The World Cup has (sadly) come to an end for another four years, but what a tournament it was! Craig Farrell discusses the best performers from each team’s respective campaign, as one of the greatest World Cups of all time winds down.
Brazil – Neymar
Neymar carried the weight of his country on his shoulders going into this tournament – and he carried the dead weight of most of his teammates too. Everything positive that the host nation did went through the Barcelona forward.
He finished the competition as the third highest scorer and without him it is scary to consider how poor Brazil may have been.
Cameroon – Joel Matip
He scored the one and only goal of Cameroon’s campaign – therefore Matip did the single positive thing in Cameroon’s campaign.
Croatia – Luka Modric
The Madrid man was the heart and soul of everything that the Croats attempted. His supporting cast should have offered him more than they did, but a carpenter cannot blame his tools.
Modric offered Croatia great vision and creativity going forward.
Mexico – Guillermo Ochoa
It was a crying shame that Ochoa was omitted from the Golden Glove nominations. He was simply superb between the posts for Mexico. He conceded just one goal in the three group games (against Croatia). He was then Man of the Match in the heart-wrenching defeat to the Netherlands in the Round of 16.
Australia – Tim Cahill
The Aussies are not known for producing great talents; but Tim Cahill is certainly one of them. Arguably the best Australian football player ever, Cahill led every attack for his team.
He scored twice – one of which was a sensational strike against the Netherlands. His passion and desire is second to none.
Chile – Alexis Sanchez
Chile played sizzling forward football and the main architect for all that sizzle was Alexis Sanchez. His speed was a constant threat down the right or left flank depending on where he found himself. His final delivery was top notch and he led his country with two goals.
Netherlands – Arjen Robben
The Netherlands had high hopes entering the tournament and after Robben and co turned on the style against Spain in their group opener hope altered into expectation. Robben was biggest threat for the Oranje. Once he got the ball he drove at defenses causing all sorts of issues. He scored three times and created an assist.
Spain – Andres Iniesta
The Barcelona midfield was one of the very few players not to be absolutely dreadful at the World Cup. One of only four players who managed to start all three group games, Andres also set up two goals in the final game against the Aussies, meaning he was responsible for 50 per cent of the Spanish goals.
Colombia – James Rodriguez
James can feel he was stolen of the Golden Ball trophy which was granted to Lionel Messi instead of the Colombian. Simply put, Rodriguez created goals and scored goals for his country.
He dominated so much for the Colombians that the fans didn’t even notice the absence of star striker Falcao. Rodriguez won the Golden Boot netting six, while also generating two goals for his teammates.
Greece – Georgios Samaras
Greece were never going to set the tournament ablaze with skill, but they were well organised, structured and well balanced. Samaras was always the outlet for the Greeks.
Once possession was obtained the plan was to thump it forward in the general direction of Samaras and make him retain possession in the opponents half. Greece only scored three times, the most important of which was put in by Samaras to send the Greeks into the knockout stages.
Ivory Coast – Didier Drogba
Drogba did not feature from the start for the Ivory Coast and that was the team’s downfall. Drogba is not the same player that tore up Premier League defences week in and week out but the Ivory Coast side is a different animal with him in it – this was proven once he got into the action against Japan.
His presence alone scares defenders and uplifts his teammates.
Japan – Shinji Okazaki
The majority of the Japanese squad played well below par but Okazaki was one of the few who played to his potential. He was the only player that was able to beat a man, and his delivery into the box was good – sadly for him and his country the player he was crossing the ball towards was vertically challenged. He did manage to score himself.
Costa Rica – Keylor Navas
It is hard to single out one particular Costa Rican player from their Cinderella story but the guy between the sticks was amazing.
Navas conceded just a single goal in the group stages and only two goals in total prior to Costa Rica leaving the competition. His goalkeeping heroics during the penalty shootout against Greece will never be forgotten back in his homeland.
England – Raheem Sterling
Few names creep out from the English squad after their lacklustre performance – the Liverpool winger is but one of a very small few.
He looked for the ball and when he got it he was willing to turn and drive at defensives. He offered England a speed and quickness that they have lacked for some time.
Italy – Andrea Pirlo
The Italians started well but just failed to build on it. Andrea Pirlo was sensational against England. He taught them a lesson in how to dictate a game from deep in midfield. He chipped in with an assist also. Sadly poor performances all round in their final two games sent Italy crashing and Pirlo packing.
Uruguay – Jose Gimenez
Luis Suarez probably deserves this simply for what he contributed against England, and the manner in which Uruguay are lifted by his mere presence. However considering he was unable to restrain himself from sinking his teeth into an opposing player it is impossible to offer this to him.
Instead the young centre back Jose Gimenez gets the crown. He came in as cover in the second game and earned his place in the side on merit. He made numerous last ditch challenges against both England and Italy which helped his side reach the last 16.
Ecuador – Enner Valencia
Ecuador were outsiders coming into the group and things weren’t helped once they lost their opening game against the Swiss, but one man who can hold his head high is Enner Valencia.
He played to the best of his ability in all three games and hit the back of the net three times for his country – counting for 100 per cent of their goals.
