It was a World Cup that equaled the highest tally of goals scored (171) since the 1998 Cup in France. There were goals aplenty in the group and knockout stages of the tournament with most teams adopting an attacking style of play. We take an in-depth look at the top five players that got pulses racing over the month long World Cup along with my team of tournament.
Thomas Mueller (Germany)
Position : Striker
Age : 24
Club Team : Bayern Munich
Arguably the best player of the tournament, Mueller is en route to writing his name in Germany folklore. At the young age of 24, the German is expected to break compatriot, Miroslav Klose’s record of 16 World Cup goals after he added five goals to his previous tally of five in his last World Cup appearance. He may not be the flashiest, or the most spectacular, but like Klose, he scores goals.
Mueller thrives as the free roaming frontman in Joachim Loew’s side, and is the most important cog in the team. In the first game, his hat-trick helped his side demolish Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. Most defenders believe they can bully him on the field due to his scrawny physique, but Mueller is one of the most intelligent and clinical strikers in the world.
James Rodriguez (Colombia)
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Position : Midfielder
Age : 23
Club Team : AS Monaco
In the wake of the baby faced Colombian’s performances at the tournament, his countrymen have nicknamed him, ‘El Pibe Nueva’ (The New Kid), after Colombia’s finest player, the curly-haired, Carlos ‘El Pibe’ Valderrama, playing in a similar creative midfield role.
With star player Falcao missing the tournament through injury, nobody gave Colombia a fighting chance to survive beyond the group stages. However, James proved that notion faulty, helping is country reach the quarterfinals for the first time in their history as well as bagging the prestigious Golden Boot award with 6 goals and 2 assists. The attacking midfielder scored in all five of Colombia’s World Cup matches, including two crucial strikes to get past Uruguay in the Round of 16 and, also scoring a goal in the 2-1 loss to Brazil in the quarterfinals. In the end, his scintillating performances were not enough to see his team through.
His performances caught the eye of Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez and, it is believed that los Blancos are considering a bid for him.
Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Position : Midfielder
Age : 30
Club Team : Bayern Munich
Robben had fans sitting on the edge of their seats with his mesmeric runs and sudden turn of pace. There is an air of predictability about Robben’s sudden cuts from the right wing, which opposition defences have still not been capable to stop.
It was a joy to watch Robben – not known for his tracking back abilities – show some defensive discipline and offer cover to right back, Dirk Kuyt.
In the past, Robben has tended to chase the glory. However, he was the most unselfish player in his team, tormenting defenders and creating countless opportunities for his teammates. His performance in the 5-1 thrashing of Spain in particular, was breathtaking; it felt as though something exciting was going to happen whenever the ball was at his feet.
So highly rated by Dutch coach, Van Gaal, Robben was being persuaded to join him at his new club, Manchester United. Robben however, believes his current future still lies with Bundesliga champions, Bayern Munich.
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
Position : Goalkeeper
Age : 27
Club Team : Levante
Navas pips German keeper, Manuel Neuer to my top five, he was the main reason for Costa Rica to progress to the quarterfinals stage. Thrown into a group of death with England, Italy and Uruguay. Los Ticos were given no chance of qualifying, however, they proved their worth by topping the group.
The North American side were extremely difficult to break down and they have Navas to be thankful for after he made a total of 21 saves in the tournament. Los Ticos were one of only four teams to have not lost a game at the tournament conceding only one goal from open play.
Playing for Spanish side Levante. Navas has been a constant thorn in the necks of La Liga teams; producing 95 saves over the course of the season, compared to 54 saves made by Neuer. It is no surprise Real Madrid are believed to have activated his buy-out clause as they go in search for a replacement for fading star keeper, Iker Casillas. His impending transfer will certainly add steel to a leaky Madrid defence and he may turn out to be one of the bargains of the summer.
Position : Striker
Age : 22
Club Team : Barcelona
Donning the famous no. 10 shirt for his national team, Neymar has been touted to become Pele’s successor for a long time. And he went some way to proving his worth by helping his national team reach the semi final stage but was unfortunately ruled out of the remainder of the tournament due to a back injury.
His loss had a major impact on his team as they were humiliated by Germany and Netherlands in the semi finals and the third place playoff matches respectively. The Selçao relied heavily on Neymar’s influence as he almost single handedly carried the team to the semifinals, scoring 4 goals and providing an assist. His counterparts, Fred and Hulk were extremely ineffective throughout the tournament, and the former was even booed of the pitch by fans prompting him to retire from international football altogether.
Neymar’s absence further highlighted his importance to the national team and he will now have even more pressure to perform on the big stage for his country.
After reviewing the top five players. Here is the team of the tournament;
Goalkeeper – Keylor Navas (Cra)
Right Back – Phillip Lahm (Ger)
Centre Back – Mats Hummels (Ger)
Centre Back – Ron Vlaar (Ned)
Left Back – Daley Blind (Ned)
Midfielder – Javier Mascherano (Arg)
Midfielder – Toni Kroos (Ger)
Winger – Arjen Robben (Ned)
Winger – James Rodriguez (Col)
Striker – Thomas Muller (Ger)
Striker – Neymar(Bra)
Subs: Manuel Neuer (Ger), Dirk Kuyt (Ned), Stefan de Vrij (Ned), Paul Pogba (Fra), Alexis Sanchez (Cra), Angel di Maria (Arg), Lionel Messi (Arg)