World Cup Power Ranks: Defenders
Chiellini, Lahm headline ranking of the top 10 defenders competing in Brazil
World Cup Power Ranks: Goalies | Defenders | Midfielders | Forwards
Defensive players often get overlooked in World Cup tournaments, as much of the glory is reserved for goal scorers and their ability to jump-start national celebrations with a single strike of the ball.
However, the adage that "defense wins championships" holds true at the World Cup, as defending champion Spain conceded just two goals on its way to the 2010 trophy, while 2006 World Cup champion Italy conceded just one goal in seven games to attain its fourth overall title.
This recent defensive trend is an example of how difficult it is for attacking players to live up to the hype in a tournament as big as the World Cup, but it also speaks to how significant the impact of the best defenders in the world can be throughout the tournament.
Below is my list of the 10 best defenders who will be competing at the 2014 World Cup, based on their performances throughout the 2013-14 domestic season and World Cup qualifying cycle.
1. Giorgio Chiellini, Italy (Club: Juventus)
Chiellini anchored a Juventus defense that conceded just 21 goals in the 2013-14 Serie A (second-fewest in Europe's top five leagues), and his mix of aggressive tackling and ability to read the game allows Chiellini to cover more ground than most defenders.
It is important to note that Chiellini plays in a 3-5-2 formation with Juventus, meaning that he is often responsible for man-marking an opposing attacker (with a central defender as cover), along with covering extra space if a wide midfielder gets caught too far in the attack. However, as current Inter manager Walter Mazzarri described, Chiellini's ability to read the game means he is "able to mark three players himself," and his 2.1 tackles per 90 minutes (second-most on team) along with a team-high 2.4 interceptions per 90 minutes in the 2013-14 club season are evidence that he can control an entire side of the field defensively.
Chiellini will likely control the left side of central defense in Italy manager Cesare Prandelli's favored 4-3-3, which should allow the Italians more freedom to attack up the left side knowing Chiellini can provide so much defensive security.
To see Adrian Melville's complete ranking of the top 10 defenders competing at the World Cup, become an ESPN Insider.
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