2014 World Cup Team of the Tournament

Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer. This was a great tournament for goalkeepers, Guillermo Ochoa’s display against Brazil was probably the single best goalie performance from an intervention tournament I’ve seen, with 4 or 5 truly world class saves. Keylor Navas was going to be my pick right up until Neuer produced yet another virtuoso display in the final, following a string of great stops. But Neuer was nearly impeccable throughout the World Cup. He made some very nice saves in the group stages without ever being stretched. His performance as something of a sweeper keeper against Algeria was absolutely fantastic and bailed out their defence with Mertesacker in it,

Right back: Philip Lahm. Philip Lahm just is a right back, or certainly is in the German team. I can understand his holding role in a Guardiola team where possession is prized about almost everything else, but in the German team which seeks to attack with a little more urgency he should play at full back. And as soon as he moved to right back against Algeria he looked at home. He defensively sured up that side, which really showed against Argentina who I don’t remember coming down their left once, he was able to provide more of a threat going forward, which he did whilst decimating Brazil in the semi, and he allowed Mertesacker to be dropper and Hummels and Boateng to play at centre back together, which just needed to happen. Unquestionably Lahm is the best full back in the world, centre mid, he’s good, but not the best.

Centre back: Giancarlo Gonzalez. Costa Rica were the surprise package of this World Cup. They were just a penalty shootout away from a semi final, and this guy was at the heart of it. Incredible displays against Uruguay and  Italy brought him to our attention but it was his display against the Netherlands, and their attack of Van Persie and Robben, which cemented him as one of the best players in this World Cup. He constantly looked cool and collected and marshalled the defence which was missing other star man Duarte, and I can’t even remember how many times they caught RVP offside, but it was a lot.

Centre back: Thiago Silva. Sometimes a player’s value is as obvious in their absence as when they’re playing. He was pretty much the heart of their defence throughout the tournament until a silly yellow card meant he was suspended for the semi final. And my word it showed. Without Thiago the defence fell apart/capitulated/imploded/whatever term you want to use, and they conceded 7 goals in probably the most ridiculous game in World Cup history.

Left back: Ricardo Rodriguez. Daley Blind is a little unlucky to miss out after performing very well in the World Cup, particularly the first game against Spain where he put in a man of the match performance, although he faded more and more in the tournament, until the 3rd place playoff game, which doesn’t really count. But Rodriguez was fantastic throughout, with the exception of the game against France, although I thought a lot of the blame and individual mistakes there lay with other players. His performance against Argentina in particular needs to be noted, where he kept Di Maria quite for most of the 120 minutes, as well as dealing with Messi/Higuain/ect when they came onto his wing. He also put in great shifts going forward and carried real threats to most teams.

Centre Mid: Bastian Schweinsteiger. It could’ve been either Kroos or Bastian, but I had to go for Schweinsteiger. An absolute legend for Germany, this was probably his last chance to win the World Cup and he took it. He didn’t actually begin in the team for the World Cup having only just recovered from injury, but from the second he came on against Ghana and changed that game he was one of the first name on the team sheet along with Neuer, Lahm and Müller. A constant creative threat as well as a brilliant destructive player in the midfield, Schweinsteiger is the player that held everything together for Germany.

Centre Mid: Javier Mascherano. Before the tournament pretty much all the question marks about the Argentina team was about the defence, well Masch saw to that, it’s just a shame for Argentina that it was their attacking players who failed to turn up and perform. Mascherano’s performances in front of the defence were breathtaking, and best summed up by that last ditch tackle on Robben to ensure that Argentina made it to the penalty shootout against the Netherlands. Then producing a star performance in the final to hold Germany at bay for more than regular 90 minutes cements his place as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world today, and NOT a centre back.

Right Wing: Arjen Robben. Finally showed how good he really is on football’s biggest stage. In particular his displays against Spain and Mexico are what helped him waltz into this team just as he spent much of the tournament waltzing into the oppositions box. Two goals that made the 2010 World Cup winning Spanish defence look like a hungover/overweight Sunday league team. He scored a great goal against Australia and created one against Chile. He was also the only real bright spark against Mexico, Costa Rica and Argentina, including getting the penalty that won the Mexico game (yes a little theatrically but it was a penalty).

Attacking Mid: James Rodriguez. The star of this World Cup. I said before it that he could shine in the absence of Falcao and boy did he. Top scorer, should’ve been the golden ball winner (it was ludicrous that Messi won it) and the player who captured more of the public hearts than anyone at the tournament, not to mention scoring one of the best goals at this, or any, World Cup. Still only very young James (or Hamez) has the potential to be one of, if not the best player in the world, and now everybody knows it. He showed he has it all, great ability on the ball, huge passing range, creative, skilful, can score wonder goals and even popped up with a header. He takes my Player of the Tournament.

Left Wing: Mathieu Valbuena. Personally I was very disappointed by Messi in this tournament. A couple of moments of magic yes, but any truly great performances worthy of those he gives for Barcelona? No. Neymar too had some great moments, against Cameroon in particular he was sensational, but didn’t really show up against Chile or Colombia, and sadly missed the Germany game after a horrible tackle that broke a vertebrae in his back. Instead I went for Valbuena, who was a revelation for France at this World Cup. He was at the heart of everything good they did against Honduras, Switzerland and Nigeria and it was obvious how much they missed him and lacked creativity when he didn’t play against Ecuador. Sadly the French came up against the German machine and he couldn’t crack the might of Lahm, Hummels, Neuer et al, but still had a tournament to remember.

Striker: Thomas Müller. I’m sure winning the World Cup will compensate for Müller very narrowly missing out on back to back top scorer awards, but Thomas once again hit 5 goals in this tournament and he’s still only 24. You’d expect him to be able to reach him namesake Gerd’s record of 14 at the next World Cup, where he’ll be 28 and supposedly at the peek of his game, and possibly even break Miroslav Klose’s all time record World Cup scorer tally of 16 by the end of his career. He put in a masterclass against Portugal with his hatrick, scored a great goal against Ghana, showed his incredible fitness and creativity against Algeria creating the winner very late in the game, and was the catalyst against Brazil, including getting the goal to get them going. Even in the final he was constantly causing problems for the Argentina defence, even though he was being very heavily marked and outnumbered.

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