World Cup XI without Dutchman Arjen Robben
Your football World Cup XI from heaven
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil reached its climax on Monday when Germany beat Argentina in the final to be crowned champions for the fourth time. We asked our readers to pick their best XI from a tournament that will live long in the memory.
Here's Scott Cameron's dream team.
Playing a 4-3-3 formation.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (Germany) – It would have been pure comedy if the 28-year-old Bayern Munich rising legend was also named as one of the centre-backs of the tournament. Neuer arguably raised the bar of his position. He combined the usual characteristics of a world class goalkeeper (no bad gaffes, amazing saves) with his exhilarating pursuit of balls outside of his box domain. He has transformed from just one of several star net-minders into the latest global goalkeeping superstar.
Right-back: Philipp Lahm (Germany) – He may have only played in the position for the final three games, but his main rivals to the best right-back prize didn’t have extraordinary world cups. Pablo Zabaleta came on in the last three games but had a shaky group stage, Dani Alves lost his starting job as the tournament went on, Stephen Lichtsteiner was solid but not spectacular, and Glen Johnson’s tournament was over before it even started. Juan Zuniga had some nice moments but of course is marred for knocking Neymar out of the tournament (and almost accidentally ending his career). But Zuniga was beaten a few times in the tournament, including by Ivory Coast forward Gervinho’s fine goal. All of them opened the door for Lahm to reclaim his throne as the best right back, with his usual, dangerous forays forward combined this time without getting caught out like he has in the past in big matches.
Centre-back: Mats Hummels (Germany) – His knee problems may have caught up to him in the final as Lionel Messi got by him a couple times, but the Borussia Dortmund man certified himself as one of the best centre-backs in the world. His return to the German side for the France quarterfinal was massive and brought the best out of Jerome Boateng. At only 25, Hummels may see himself on another World Cup Best XI before his career is done, and Boateng may join him there as well.
Centre-back: Ezequiel Garay (Argentina) – The top defender of the stingiest defense in the tournament (along with the winners Germany), the former Benfica man completed his own ascent into one the premier men in his position with outstanding positioning and tackling in front of Sergio Romero. Garay was able to do it with two different partners, holding steady with Federico Fernandez and getting the best out of Martin Demichelis. Doing the latter was probably his greatest feat of the tournament, and sees him barely beat out the incredible revelation that was Giancarlo Gonzalez of Costa Rica.
Left-back: Daley Blind (Netherlands) – Like Lahm, Blind saw himself in the midfield quite a lot. But he was returned to his proper home of the outside defender’s spot, and showcased why he has developed so well at Ajax. Besides his now renowned deep passing, Blind did so well to recover in numbers and be tactically astute for Louis Van Gaal’s side. Ricardo Rodriguez of Switzerland and Argentina’s Marcos Rojo showed that they are also the future of the left-back spot, while Jan Vertonghen and Benedikt Howedes were commendable in makeshift roles. Not to be forgotten, Patrice Evra exhibited why he once was atop the left-back rankings with a fine display for France. In the end, the 24-year-old Dutchman made a global name for himself and won’t be turning back to relative anonymity outside of the Eredivisie anymore.
Central defensive midfield: Javier Mascherano (Argentina) – Although he had the occasional venture forward to keep the opposition honest, there was no question that in pure destroying play, no-one was better than the underrated Barcelona stalwart these five weeks in Brazil. Timely in his interventions whenever his country required of him (highlighted in that gamesaving tackle of Arjen Robben in the semifinals), Mascherano was deserving of any Golden Ball consideration and could certainly claim that he was the best Argentine of the tournament despite Messi being the top reason they went far.
Centre midfield: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) – Considering that his World Cup was almost in the balance with a knee injury right before the competition started, the flashy winger turned mature midfield general culminated his great growth as a player with a world title. Schweinsteiger’s all around play was only surpassed this past club season by Yaya Toure and Arturo Vidal, as some thought that age had already caught up with the German. The 29-year-old responded to that and his knee knock with his usual running going forward, while sacrificing his offensive play by being that protector of the German centre-backs that the team needed when Lahm returned to right-back. And while Lahm may have the captain’s armband, 'Schweini' is truly the heart and soul of this champion German side.
Attacking midfield: James Rodriguez (Colombia) – World Cup Golden Boot winner at age 22, scorer in his first five World Cup games and MVP of a Colombian side in their greatest World Cup ever. It truly was a breakthrough tournament for a young man who already came with a huge price tag from the summer before. With Falcao out, Rodriguez handled the expectations of being Los Cafeteros’ new talisman with the aplomb of a rising legend, creating and finishing goals for his nation to become a new global footballing icon.
Attacking midfield: Lionel Messi (Argentina) – You could see the pain on his face that came with receiving the Golden Ball for the tournament, as no symbolic runner-up’s gift or best XI list would replace the horror of not winning a World Cup for him. But even with his inability to produce a legendary game in the last two matches of the tournament, it was a World Cup where Messi’s play almost meant everything to his nation. In a tournament where Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were complete shells of their top striker selves, while Angel Di Maria was done the minute he got hurt against Belgium, it was effectively Messi or bust. The plan finally did bust in the final, but even Messi’s most ardent haters would have to concede that he was among the best 10-12 players this tournament.
Attacking midfield: Neymar (Brazil) – The man with the biggest pressure of any player for the buildup and actual existence of this World Cup performed extraordinarily well with little to no help up front. Like Messi, it was truly Neymar or bust for Felipe Scolari’s side, as the 22-year-old wonderkid showed the pace, the touch and calmness with all the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Even if his displays against Chile and Colombia didn’t hit the heights of his group stage exploits, Neymar was still a threat throughout those first two knockout rounds and did not disappear. A whole world waited with baited breath for news on his gruesome back injury, which highlighted how immense an earthy figure he has become in just a short time. Unlike Arjen Robben, who had his trinity trio of Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder beside him, Neymar had a completely un-Brazilian forward in Fred and inconsistent displays from Hulk and Oscar to work with. He, without a doubt, warrants a Best XI spot.
Attacking midfield/forward: Thomas Muller (Germany) – The man who truly deserved the Golden Ball but will feel satisfied with the prize he received at the end of the tournament. For another World Cup, Muller exhibited why his movement is for purists to cherish and novices to learn from. He was relentless when going outside, cutting inside, allowing runners from deep to have space, and working with whomever was in the box with him. His touches were sublime and his intelligence was a constant. With 10 World Cup goals at only age 24, he could very well challenge his countryman Miroslav Klose for the #1 all time goalscorer’s list in World Cup history when all is said and done with his career.
* Arjen Robben's fantastic tournament and constant threat was blunted out by Argentina in the semifinal, but he could have easily been on this list had his side been in the championship game.
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