarenko supplies the height, but Gatlin will spend most games avoiding that second yellow card and wiping blood from his elbows.

5. Bohdan Bondarenko
Standing at over 6’5, he’s an intimidating proposition for any advancing striker. With a pretty decent leap in his arsenal (Oh how Arsenal could do with him), quelling aerial attacks will be his forte. Exceptional special awareness and body-positioning will help him keep one step ahead of those pacier attackers. Franz Beckenbauer wasn’t the quickest from ‘A’ to ‘B’, but he never started at ‘A’.

6. Robert Harting
Der Harting is the only man to provide no-nonsense cover for the back four. Exactly like fellow German Sami Khedira; exactly like a scaled-up, freakishly strong version of Sami Khedira. While he may not be a fan of some of his team-mates, or their right to be selected, you can be sure his desire to win will win out in the end. Also packs a powerful set of quadriceps for some 40-yard thunderbolts.

7. Adam Gemili
Speed, power, great technique, and a footballing background, but that’s enough about me. This young Brit ain’t half bad either. Having hung up his boots in favour of sprinting spikes, one would imagine he’s still pretty handy with a ball at his feet. On the right wing he’d have the freedom to roam the flanks and deliver the final ball. Images of Theo Walcott spring to mind: blistering pace, regularly leaving defenders for dead, but without the frustratingly inconsistent end-product.

8. Greg Rutherford
Yup, Greg Rutherford. He actually cleaned up all around him in 2014, didn’t you realise? With a 120kg German providing midfield stability behind him, the Englishman will enjoy a little more freedom to explore the opposition’s half of the pitch. Can play that killer pass, often goes missing against the smaller teams, but there’s no better player to have when that cup final comes along. Doesn’t gain the individual plaudits of some of his teammates, despite being English, but he’ll keep plugging away in a James Milner manner.

9. Valerie Adams
There has been a lot of talk this week about Adebayo Akinfenwa because of his vast muscle-mass. Adams would crush him like a bug. Every defender’s worst nightmare at 6’4 and 115kg (250lb), with the power and speed to dart across the box and put (pun always intended) the ball in the back of the net. Imagine defending her from a corner. Imagine it! I hope that made you feel as feeble as it did me.

10. Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad
Flair, style, attitude – your typical number 10. A creative brain with bag loads of talent, only waiting for the opportunity to put on a master-class. Revels in the celebration side of the game, and the man who forced the “booking for removing your shirt” rule into existence. May leave Valerie Adams frustrated with a lack of consistent service, but when he does deliver, it’s generally a sight to behold. Also quite likely to channel his inner Zinedine Zidane for a physical altercation; ever the showman.

11. David Rudisha
The fan favourite. The coach’s golden-boy. An icon of sportsmanship. A champion on the track and I could only imagine a tireless worker on the pitch. On the left wing it would be his prerogative to supply for the strike force with exceptional service. Always puts in an exceptional performance, and even when not quite 100% he gives everything that his body will allow. The player who sheepishly accepts the man of the match award while praising the work of his teammates.


Allyson Felix
A pacey and stylish wing back. Has the pace to outdo Schippers, but lacking the strength and size to bustle a fanciful winger off the ball. Also lacks the secret weapon of the long throw-in. Can be deployed further up the wing, and has a consistent delivery, especially in the big games.

Christian Taylor
Will start pre-season as the best right-back in the world, prove himself as an immensely talented striker early in the season, then return to his defensive position for the Champions League final. A kind of Gareth Bale-type character. One of those sickeningly talented freaks who jumps into an unrelated position and proves himself as world class.

Ashton Eaton
The utility sub. Can slot in at almost any position on the pitch, but not quite good enough to earn a starting place in any. If he could decide on one position he’d have the ability to challenge the best, with freakish performances wowing in the past. But for now he’s the jack of all trades, master of none… except for all of them.

Mutaz Essa Barshim
An almost like-for-like replacement for Bondarenko at centre-half; where he falls behind in height, he makes up for in spring. However, his physical prowess is not quite up to the level of a world-class centre-half. Also, he holds back in training for fear of Gatlin causing him injury by standing on him like a used vial of PED’s.

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Gerard O'Donnell

Gerard O'Donnell

Gerard O'Donnell is an athlete, physical therapist, and MSc student. He is current national 110m hurdles champion and ranks 3rd & 5th on the Irish all-time list for the sprint hurdles events. He is occasionally referred to as GOD, not due to his initials, but because of his heavenly beard, which he has sported since the age of 5.

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