World Cup's best 11

World Cup's best 11

LEFT BACK

Marcos Rojo (Argentina)

Age: 24, 26 caps, 4 World Cup appearances, 1 goal.

A centre back by trade but deployed wide left, Rojo has proved doubters wrong with some dynamic performances.

Suspended for the quarter-final against Belgium.

CENTRE BACK

Thiago Silva (Brazil)

Age: 29, 50 caps, 4 World Cup appearances, 1 assist.l Nicknamed O Monstro, Silva has been monstrous in a vulnerable Brazilian defence, bar a shaky first half in the opening match against Croatia.

He is fast, strong in the air, tactically intelligent and comfortable in possession.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDER

Blaise Matuidi (France)

Age: 27, 27 caps, 4 World Cup appearances, 1 goal.

If this was Football Manager, his description would be "tireless midfielder". With his box-to-box exploits leading to a goal against Switzerland, Matuidi stands out in a midfield where Yohan Cabaye sprays passes from deep and Paul Pogba preys in the attacking third.

Take away that horror ankle-busting tackle on Nigeria's Ogenyi Onazi, and Matuidi has had a flawless tournament so far, bossing a united French engine room.

LEFT WINGER

James Rodriguez (Colombia)

Age: 22, 26 caps, 4 World Cup appearances, 5 goals, 2 assists, 3 Man-of-the-Match awards.

Without a doubt the discovery of this World Cup, Rodriguez looks like a boy but has stepped up like a man, scoring in every match to help his team qualify for the quarter-finals as one of just two sides (alongside Holland) with 100 per cent records in 90 minutes.

He's so hard to play against because he can feature in any attacking position and can get goals off any part of his body. He scored what was arguably the World Cup's best goal so far with a left-footed strike against Uruguay, but has also netted with his head and right foot.

FORWARD

Neymar (Brazil)

Age: 22, 53 caps, 35 goals

4 World Cup appearances, 4 goals, 2 Man-of-the-Match awards

Neymar almost does it single-handedly. He has to carry the nation's expectations alone. And, he has more than acquitted himself at his first World Cup with his electrifying pace, dumbfounding tricks and four goals.

FORWARD

Thomas Mueller (Germany)

Age: 24, 53 caps, 4 World Cup appearances, 4 goals, 2 assists, 2 Man-of-the-Match awards.

The personification of German efficiency, Mueller is the thinking player. Only he can convince people that the stumble against Algeria is actually a crafty free-kick ploy.

His tally of nine goals in just 10 World Cup appearances is unparalleled among his peers.

FORWARD

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Age: 27, 90 caps, 4 World Cup appearances, 4 goals, 1 assist, 4 Man-of-the-Match awards.

You know all about The Flea, and he just doesn't stop buzzing. The statistics speak for themselves - in every match he's played in Brazil, he has been the difference between progressing to the next round and an early flight home.

Even when he fails to score, he can still unlock defences with just a flick of his boot, even in energy-sapping extra time. Messi has finally stepped up and deserves to overhaul Diego Maradona, the man who cheated with the Hand of God and failed a drugs test, as the best-ever footballer from Argentina, if not the world.

RIGHT WINGER

Arjen Robben (Holland)

Age: 30, 79 caps, 4 World Cup appearances, 3 goals, 1 assist, 2 Man-of-the-Match awards

l Call him a diver or a cheat, but Robben is still a clear match-winner when things are not going the Oranje's way.

Age has not dulled his lightning pace, and when he goes on another of his 37km/h sprints, nobody can stop him, at least not legally.

Robben just ousts Colombia's Juan Cuadrado, who deserves special mention for his one goal and chart-topping four assists, from this list.

CENTRE BACK

Raphael Varane (France)

Age: 21, 10 caps, 4 World Cup appearances.

Varane showed just why he has emerged as a first-choice centre back at Real Madrid despite his relatively young age.

He represents a new breed of ball-playing defenders who are equally adept in terms of tactics and technique, and still dependable when it comes to basic defending.

RIGHT BACK

Cristian Gamboa (Costa Rica)

Age: 24, 29 caps, 4 World Cup appearances, 1 assist

Strong and versatile, his experience as a midfielder allows him to overlap with ease.

The Rosenborg man is both reliable and energetic.

GOALKEEPER

Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)

Age: 22, 21 caps, 4 World Cup appearances, two clean sheets.

With his team winning every game in Brazil by just the odd goal, Belgium have needed their goalkeeper to be in top form.

There have been many outstanding goalkeepers in this tournament with Guillermo Ochoa, Keylor Navas, Rais M'Bohli and Tim Howard, but Courtois nicks the No. 1 spot with good positioning and catches, cat-like reflexes, a towering leap and total mastery of the penalty area.

npsports@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 03, 2014.
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