Back on June 12, nobody quite knew what to expect from Brazil, rioting and unfinished stadiums dominated the headlines.
However, what has followed since has been truly extraordinary; football itself has done the talking and has captured the hearts and minds of the Brazilian public.
The standard of play has been nothing short of captivating and the tournament has been lit up by surprise packages such as Costa Rica and Algeria. However, I am here to look at the stand-out performers, and as you are well aware, there have been many...
GK - Keylor Navas
Wow this was difficult to decide. Had it been on an individual performance, Tim Howard would have surely scooped this award, although Guillermo Ochoa’s performance against Brazil was also an incredible display.
Fans were also treated to a masterclass of sweeping from Manuel Neuer when Germany faced Algeria in the second round. This one was almost too close to call; I had to rely on bare facts. This is how I came to Keylor Navas.
The Costa Rican has an incredible 88 percent saves/shots ratio at this tournament, the best of any goalkeeper and Atletico Madrid have already began their pursuit of this gifted shot stopper, apparently available for a paltry £8 million. In truth it could have been any of around ten, but Keylor Navas is my number one.
Honourable mentions- Manuel Neuer, Guillermo Ochoa, Tim Howard, Claudio Bravo
CBs - Vincent Kompany and Gary Medel
Brazil has witnessed a lot more gifted attacking players than defensive but there have been a select few who have still been able to shine on the world stage, most notably Gary Medel and Vincent Kompany.
Medel has gone from Cardiff reject to World Cup hero in a matter of months; an incredible but thoroughly deserved accolade. He has marshalled the defence beautifully and made up for his lack of height with terrific tackling and inch-perfect reading of the game as he played virtually as an only centre back in Chile’s extravagant back three.
Kompany needs no introduction, for years the best centre back in the Premier League, he has continued his splendid form into the World Cup, leading a Belgian defence that conceded only three goals, and one was from the penalty spot.
One bit of play against USA really summed up the Belgium captain starting off an attack and marauding forward to join the attack and nearly finish off a stunning move. A truly inspirational player.
Honourable mentions - Ron Vlaar, Mario Yepes, Thiago Silva
LB/RB - Daley Blind and Junior Diaz
Technically both wing backs, these two surprise performers have earned their way into the full back positions of my team. Blind had begun to make a reputation for himself at Ajax but still was somewhat an unknown quantity upon entering Brazil.
Spain have certainly heard of him now. Two outstanding cross-field passes picked out Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben as the Dutch demolished tika-taka, and Blind has been rampaging up and down the left or right flank all tournament.
More of a surprise choice is Junior Diaz but I simply could not leave this hard-working Costa Rican out. He has been a key performer in the Central American side’s surprise run to the quarter final and has done his defensive duties with great professionalism and skill. Rarely adventuring forward, he helped keep the Cost Rican back-line very solid indeed, conceding just two goals all tournament.
Honourable mentions- Ricardo Rodriguez, Pablo Armero, Fabian Johnson
CDMs- Jermaine Jones and Luiz Gustavo
The United States won many admirers on their way to the second round and at the heart of their success was Jermaine Jones. Playing with great energy and passion, the 32 year-old ran the midfield superbly for the US and scored a magnificent goal in the 2-2 draw with Portugal.
A real surprise performer, Jones rolled back the years with some excellent displays. Joining Jones in central midfield is Luiz Gustavo, someone who has provided excellent protection for the Brazilian back four and has far out-shone team-mate Paulinho in the middle. No man has made more interceptions in this world cup and the Wolfsburg midfielder has been key in allowing Neymar and co to run riot upfront.
Honourable mentions- Arturo Vidal, Nigel De Jong, Javier Mashcerano
AMs- James Rodriguez, Neymar, Alexis Sanchez
This South American trio have lit up the tournament with their outstanding and confident displays with the hopes of a nation pinned on their shoulders. James Rodriguez has been truly sensational, his dipping volley against Uruguay summing up his remarkable performance level so far.
Neymar seems to relish playing under pressure and has surely delivered as the competition’s poster boy, really igniting the World Cup with a double against Croatia and then hitting a crucial penalty in the shoot-out victory against Chile. It's such a shame his tournament had to come to an end.
Alexis Sanchez appears to be Premier League bound and what a treat it would be to see him in England. The Chilean appears to have the ball glued to his feet as he glides past defenders and has shown he can deliver on the biggest stage and almost led Chile past the might of Brazil.
Honourable mentions - Mathieu Valbuena, Juan Cuadrado, Arjen Robben
ST- Lionel Messi
Where do I start on this magician? He almost defies description; we have run out of words to describe this immensely talented and unique footballer, even against Bosnia when he was not at his best, Messi produced a moment of sublime skill to score a crucial second goal.
Messi has carried his nation to the semi-finals, and even when he didn’t score against Switzerland, he laid Di Maria the ball on a plate to win the game. Argentina have been pretty underwhelming but this man is a complete exception.
Honourable mentions - Thomas Muller, Karim Benzema, Robin Van Perise,
Do you agree? Please comment with your team of the tournament!
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