Well folks, it’s all over. The 2014 World Cup has ended and Germany are champions yet again, for the fourth time, the first time since reunification in October 1990. I can honestly say that since I began watching the tournament in 2002 this has been by far the most exciting and most enjoyable World Cup. There have been plenty of goals, lots of drama but most importantly a lot of memorable moments.
Today, I make my dream team for this summer’s World Cup. There is one glaring omission in the form of Neymar but I think that this is the strongest XI that has revealed itself at the tournament. Apart from Colombia’s James Rodríguez the other ten are players that graced the semi-finals. That said there are no Brazilians in the side. Had Neymar played beyond the quarter-finals he more than likely would have made this side but after that 7-1 demolition it became apparent that Brazil were hugely, almost entirely, dependent on the Barcelona forward.
GK: Manuel Neuer (Germany)
Well, it’s the obvious choice really considering Neuer was awarded the Golden Glove for best goalkeeper of the tournament. While Guillermo Ochoa, Tim Howard and Keylor Navas may have become the internet meme heroes for their exploits, in contrast Neuer has been quietly efficient.
Neuer is without doubt the best goalkeeper of his generation and this was never more apparent than his double save from Paulinho in the semi-final against Brazil. Despite Germany cruising at 7-0, when Neuer conceded a goal to Oscar, of absolutely no significance, in the 90th minute he was clearly annoyed with himself. Now there’s a winning mentality.
RB: Philipp Lahm (Germany) [CAPTAIN]
In an earlier post I put Philipp Lahm in my all-time German World Cup XI so naturally he features in today’s team. It’s hard to believe that Lahm has been around for so long. Now 30 years old, he made his World Cup debut eight years ago against Costa Rica.
Lahm has been a stalwart for Germany at this year’s tournament. It quickly became apparent that he was wasted in midfield and when he was moved back to his more familiar full-back position he flourished. Lahm has been an excellent leader for Germany throughout and is unarguably the best full-back in the game at the moment.
CB: Mats Hummels (Germany)
Mats Hummels is one of the most sought-after defenders in the game right now and with good reason. He hardly put a foot wrong all tournament and was as solid a presence as his captain in Germany’s defence.
Hummels was also the only goalscorer in Germany’s 1-0 quarter-final win over France, heading the ball in from a free-kick. Vincent Kompany may be more of a commanding presence in the box but I would pick Hummels every day of the week ahead of Belgium’s captain.
CB: Ron Vlaar (Netherlands)
It is Ron Vlaar’s defensive masterclass against Argentina in the semi-final that sees his inclusion ahead of Costa Rica’s Giancarlo González. Consistent throughout it was that game where Vlaar had the whole footballing world talking about him.
100% tackles won, 100% aerial duels won, 11 clearances, six interceptions, 92% pass accuracy. Those are Xavi Hernández 2010 numbers.
LB: Daley Blind (Netherlands)
Before the tournament much of the talk of Daley Blind was probably “Oh yeah, isn’t he Danny Blind’s son?” Well that has changed after Daley came of age after a hugely impressive World Cup.
Blind was creator-in-chief in the opening game against the holders Spain where he provided two assists, one of which was the cross that Robin van Persie’s scored that header from. A player who has grown into the tournament, for me he’s the only option at left-back.
CM: Toni Kroos (Germany)
In Toni Kroos Germany have the archetypal midfielder of the modern game. Not as far advanced as a traditional number 10, Kroos is often in the engine room of midfield but this does not deter his attacking prowess.
Two goals (both against Brazil) and four assists, Kroos has been the best midfielder of this World Cup. The heartbeat of the German side, it is little wonder that Real Madrid are trying to pry him away from the Allianz Arena.
CM: Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
Javier Mascherano’s presence in midfield for Argentina was the driving force behind their march to the final. He was a rock in his better position as a defensive midfielder sitting in front of the defence. Take note Barcelona.
His finest performance in an Argentinian shirt was undoubtedly that semi-final against the Netherlands. His late block on Arjen Robben could well have been the difference between playing in the final and the third/fourth-place play-off.
RW: Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
It’s hard to like Arjen Robben. For all his talents it is his penchant for deception and theatricality that mars his reputation as a truly great footballer. Taking away those negative aspects of his game, Robben has had an exceptional World Cup.
His performance against Spain was a masterclass in itself, and at 30 seems to be, remarkably, only getting quicker. He also, like it or not, won the decisive penalty against Mexico in the round of 16. His ball control and determination for the cause were unrivaled throughout; a worthy contender for the Golden Ball.
AM: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
For all the plaudits he has received during the tournament, Lionel Messi’s performances have tailed off since the group stages. Scoring four goals, two of which were contenders for the best goal of the tournament, it seemed destiny that Messi would do a Maradona ’86 on it and lead his nation to glory.
His genius was sporadic during the knockout stages. He assisted Ángel di María’s winner against Switzerland and played a role in Gonzalo Higuaín’s goal against Belgium, but in the last two games he was largely pedestrian. There were flashes of brilliance in yesterday’s final but he could not get over the finish line. Perhaps not the most deserving of the Golden Ball but Messi’s brilliance over the last six years in a way merits it.
LW: James Rodríguez (Colombia)
The only non-semi finalist in this side and with good reason. James Rodríguez has been a revelation at this tournament. I must admit I was one of many football fans who never heard of him prior to Brazil 2014 but immediately fell in love with the Colombian after some wonderful displays.
A worthy Golden Boot winner, James hit six goals despite only reaching the quarter-finals, the pick of which was that outstanding volley against Uruguay. That chipped finish against Japan wasn’t half bad either.
CF: Thomas Müller (Germany)
Not exactly an out-and-out striker but to omit Thomas Müller would be just wrong. Since bagging a hat-trick against Portugal, Müller has been at the heart of Germany’s attack. Although he only added a further two he always looked a threat.
He was perhaps Germany’s best player after Sami Khedira in that semi-final mauling of Brazil. With everyone wishing that Messi would have a great World Cup many overlooked the fact that Thomas Müller could well be regarded as the ultimate World Cup player in a few decades. In two tournaments he has scored 10 goals, provided six assists and been a top-four winner.
By Eoghan Wallace