World Cup 2014 team of tournament: Robben, Rodríguez and more
Kieran Beckles picks his World Cup 2014 team of tournament, including Arjen Robben and James Rodríguez
Manuel Neuer The Germany international wasn’t forced into action in the final as Argentina failed to register a shot on target. However, the Bayern Munich No1 was brilliant in the run-up to the final. In particular, Neuer’s performance against Algeria earned many plaudits as he played more like a sweeper than a shot-stopper. There should be honourable mentions for Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa, Tim Howard and Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who is reportedly set to join the Golden Glove winner at Bayern.
Philipp Lahm It would be folly to omit the World Cup-winning captain from this team of the tournament. The 30-year-old has been ever-present in the Germany set-up since the start of the revolution under Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Low. Lahm was a solid performer and showed his versatility to switch between full-back and midfield when required. Lahm joins Germany greats like Lothar Matthäus following Sunday night’s World Cup win.
Mats Hummels The German theme continues at centre-half. The Borussia Dortmund defender shook off fitness concerns to make six appearances in Brazil. Low’s side conceded just three goals in the tournament thanks to Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Per Mertesacker. The 25-year-old, who has been linked with a move to Manchester United, posed a threat at set-pieces, scoring against Portugal and netting the winner in the 1-0 victory over France in the quarter-final.
Michael Umaña Costa Rica were the surprise package of the World Cup and it is fitting to include their captain in this Dream Team just ahead of Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar. The 31-year-old may lack the elegance of Hummels but Umaña brings determination and grit to this backline. The Deportivo Saprissa centre-half played four games and was able to blunt the Netherlands’s free-scoring duo, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie. Sadly Umaña missed his penalty in the quarter-final shootout as his leg betrayed him and Tim Krul’s mind-games proved too much.
Daley Blind Daley Blind wasn’t on the radar of most Premier League fans before the tournament, but the Netherlands wing-back’s two assists in a 5-1 victory over defending champions Spain resulted in the Ajax man being linked with a host of English clubs. Whilst the 24-year-old failed to the spectacular heights of the Group B opener again, Blind was the stand-out left-back. He looked equally comfortable on the left, too. Switzerland’s Ricardo Rodriguez and Argentina full-back Marcos Rojo deserves nods of approval, too.
Javier Mascherano Despite Lionel Messi winning the Golden Ball, Javier Mascherano was arguably Argentina’s most influential player at this World Cup. The former Liverpool midfielder has matured since his Anfield days and the 30-year-old was the real leader in Alejandro Sabella’s camp as he rallied his team-mates in the knockout stages. The Barcelona midfielder’s stand-out contribution came in the semi-final victory over the Netherlands. Staying on the pitch after appear to lose conscious (controversially), Mascherano dug deep to keep out Robben and co. Admittedly looked tired in the final. Surely Barcelona will stop using Mascherano as a centre-half after this World Cup?
Toni Kroos Toni Kroos was another key cog as he formed part of a ridiculously strong Germany spine; Neuer, Hummels, Schweinsteiger, Kroos and Thomas Muller. Perhaps motivated to perform with his Bayern Munich future in doubt, the Real Madrid-bound midfielder was outstanding in Brazil. The 24-year-old made three assists and unforgettable was on a hat-trick after just 27 minutes of Germany’s semi-final against Brazil. Honourable mention to Kroos’s team-mate Sami Khedira.
Arjen Robben Out of the star names heading to Brazil, Arjen Robben was one of the few to perform above his already high standards. The 30-year-old was scintillating in the 5-1 victory over Spain as his pace and trickery exposed the limitations of centre-half pairing Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos. Continued his electric performances against Australia and Chile, adding a further goal and an assist to his two goals against la Roja. Robben won the penalty which resulted in Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s winner against Mexico and converted his penalty in the shootouts against Costa Rica and Argentina.
James Rodríguez The Colombia man, like Costa Rica, was a surprise package in Brazil. James Rodríguez wasn’t an unknown but at the age of 22, there was a feeling this World Cup may have come too soon for the Monaco playmaker. However, Rodríguez played his way into the starting line-up and remained there. The Colombia midfielder’s six goals won him the Golden Boot (a 100/1 shot!) and his performance against Uruguay was one of the stand-out displays of any player at the tournament. Oh, and his second goal against la Celeste was the goal of the tournament. Not bad, James.
Lionel Messi With Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez coming into the World Cup nursing a knee injuries, it felt like it was going to be Messi’s tournament. The Barcelona man, for many, needs to drive Argentina to World Cup glory to match legend Diego Maradona. He came so close. Messi wasn’t at his mercurial best throughout the past month but it was enough to almost single-handedly (at times) win games for Argentina. The 27-year-old scored four goals in three Group F games and created Angel di Maria’s winner against Switzerland. But as Argentina evaded the final hurdles of the tournament, Messi’s influence dwindled before he came up just short. Still, he is judged by higher standards and Messi was one of the best players at the tournament.
Thomas Müller Thomas Müller won the Golden Boot thanks to his four goals in South Africa and the Germany international went on better in Brazil. The Bayern striker scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 victory over Portugal in the opening Group G game after his theatrics helped get Pepe sent off. Müller added to his tally with the winner against the USA before grabbing himself a goal in the 7-1 rout. In the end, Muller fell just short of becoming the first player to win back-to-back Golden Boots.
Substitutes: Ron Vlaar, Robin van Persie, Guy Medel, Neymar, Tim Howard, Sami Khedira, Andre Schurrle.