It seems only yesterday that Brazil was kicking off the 20th FIFA World Cup with a thrilling, if somewhat controversial, 3-1 win over Croatia in Sao Paulo.
Some five weeks and 64 games later, footballand#039s greatest tournament has reached its climax with Germany defeating Argentina by a single extra-time goal at the Maracana. There has been an abundance of star performers on show in South America, making it a very difficult job picking a team of the tournament, but below is Goaland#039s final selection.
In goal we have Manuel Neuer, who has come almost to redefine the role of a sweeper keeper in Brazil. His supreme shot stopping, awareness and use of the ball helped Germany to keep five clean sheets en route to glory as he cemented his place as the undisputed top player in the world in his position.
At right back, we have gone for Philipp Lahm. Initially used in central midfield during the group phase, Joachim Low moved his captain back to his more natural position, and Germany conceded just two goals in the knockouts from then on. Consistently excellent on the ball and with a positional sense to better the worldand#039s best, Lahm was deservedly named on the FIFA Golden Ball short list.
Mats Hummels lines up at center back after his exemplary showings for Germany. The Borussia Dortmund man banished any lingering doubts over his long-term fitness by playing in each of his sideand#039s seven matches, helping the team to clean sheets against Portugal, USA, France – against which he scored the winning goal with an emphatic header – and Argentina in the final.
Alongside Hummels is Costa Rica hero Giancarlo Gonzalez, who was at the heart of the Central Americansand#039 sensational run to the quarterfinals. He helped to shut out Italy and England in the group stage, as well as Netherlands during 120 minutes in the last eight, but his battling showing against Greece following Oscar Duarteand#039s red card was his finest of the tournament.
At left back, Netherlands stalwart Daley Blind earns a spot following a coming-of-age three weeks in Brazil. Louis van Gaaland#039s side earned a surprise third place in the tournament, with Blind deployed at left back, left wing back and central midfield as he delivered a superbly consistent string of performances. His two assists against Spain and first international goal in the playoff win over Brazil were the icing on the cake for the 24-year-old.
Javier Mascherano lines up in our double-pivot in midfield. The 30-year-old, deployed in his more traditional central role after two seasons at center back for Barcelona, was a rock for Argentina, helping the side to three clean sheets in the knockout phase while allowing the attacking stars more freedom to flourish. His performance against Netherlands – capped by a stunning late block on Arjen Robben – was arguably the best of his 104 international matches, and he ran himself ragged in the final.
Alongside him is Toni Kroos, the heartbeat of the Germany machine. With two goals and four assists, Kroos was exemplary for Lowand#039s side throughout the tournament. His nomination for the Golden Ball – and almost certain transfer to European club champion Real Madrid – came as little surprise.
On the right of the attack is Arjen Robben. Another nominee for the Golden Ball, the Bayern Munich star was electrifying in the group stage – giving the Spanish defense in particular a torrid time with two goals – and though he was better curtailed in the knockout phase, he won decisive penalties against both Mexico and Brazil with his bursts forward.
In the center is Lionel Messi, who carried Argentina through the group with winning goals against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria. The Barcelona ace later set up Angel Di Maria for the winner against Switzerland and was involved in Gonzalo Higuainand#039s goal against Belgium. Though he was ultimately unable to inspire his side to a win in the final, he still picked up the Golden Ball as the tournamentand#039s best player.
On the left, we have James Rodriguez, who was the inspiration behind Colombiaand#039s vibrant displays in the finals. Six goals from an attacking midfield position is remarkable in a World Cup, but the quality of the strikes – in particular his chipped finish against Japan and outrageous swivel volley versus Uruguay – underlined his class, and sealed the Golden Boot for the Monaco star.
In the lone striker role is Thomas Muller – Germanyand#039s most consistent World Cup performer. The Golden Boot winner from 2010 bagged a hat trick against Portugal and never looked back. He hit the winner against USA and proved decisive in extra time versus Algeria before he tore the Brazil defense to shreds in the last four and delivered another tireless showing against Argentina.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor