Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
It has been a terrific tournament for goalkeepers, despite the record number of goals. The performances of Tim Howard, Guillermo Ochoa and Sergio Romero inspired nations but none more so than Navas. Costa Rica’s number one had a plethora of crowning moments – his heroics in the penalty shootout against Greece and keeping out the Netherlands for 120 minutes in their quarter-final were brilliant.
Left centre back: Stefan de Vrij (Netherlands)
It is hard to comprehend, but Stefan de Vrij is only 22-years-old. The Feyenoord defender has been immense for the Netherlands, stopping attacks while beginning some of his own. It’ll only be a matter of time before a bigger European club snaps up De Vrij.
Centre back: Mats Hummels (Germany)
The Borussia Dortmund stopper has been a colossus in defence for Germany. A terrific work ethic and an incredible understanding with his teammates has only increased his value. He’s been linked with Manchester United. His goal against France was one of the best headers in the tournament.
Right centre back: Giancarlo Gonzalez (Costa Rica)
The second Costa Rica player in The New Daily team of the World Cup, Gonzalez was a brick wall in defence. Although they exited the tournament in the quarters, they went unbeaten against England, Italy, the Netherlands and Uruguay. Gonzalez and Costa Rica went far beyond expectations.
Defensive midfielder: Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
For every attacking line-up, you also need a bit of balance to shore up your defence – that is exactly what Mascherano has provided Argentina. An ever-reliable defensive midfielder, Mascherano’s highlight of the tournament was his last ditch challenge on Arjen Robben that denied the Dutch an injury time goal in the semi-final.
Right midfielder: Toni Kroos (Germany)
A tournament passing completion rate of 85 per cent and a man-of-the-match performance against Brazil in the semi-final has sent club scouts crazy around Europe. Kroos has become the complete midfielder and Bayern Munich will have to do everything they can to hold on to him. His four assists so far are the equal most in the World Cup.
Left midfielder: Angel di Maria (Argentina)
His absence in the semi-final against the Netherlands should not be underestimated as the Argentines missed his creative spark from midfield. Di Maria leads the competition in attempted crosses with 49 – a whopping nine more than second-best Mathieu Valbuena. He is also in the top five for solo runs into the penalty area. If deemed fit for the final, the Real Madrid star has the opportunity to become only the third player to win the UEFA Champions League and World Cup in the same year.
Attacking midfielder: James Rodriguez (Colombia)
The player of the tournament. If James Rodriguez does not claim the Golden Ball award, then someone has committed a crime. Scoring in each of Colombia’s five games, Rodriguez’s tally of six leads the tournament so far and should see him make a big move away from French side AS Monaco this European summer.
Right wing: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Arguably the worlds best footballer, Messi finally delivered on the world stage where his rival Cristiano Ronaldo has not. Four goals and one assist in six games helped Argentina reach the final. Messi has been awarded the man-of-the-match award four times this tournament. The great one now has the opportunity to emulate the player he is forever compared to, Diego Maradona, and help Argentina win a World Cup.
Striker: Thomas Mueller (Germany)
There is something about Germany and Mueller’s at World Cups. Mueller’s five goals this tournament takes his tally to 10 in all World Cups at only 24-years-old. The Bayern Munich attacker’s flexibility in the final third has allowed him to play in multiple roles including as a centre forward, a number 10 or as a right-winger as he did against Brazil under Joachim Loew.
Left winger: Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
No player in the tournament made more solo runs into the penalty area than Robben – in fact, the Dutch star made 17, more than double Mesut Oezil and Thomas Mueller. Robben was the shining light in attack for the Netherlands and was heavily relied upon in their run to the semi-finals. However, the Bayern Munich attacker will be disappointed that he failed to add to his three group stage goals in the knockout rounds.
Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa was the pick of the rest in goals, shutting out Brazil before making a number of miraculous saves against the Netherlands. French pair Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena were amazing in attack for Les Bleus as they gave Germany a scare in the quarter-finals. Benzema in fact is rated the best player of the tournament according to FIFA’s Castrol Index. Brazil’s duo of Thiago Silva and Neymar missed the semi-final thumping due to suspension and injury respectively. The big names of Brazil’s national team were heavily missed and it begs the question – what would have happened if they played. And last but not least, our very own, Tim Cahill. How could anyone forget that stunning left foot volley against the Netherlands?
World cup fever! Read more on the quadrennial festival in The Treasures of the World Cup by Keir Radnedge. Buy it here.
When the World Cup began in 1930, only 13 teams participated. Now it involves more than 200 countries, and has truly become the international competition it was intended to be. Containing 30 facsimile pieces of rare memorabilia sure to delight fans, The Treasures of the World Cup tells the story of this quadrennial festival. Along with an authoritative account of all 19 tournaments and a preview of Brazil 2014, it includes features on the superstars, memorable moments for each of the finals, maps of the venues, and results boxes.