There was a point on Tuesday evening when Germany’s performance in humiliating Brazil was so complete that the temptation was to simply nominate Jogi Low’s starting XI as the semi-finals best XI even before the Argentina-Netherlands game was played.
However, despite the latter match being a huge let-down in terms of both quality and excitement, a handful of players impressed enough to squeeze their way into our side. Unsurprisingly, Brazil’s meltdown means that even if we went with a pre-World Cup style provisional squad of 30, not a single one of their players would have threatened to make it.
Indeed so poor were their players’ efforts that had this been athletics, the Brazilians who made our Best XI teams from earlier rounds may have been stripped of their places and expunged from the record books.
But plenty of other players produced their best when it really mattered and here they are…
Again the temptation was to go with Manuel Neuer. Although the Bayern Munich man had little to do, such is the certainty and security he provides a defence in front of him, even when he is only on the periphery of a match he still manages to catch the eye. However, for his two penalty saves (and little else) Argentina’s Sergio Romero gets the gloves. When his country needed him to be the hero, he obliged.
Honourable mention: Manuel Neuer (Germany)
Just about edging out Pablo Zabaleta is Philipp Lahm. If it wasn’t for the fact that he can also play in centre-midfield I’d give him the highest honour an Irishman can give by saying he’s Germany’s answer to Denis Irwin; never has a bad game, mistakes are rarer than hen’s teeth, comfortable and composed in possession, always there to cover his centre-half and a threat in the opposition half. Low’s Mr Dependable.
The World Cup often brings out brilliant performances in players who have never stood out at club level and Ron Vlaar has added his name to that list over the last few weeks. The Aston Villa man was simply outstanding against Argentina winning 100% of his tackles and aerial duels and notching up 11 clearances and six interceptions. Even hit a top speed of 33km/h at one stage. I’m not sure how fast that is but I’m told it’s very quick.
Alongside Vlaar is another player who has often (harshly) been the subject of much criticism during his time in the Premier League, Martin Demichelis. The Manchester City defender was outstanding in not allowing Robin Van Persie an inch in which to operate while he was also composed in possession and immaculate in the air.
Playing slightly out of position because he has to be included is the Stefan de Vrij. The Feyenoord man was a rock beside Vlaar and didn’t put a foot wrong over the 120 minutes. Those rumours of a move to Old Trafford look more credible after his display on Wednesday.
Honourable mentions: Ezequiel Garay (Argentina), Pablo Zabaleta (Argentina)
Unlike our previous best XIs, we’re going to have to cheat a little here and play some players out of their best positions with four players who would call central midfield their home demanding inclusion.
First up is Toni Kroos. The German, along with the next player on our list has been one of the players of the tournament and his passing, movement, composure and shooting ability was one of the main factors behind the ruthless evisceration of Brazil.
Protecting our back four is Javier Mascherano. The Argentinian has played the last couple of seasons – to mixed results – at centre-back for Barcelona but he reminded everyone against the Netherlands that there are no better midfield destroyers in the game today. The tournament-saving tackle on Arjen Robben was a thing of beauty.
While obviously a pretty good player, I’ve often heard people ask just what it is that Sami Khedira does. Well, aside from his usual excellence in plugging the holes in midfield and keeping his side move with simple but effective passing, the Real Madrid man also showed what he can do when given licence to roam forward, cutting Brazil to ribbons on occasion and grabbing a well-deserved goal.
Completing our midfield quartet is Thomas Muller. Grabbed the all-important opener with a typically cool, understated finish and his energy and movement played a big part in the disorientation of Brazil. Could yet finish with his second Golden Boot and all before the age of 25.
Honourable mentions: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Lucas Biglia (Argentina)
Slightly out-of-sync with previous teams and with football in general, we’re going with a pair of front-men and Miroslav Klose is leading the line. Whether by accident or design, Jogi Low has stumbled on his best team in the last two matches and a big part of it is the structure and focal point Klose brings to his side’s myriad of attacking players. Deserves his place alone for entering the record books as the all-time top scorer in the World Cup.
Alongside Klose is the player who appears to be his understudy in the Germany team, Andre Schurrle. After his brilliantly improvised strike against Algeria, the Chelsea player scored another two goals coming off the bench against Brazil including an explosive finish for the seventh goal. A serious ace for Low to have up his sleeve.
Honourable mentions: Nobody. Fred wasn’t going to make it and in a game dominated by defences and cautious play no other strikers stood out in the second semi-final.
For the manner in which he set his team up to exploit the weaknesses in Brazil’s side and gave them the confidence to ruthlessly punish them (although not many Germany sides are ever short on confidence) it has to be Jogi Low. Despite his questionably tight matchday outfits I’m finally starting to warm to the Germany manager. Still under huge pressure to finish the job on Sunday though.
Honourable mention: None. Big Phil, for obvious reasons, isn’t a contender while with the other two managers almost playing for penalties from early on in the second semi-final they don’t have a case. They didn’t impress with their tactical switches or substitutions either.
Cian O’Calllaghan, Pundit Arena.