France – Karim Benzema
The French team was a completely new breed compared to that of the 2006 World Cup – and it all stemmed from Benzema. He was simply unstoppable in the group stages.
He hit three goals in the group stages (the only French player to score two or more) and he also helped his teammates score a further three. Benzema contributed to 60 per cent of all his nation’s goals.
Honduras – Carlo Costly
Honduras were just happy to make the trip to Brazil, so expectations were low. However Costly achieved something that Honduras have been unable to accomplish in 32 years, he hit the back of the net.
Costly scored his nation’s only goal; not just in the 2014 World Cup, but for countless World Cups prior.
Switzerland – Xherdan Shaqiri
Switzerland are not a very offensive team but in Shaqiri they have a great offensive weapon. He hit a hat trick in the final group game against Honduras to help his nation secure a place into the knockout stages of the competition
Argentina – Lionel Messi
Despite being expected to do well in this tournament based on geography alone Argentina made the World Cup final – but possibly in less glorious fashion than was expected.
Argentina was tight at the back and well organised in midfield but did little going forward despite the talent that is at their disposal. If it were not for Messi’s flashes of brilliance against both Bosnia and Iran they may have had a very different competition.
Messi scored four and set up another; and although he may not have deserved to be considered player of the tournament he certainly earns that right for his country.
Bosnia and Herzegovina – Edin Dzeko
Dzeko and his teammates went to their first ever World Cup and despite failing to get out of the group stages they did themselves proud. Dzeko was the main target for his team and he hit the back of the net once for his country, and set up a second meaning he was responsible for 50 per cent of his nation’s goals.
Iran – Reza Ghoochannejhad
Iran entered the World Cup not expecting a great deal. They opened their account with a draw against Nigeria, and almost captured a monumental point against Argentina but in the end they suffered a harsh 3-1 defeat at the hands of Bosnia.
Reza was tasked with the attacking loading and did most of it alone while the rest of his team defended for their lives. He netted the country’s only goal.
Nigeria – Ahmed Musa
Musa is one of the bright young talents that Nigeria have coming up through the ranks. He was the main threat and scored twice for his country against Argentina.
He was the standout player in the Nigerian attack ahead of the higher profile players whom Nigeria would have expected to lead the front line.
Germany – Toni Kroos
It was hard not to pick Thomas Muller, but Kroos was undoubtedly the best midfielder at the tournament – and arguably one of the best players at the competition, period.
Kroos was one of just seven Germans to play in all seven games from start to finish. He pitched in with two goals – but the main aspect of his play came in creating goals. He set up four, along with dictating everything that Germany did going forward.
Ghana – Asamoah Gyan
Ghana have little to be proud about. They finished bottom of their group with a single point. When the chance of qualification was in their own hands they stumbled against Portugal.
Gyan was hungry and passionate during his three games and managed to score two of his countries four goals, while also grabbing one assist.
Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo was far from his best – in fact he was far from average if truth be told; that puts into perspective how bad the Portuguese team really was.
Ronaldo was not fully fit, but still attempted to serve his country. Unfortunately the aspirations of his country fell to him and him alone as his supporting cast was nonexistent.
He managed to get his name on the score sheet in the final game and also set up the goal which prevented an embarrassing loss to the US.
USA – Tim Howard
The new face of US football is now that of Tim Howard. He set a new World Cup record for saves made and did so in dramatic fashion. The US team has done a great deal to help further the sport in their country and Tim Howard’s heroics between the sticks will have played a vital part in that process.
Algeria – Islam Slimani
Everything that went through the middle of the park for Algeria went via Slimani. The Sporting Lisbon striker scored twice for his country and set up another for one of his teammates. He looked very comfortable with the ball at his feet and showed real menace driving at the heart of the opposition.
Belgium – Jan Vertonghen
Belgium did not play as well in their opponent’s half as some may have expected but no one can discredit their defending; which was led by Vertonghen.
The Spurs defender is much more than just one member of a back four, he dominated the entire left flack for Belgium and pitched in going forward – but unlike many of the defenders who go forward these days Jan took care of business in his own half.
Russia – Sergey Ignashevich
Despite failing to cement his place in the Russian starting XI under Fabio Capello during the qualifying stages he managed to ensure he seen a lot of playing time in Brazil – and for good reason.
Ignashevich has a great presence for Russia and he reads the game well. He made just three tackles – one of which he won, the other two resulted in fouls – but he made 20 interceptions and completed more than 75% of his passes.
South Korea – Son Heung-min
Few Koreans will be pleased with how they play in Brazil; Son is one who can take pride in his contributions. He put in a man-of-the-match winning performance against Russia.
He completed half of his attempted crosses and had a decent percentage of just under 65 in passing. He also hit the back of the net against Algeria.
Craig Farrell, Pundit Arena.
Read More About: ahmed musa, Alexis Sanchez, andres iniesta, asamoah gyan, didier drogba, edin dzeko, enner valencia, georgios samaras, islam slimani, james rodriguez, jan vertonghen, keylor navas, Lionel Messi, raheem sterling, sergey ignashevich, son heung-min, tim cahill, toni kroos, Top Story, World Cup, world cup news, xherdan shaqiri