And so, it’s all over – the 2014 World Cup has been concluded. Many say the best side Germany won, playing the best football, and sealing victory in a typically tight and tactical final against Argentina with a Mario Gotze goal. Even though all of them didn’t emerge tournament winners, here is a list of top 10 players in Brazil
10. Mats Hummels (Germany)
In a competition where virtually no centre half stood out, Hummels’ performances were perhaps a little under-appreciated. Not blessed with great pace and partnered with the even slower Per Mertesacker in the opening games, he helped make up a rather unconvincing high line. But as the tournament progressed, he slowed his class, and was particularly good against the French where he scored the solitary goal of the game, evading Raphael Varane to put a smart header past Hugo Lloris.
9. Neymar (Brazil)
It was supposed to be his tournament, and for a while it appeared he would actually live up to the ludicrous expectations placed on his young shoulders. It wasn’t until he was cruelly ruled out by injury however that the extent to which his genius was helping mask the many flaws in this Brazilian team became apparent. He can certainly be proud of his contributions.
8. Toni Kroos (Germany)
Two dreams came true in one night for the young German after he confirmed post final match his imminent transfer to Real Madrid. Kroos was totally without peer in the outstanding German midfield. Nobody came close to him in terms of both ball retention ability and for quality of movement in the final third. After this tournament his talent should finally be fully appreciated across the globe.
7. Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Two quiet showings in two extremely cagey, tactical games in the latter rounds prevented the Dutchman from staking a more serious claim for Golden Ball trophy, but over the opening fixtures, Robben was outstanding. Four goals in his first four games and two outstanding performances against the Spanish and Mexico led his side further than most thought they could possibly reach. Louis van Gaal’s tactics were excellent throughout but ultimately it was Robben who owed the credit for the Dutch’s remarkable achievement in Brazil.
6. Manuel Neuer (Germany)
Simply the best goalkeeper on the planet and one of the greatest of all time, Neuer was lucky not to concede a foul for a dangerous charge on Gonzalo Higuain in the final, but otherwise, he was immaculate. As an extremely gifted keeper, the German was world-class in Brazil, coming out of his area to play the ball from defence in crucial moments. He was just a sensational all-round footballer.
5. Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
More at home scrapping in midfield than he was in his usual centre half position for Barcelona, in both the final and semi-final matches, Mascherano turned in the two finest central midfield displays of the competition. Complete with brilliant, timely tackles, surprisingly effective distribution and some masterful reading of the game, he was the understated hero of his side’s journey to the final.
4. Thomas Muller (Germany)
In a tournament where no centre forward truly stood out, the best forward play of the tournament came courtesy of the Bayern Munich attacker. A classically scrappy hat-trick in the opening game, a fine winning goal against the USA and the opener in his country’s historic mauling of Brazil constituted a second successive excellent World Cup for Muller. Miroslav Klose may have broken the all-time record for goals scored in World Cup games but, barring injury, that record will surely be Muller’s by Qatar 2022.
3. James Rodriguez (Colombia)
Golden boot winner, one of the goals of the tournament scorer and the only player that was outstanding in every single one of his games, not reaching the final four was the only reason Rodriguez was not the player of the tournament. Regardless, the Colombian was without doubt the breakthrough star of the summer, proving himself to be a perfect all-round No. 10. His movements, passing, goal-scoring, and even tackling in midfield were all first rate. Only some overly aggressive tactics from the Brazilians in the quarter-finals were able to stop him dominating the game.
2. Philipp Lahm (Germany)
Following in the footsteps of his country’s greatest ever player Franz Beckenbauer exactly 40 years on, the German captain is a more than worthy successor. By a distance the best full back on the planet, he may be the best central midfielder in the world too. Brilliant in both positions for his country throughout, Lahm is capable of dictating play from almost anywhere on the field; he is as sharp a tactical mind and as technically gifted a player as you’re ever likely to see and though not as spectacular as Messi or James, he is now a World Cup winning captain and fully deserving of the honour.
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Many scoffed at FIFA’s decision to award the Golden Ball to the Argentine as the player was made a victim of his own phenomenal standards. Three truly wonderful winning goals in each of his group games helped mask a poor start to the competition for his country; he then played a crucial part in both goals in 1-0 victories over Switzerland and Belgium. Clearly exhausted, burdened with obscene pressure and man-marked by two, sometimes three men at all times, the Barcelona star was clearly some way from his best – but was still a damn sight better than everyone else.