Andy Cole: Centre-forwards are dying out – Sneijder is a new breed of goalscorer

If the quality of the football at this World Cup has been called into question, there can be no argument about the fact we have seen some scintillating performances from attacking players and some stunning goals. For obvious reasons, I have been studying my fellow strikers closer than any other players in South Africa and the race for the Golden Boot has been thrilling.

The forward who has most impressed me is David Villa. The Spain striker's excellent movement and two good feet have meant he's scored some of the best-executed goals of the tournament.

He looks like being a great bit of business for Barcelona, and it was very astute of the Catalan club to get him signed up before the tournament began. His price will have sky-rocketed based on the displays he has given in South Africa. He is a natural fit for Barcelona – as we have seen from how he has gelled with his new club-mates in the national side. He likes to drift and create space for his new team-mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

I can tell you from experience how difficult it is to play up front alone, like he has done for much of the tournament. But it helps when you've got such an intelligent and cohesive midfield unit behind you, as he has. Barcelona should be an even more dangerous proposition now he has joined them.

He's quite a different player to me, but that is hardly a surprise in this World Cup, as if there is one trend I've noticed in attacking play then it has been the disappearance of the traditional No 9 centre-forward. The best hopes in this position going into the tournament were Robin van Persie and Fernando Torres, but they have both been disappointing. It seems the centre-forward is a dying breed in the international game, and has been replaced by more combative forwards, who play in a deeper role and have caused defenders real problems over the past month.

The best example of this is Wesley Sneijder. The Dutchman is a player I've watched a lot recently, both at the World Cup and during his excellent campaign for Internazionale last season. His form has been exceptional. He is Inter's and Holland's key player – and neither club nor country would have had such fine campaigns if it weren't for his ability. He's such an exciting player to watch and has the full range of skills.

He plays his football in the hole behind the front man, which makes it very difficult for centre-halves to pick him up. From there, he has the ability to shoot from distance, run at defenders or pick a killer pass – probably his most dangerous attribute.

Germany's Thomas Müller is another player in this mould, and what a discovery he has proved to be. It is a credit to himself and the manager Joachim Löw that he has come on so quickly, and to win the Golden Boot at his first World Cup, aged just 20, is phenomenal.

The only archetypal No 9 to have had a great tournament is Diego Forlan and I am extremely happy for him. He had such a tough time at Manchester United and many wrote him off. But he has shown that in the right team he is a world-class player. I just hope he's not the last out-and-out goalscorer we see at a World Cup.

Top scorers

5
Diego Forlan, Uruguay
Thomas Müller, Germany
Wesley Sneijder, Holland
David Villa, Spain

4
Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina
Miroslav Klose, Germany
Robert Vittek, Slovakia

3
Landon Donovan USA
Luis Fabiano, Brazil
Asamoah Gyan, Ghana
Luis Suarez, Uruguay

2
lano, Brazil
Samuel Eto'o, Cameroon
Javier Hernandez, Mexico
Brett Holman, Australia
Keisuke Honda, Japan 
Andres Iniesta, Spain
Lee Chung-yong, South Korea
Lee Jung-soo, South Korea
Lukas Podolski, Germany
Arjen Robben, Holland
Robinho, Brazil
Carlos Tevez, Argentina
Tiago, Portugal
Kalu Uche, Nigeria

1
71 players

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