A World Cup packed with world class performers across the park, Livio Caferoglu struggled to find just 11 for a 3-4-1-2 Team of the Tournament.
Keylor Navas and Guillermo Ochoa may have been stand-out performers during the group stage, but the Bayern Munich goalkeeper came of age during the knockout phases. A commanding and authoritative figure, with a penchant for a world-class save, the 28-year-old’s ability to function as a sweeper was a crucial component in Germany’s high line at the back.
Ron Vlaar, Netherlands
The Aston Villa captain did his reputation no harm at all in Brazil after expertly patrolling the Dutch defence en route to their third-placed finish. Penalties may not be his forte, having fluffed from the spot against Argentina in the semi-finals, but the manner in which he stifled some of the world’s best attackers brought his name to the forefront.
Giancarlo Gonzalez, Costa Rica
You’d have been forgiving for mistaking the 26-year-old for an obscure Serie A journeyman with a name like Giancarlo, but the Costa Rican’s stock has risen immeasurably this summer, so much so that Rio Ferdinand did his best to alert potential suitors of the defender’s availability during his punditry for the BBC. Accumulating more tackles, interceptions and clearances than the likes of Thiago Silva is no mean feat.
Mats Hummels, Germany
The German defence may have been subject to chopping and changing, but the one constant was the Borussia Dortmund man. While he may not be the quickest or most athletic, his elegance in making outmuscling opponents look so effortless was brilliantly showcased at the World Cup. Two goals to his name, including the winner against France, showed he was also a threat from set-pieces.
Juan Cuadrado, Colombia
Calcio enthusiasts were already aware of the Colombian’s precocious talent, but he became a household name at the World Cup, as his electric wing play proved a major factor in the Tricolor’s run to the quarter-finals. The Fiorentina ace also finished the tournament as the joint-highest assist makerand was one of the most fouled players.
Every successful team needs a combative defensive midfielder, and no-one else played the role better than the Barcelona star. His match-winning tackle on Robben aside, the 29-year-old was always the first to sniff out danger, before picking out a teammate on the other side of the pitch. All the more remarkable when his club position has been in the centre of defence.
Toni Kroos, Germany
Easily the best playmaker at the World Cup, the No 18 was especially instrumental in Germany’s 7-1 demolition of Brazil, and his displays were best summed up by German newspaper Sud-Deutsche Zeitung: ‘Like Xavi and Iniesta rolled into one’. Nobody average more passes per game for Die Mannschaft than the 24-year-old.
Arjen Robben, Netherlands
The winger’s career has not been without controversy, but after this World Cup, he will have silenced many of his doubters. Once accused of being too one-dimensional, the 30-year-old showed great tactical flexibility by excelling in a central attacking role on several occasions. In addition, Robben was every inch the leader in the latter stages, a far cry from his negative media portrayal.
James Rodriguez, Colombia
There is always the story of a superstar being born at a World Cup, and in 2014’s case, it’s the Monaco starlet. Six goals, including a sensational chest-and-volley against Uruguay, rightfully earned him the Golden Boot award, a fortnight after he was ranked as the best performer in the group stage by FIFA. Rodriguez’s vision and technique struck fear into opposing defences like no-one else could in Brazil.
Lionel Messi, Argentina
The debate over whether the four-time Ballon d’Or winner deserved to claim the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup is unlikely to be settled, but the statistics don’t lie – man-of-the-match and four winning goals in each of Argentina’s group matches was followed by another match-winning assist in the Last 16. Messi’s influence may have waned, most notably in the final, but the Albiceleste had no choice but to rely on him.
The ultimate attacking all-rounder, Muller’s tally of five strikes and three assists in Brazil means he is well on his way towards at least equalling compatriot Miroslav Klose’s record haul of 16 strikes, having successfully equalled his exploits in 2010. The Bayern Munich star’s incredible versatility, movement and work-rate makes him the perfect forward in Germany’s set-up and has him unofficially regarded as the tournament’s best performer.