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World Cup 2014: Best XI Of The Tournament

worldcup (easports)

The sun has now set on the 2014 World Cup finals, with Germany trotting off back to the heart of Europe with the trophy tucked neatly under their collective arm. It threatened to be a World Cup for the underdogs, until the established powers of Brazil, Argentina, the Netherlands and Germany used their nous to edge out the likes of Costa Rica and Colombia in the quarter-finals. But it was undoubtedly entertaining from start to finish, and here we will look back and celebrate the best performers on this grand stage, with our best eleven players from the World Cup.

Goalkeeper:
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)

A key part of Costa Rica’s surprising drive into the last eight of the competition, Navas was a reliable pair of hands behind his defence, when called upon. The Costa Rican defence was very strong throughout, but Navas still had to make twenty-one saves over the course of five games, and that was before taking part in two penalty shootouts. Predictably, his exploits have led to plenty of rumours of big clubs trying to sign the Levante man, with the word now that he is off to Bayern Munich. A well-earned reward for the stalwart custodian between the Costa Rican sticks.

Defence:

Ezequiel Garay (Argentina)

During the hectic times of three games per day in the group stages, people were openly questioning what had happened to the art of defending. Goals were flying in left and right, but the point was rightly made that the standard of defending was poor enough. That being said, Garay was a key cog in an Argentinian side who only conceded four goals in the whole tournament. When you consider that Argentina only trailed for seven minutes in the whole tournament, and that came in extra-time in the final, and with uncertainty over his defensive partners (initially Federico Fernandez, later dropped for Martin Demichelis), it is clear how important the Zenit St. Petersburg defender was to the national team. A rock at the back, and he also knocked home a great penalty in the shootout against the Dutch.
Ron Vlaar (Netherlands)

Vlaar appeared to be one of the main beneficiaries of Louis Van Gaal’s switch to a five-man defence. While playing for Aston Villa, there have been times when his lack of pace has been exposed as he gets dragged from the centre. In the Dutch side, he gets to plant himself in the heart of the defence, flanked by Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi either side of him, and with wing backs again outside them, allowing Vlaar the stability to go attack the ball and make blocks, which he did several times. Vlaar was a key element in the defensive solidity the Dutch needed, allowing them to cut the likes of Spain asunder on the counter-attack.
Mats Hummels (Germany)

Germany only conceded four goals over the course of the tournament. Two of those were consolation goals knocked in for Algeria and Brazil, long after the result had been settled. Perhaps this is a benefit of having the ball-retaining machine that their midfield is, or the inevitable solidity that picking four centre backs for several games give you. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Manuel Neuer in goal either. But the truth is that Germany looked uneasy defensively at times throughout the competition, and it was Hummels who marshalled them expertly up to the final. True, in the final game it was Jerome Boateng who had to cover for his partner, but Hummels had been the rock Germany’s defense leaned on to make it into the decider.
Fabian Johnson (USA)

Johnson was one of few full-backs to truly impose themselves on the World Cup. Despite how many people preach of their importance, quality ones are in short supply. Borussia Mönchengladbach made a smart move tying his contract up before the competition, because his energetic forays down the right-hand side that were so necessary for the American’s progression would surely have only driven his value up. Time and again, Johnson was seen flying beyond wingers on the overlap, offering directness and width to a side lacking in guile. The USA made it to the round of sixteen, a feat that may have been beyond them without Fabian Johnson’s efforts.
Midfield:

Toni Kroos (Germany)

The possesion dictator in the World champions midfield, Kroos is a serious weapon. He is not afraid to try the killer ball, as seen by the four assists he has accumulated in Brazil. Yet despite this, he has still managed a pass completion rate of 85%, staggering considering the amount of ball he has to play, and the amount of challenging passes he attempts. He is no stranger to followers of the Bundesliga or even just Champions League football, but Kroos is a star, and now one who has declared himself on the biggest stage. Rumoured to be on the verge of a big move to Real Madrid, it is truly mouthwatering to think of him supplying Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale with the calibre of ball he is capable of.
Javier Mascherano (Argentina)

The Argentinian side was full of the flair players like Lionel Messi,  Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi, all brimming with the potential for attacking intent. But there is no doubt that Argentina would have gotten nowhere without Mascherano in the middle of the field, doling out the tackles, winning the ball back and setting the attackers away. Much has been made of the lack of effort put in by Messi, but the strain of that was laid squarely on Mascherano’s back. He had to be even more aware, more composed and more willing to win the fight than anyone else, just to keep his defense protected. He was also forced to get on the ball and create more than he would be naturally inclined to do, as none of Lucas Biglia, Fernando Gago or Enzo Perez had any real impact in playmaking terms. His game-saving tackle on Arjen Robben at the end of normanl time against the Dutch was a thing of beauty.

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James Rodriguez (Colombia)

The undisputed player of the tournament (unless you work for FIFA) and golden boot winner, James Rodriguez had a masterful few weeks in Brazil. Tipped as potential dark horses coming in, Colombia were far more than a one-man team, but that particular one man made a stunning impact on the World Cup. He scored at least one goal in every game, and people who don’t follow Ligue 1 now know why Monaco coughed up such a huge pile of cash for him last summer. His opening goal in the last sixteen against Uruguay was probably the goal of the tournament, and the diminutive number ten also laid on two assists for his side. Colombian fans may well wonder what might have been had Radamel Falcao been fit to play with him, but Colombia and Rodriguez both made their impact on world football by reaching the quarter-finals.

Attack:

Arjen Robben (Netherlands)

The most constant threat available to the Netherlands, the speed and thrust of Robben gave the Dutch the outlet necessary to humiliate the defending champions Spain in their first group outing. While Robin Van Persie’s header was the outstanding goal of the game, it was Robben’s speed with the ball at his feet that really ripped the Spanish defense asunder. His touch for the goal as the long ball was sent in towards him was immaculate, and left Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas scrambling around in vain on the ground trying to stop him. He won the winning penalty against Mexico in the last sixteen, and was a menacing presence running at any defender. He must be a nightmare to play against, made even worse by his inclination to go down early and often under contact. Defences took his space away as the tournament progressed, but he still left his name in the history books with his performances in Brazil.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)

No, he wasn’t the best player in Brazil. No, he didn’t drag Argentina to the trophy single-handedly like Diego Maradona. Yes, he did look quite tired, didn’t he? But was he ineffective? Hardly. The little wonder was always a threat. In an unbalanced side in the first game against Bosnia, he made the difference. In a tough fight against Iran, he came up with the goal at the death. He added two more goals against Nigeria to secure top spot in the group. He was the star of the group stages. As he came up against better defenses and space was denied, he flickered rather than flourished. But he still made the goal for Angel Di Maria against the Swiss, created opportunities that were spurned by others against the Dutch, and generally gave Mats Hummels a torrid time in the first half of the final. That Argentina fell a step short was surely down to other players shortcomings (Aguero and Higuain come to mind), as surely no one playe could be really expected to win a World Cup singlehandedly? When Messi was on, he lit it up.
Thomas Muller (Germany)

Germany’s lanky assassin went to work early, sticking a hat-trick against the lamentable Portugese outfit they faced in the first game. He notched two further important goals in games against the USA and Brazil, both which opened the scoring and broke the resistance of the opposition. He flitted into positions centrally and along the three forward roles in behind, and always looked dangerous. He laid on three assists for his side too, and was always willing to receive the ball and cause problems for the opposition. A deserving World Champion, finishing only one goal away from being the first player ever to win back-to-back golden boot awards.

Images courtesy of EA Sports

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