After 64 games, a record-equalling 171 goals and a month that will live long in the memory of anyone who experienced it, Germany have been crowned world champions and there are few who could dispute they deserved to emerge victorious.
More importantly however, the world awaits the Pundit Arena team of the tournament and after much deliberation, here it is….
Goalkeeper – Keylor Navas
We’re going against the grain with this one. While Manuel Neuer had a fine tournament almost free of errors, aside from his ‘sweeper-keeper’ shenanigans against Algeria, there was no match in which we felt he was outstanding. Assured and reliable yes, brilliant, no.
We feel Neuer won the Golden Glove award mainly because he has been anointed the world’s best goalkeeper but sometimes goalkeepers can be overrated by the quality of the sides in front of them – see Pepe Reina at Liverpool and Joe Hart at Manchester City (before his weaknesses were highlighted last season) for examples. He’s an excellent goalkeeper but not the new Peter Schmeichel and had a very good, rather than brilliant, tournament.
Keylor Navas meanwhile, was superb throughout the tournament and a main reason why Costa Rica went home undefeated, conceding just two goals in their five matches including four opponents who had previously won the competition. Brilliant in the other penalty shoot-out victory over Greece too. I’m sure Neuer won’t be too disheartened to miss out.
Honourable mentions – Manuel Neuer (Germany), Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
Right-back – Philipp Lahm
Slotting in here and captaining our side is Philipp Lahm. The Germany skipper was his usual eight-out-of-ten self throughout the month; intelligent in possession, clever in his positional play and providing an effective, understated leadership for his side.
The Bayern Munich man was exemplary in central midfield but his move to right-back for the last three games was key to providing an extra layer of security in Germany’s defence.
Honourable mention – Pablo Zabaleta (Argentina)
Centre-backs – Ron Vlaar & Giancarlo Gonzalez
A number of viable candidates to choose from here and our first pick is Ron Vlaar. The Aston Villa player was superb throughout the tournament with a number of fine defensive performances topped off by a stunning display of the art of defending in the semi-final against Argentina. We Never imagined we’d ever shower such praise on Vlaar but he fully merits it and more.
Our other centre-back is Giancarlo Gonzalez. Alongside Navas, the Columbus Crew player was the main reason behind Costa Rica’s run to the quarter-finals providing leadership to his often overstretched backline and he didn’t put a foot wrong throughout his five matches.
Honourable mentions – Ezequiel Garay (Argentina), Jerome Boateng (Germany), Mario Yepes (Colombia), Gary Medel (Chile)
Left-back – Daley Blind
An area not really blessed with stand-out performers in Brazil, but the two we’ve selected are worthy of their places. Getting the number three shirt is Daley Blind.
Played the majority of the games as a wing-back and also comfortably slotted into midfield when required, the Netherlands’ Lahm-lite defended stoutly, was an attacking threat and provided a couple of the passes of the month in their humiliation of Spain.
Honourable mention – Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland)
Central-midfielders – Javier Mascherano & Toni Kroos
One of the first names on the teamsheet and the Argentine with probably the strongest case to be player of the tournament is Javier Mascherano. Having been (mis)used as a centre-back by Barcelona the last three seasons, the 30-year-old has reminded the world that there are no better destroyers on the planet than he.
Immense throughout the tournament, his last-ditch tackle on Arjen Robben in the semi-finals will live long in the memory and Mascherano capped-it off with a towering display in the final. Typified his country’s spirit and deserved a winner’s medal for his efforts.
While all of Germany’s three central midfielders have strong cases for inclusion, Toni Kroos just about gets the nod. Although unusually hesitant in front of goal in the final, the Real Madrid-bound man’s touch, composure and passing range around the park was on another level throughout Brazil 2014. A huge factor in Germany’s dominance of possession and a more-than adequate replacement for Xabi Alonso at his new club.
Honourable mentions – Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Blaise Matuidi (France)
Attacking midfielders – James Rodriguez, Lionel Messi & Arjen Robben
Probably the area with the most eye-catching contenders but still the easiest one to settle on a final three. Winner of the Golden Boot, scorer of (probably) the best goal of the tournament and the lynchpin of a Colombia team which thrilled in Brazil is James Rodriguez. Disappointing that he and his side were not able to overcome an inferior and overly-aggressive Brazil team in the quarter-final but Rodriguez still left some of the standout memories of the tournament.
Although an undeserving winner of the Golden Ball award, Lionel Messi still did enough to make it into the best XI. Faded after the first-half of the quarter-final against Belgium, anonymous in the semi-final and will forever be haunted by his miss at the start of the second-half in the final, Messi still provided enough magical moments to leave a distinct mark on this tournament. Unfortunate for him that he is judged by such high standards, but it comes with the ‘best-player-ever-argument’ territory.
A player who may have won the Golden Ball had his side reached the final and who would have been a worthy recipient – is Arjen Robben. The 30-year-old was outstanding in Brazil, always prepared to receive the ball in tight areas and go for the opponents’ jugular; knowing what he’s going to do and knowing how to stop him are two completely different things. Diving issue always muddies the waters in discussions of Robben but because of his reputation he probably now gets less than he should so it’s not a factor here.
Honourable mentions – Alexis Sanchez (Chile), Juan Cuadrado (Colombia), Mathieu Valbuena (France), Neymar (Brazil)
Forward – Thomas Muller
In the absence of any standout traditional centre-forwards lighting up the competition we’ve had to play Thomas Muller slightly out of position here but for a player of his talent and possessing his ability in front of goal it would be no problem to him. The 24-year-old once again shone on the biggest stage showcasing his uncanny knack for finding space in the penalty area and his calmness when presented with a goalscoring opportunity.
On ten World Cup goals already; if Muller remains fit then Miroslav Klose is probably just keeping the all-time World Cup record goalscorer position warm for his team-mate.
Honourable mentions – Andre Schurrle (Germany), Robin Van Persie (Netherlands – despite a couple of quiet knockout games & looking less than fully-fit he just sneaks in), Fred* (Brazil)
Manager – Joachim Loew
For delivering the World Cup trophy when under huge pressure it has to be Joachim Loew. After so many near misses Germany expected and Loew provided the title they so craved with an exciting team full of attacking intent.
Stumbled on his best team in the quarter-final against France and had the wisdom to stick with it, Loew’s late introduction of Mario Gotze proved decisive and nobody can begrudge the 54-year-old his well-deserved moment of glory.
Honourable mention – Louis Van Gaal (Netherlands), Jorge Pinto (Costa Rica)
*may be a sarcastic and slightly unprofessional inclusion
Cian O’Callaghan, Pundit Arena.
Read More About: 2014 World Cup, arjen robben, daley blind, giancarlo gonzalez, james rodriguez, javier mascherano, joachim loew, keylor navas, Lionel Messi, philipp lahm, ron vlaar, thomas mueller, toni kroos, Top Story