Liverpool star included in Italian media's worst XI of World Cup group stage

Fifa World Cup Brazil

Italy, Spain, England, Portugal and Ghana stars have been included in Gazzetta dello Sport’s worst eleven from the group stage of the 2014 World Cup.

With the group stage of the World Cup done and dusted, Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport have named their flop eleven from the tournament’s opening phase.

The line-up of choice features a heavy European influence, corresponding with the well-documented struggles of sides from the continent in Brazil.

In fact, only two of the players handed the undesirable honour of inclusion don’t hail from Europe, with a swath of star names making the list.

Igor Akinfeev features between the pipes, the goalkeeper condemned for his abysmal howler in Russia’s curtain raiser against South Korea and generally unassured play throughout.

The back four is an all-Iberian affair, with uninspiring Portugal and handily deposed reigning champions Spain each represented twice.

Joao Pereira gets the dubious nod at right-back whilst former Euro 2012 standout Jordi Alba is on the left. Head-butt villain Pepe and an out-of-sorts Gerard Pique - who was dropped after a disastrous display against Holland - form the centre-back pairing.

La Gazzetta somewhat regretfully install Steven Gerrard as the anchor of the midfield three “Unfortunately, there is also room for the great Gerrard: the tired captain, forced to act as a lightning rod for the English failure.”

The Liverpool talisman is joined in the centre of the park by Ghanaian duo Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng, former Milan team-mates dismissed from duty early amid reports of some unseemly conduct in the Black Stars camp.

Antonio Cassano has been placed in the trequartista role after failing to produce anything of note, having made the Italy squad despite being left out of the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Up front are a pair of men heavily linked with summer moves to Premier League giants.

Reportedly Chelsea-bound Diego Costa and Arsenal target Mario Balotelli spearhead the attack of the flop eleven after proving ineffective for Spain and Italy.

Costa looked noticeably out of place in Vicente Del Bosque’s tiki-taka system, whilst Balotelli has come in for a raft of criticism for abject displays against Costa Rica and Uruguay - with reports claiming his relationship with his Italy team-mates has reached a critical low.

And England boss Roy Hodgson has been named the manager for failing to get the best out of the Three Lions, who returned home winless with a single point in the bank.

La Gazzetta note that the selections made reflect expectations heading into the World Cup, explaining the high-profile nature of the choices when perhaps other players gave a worse overall account of themselves.

All of those included have made an early exit from Brazil and will witness the remainder of the tournament from a distance with their focus returning to club football.

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