World Cup group stage leading performers

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After a goal-laden group stage at this year’s World Cup, it is perfectly poised to be one of the most memorable major international tournaments of all-time.

Most of the teams have disregarded defending, favouring a attacking approach and it has led to a truly compelling opening to the competition.

We now have a look at the players who shone the brightest in Brazil during the first phase.

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James Rodriguez

It seems strange to say that this World Cup could prove to be a break-through tournament for somebody who has already moved for €45 million in his career, but that is what it feels like for James Rodriguez.

The Colombian may have wowed Ligue 1 fans with his performances for Monaco – the club where he completed his mega-money move to – this season, but he has established himself as a true household name now.

The 22-year-old has scored in every one of Colombia’s games so far, but goalscoring has not been his only quality.

He has also acted as the side’s creative fulcrum and if the South American outfit are to progress further in the competition than Rodriguez will need to maintain this standard of performance.

Arjen Robben

The Netherlands' World Cup campaign was supposed to be built around the emerging talents in their side, but is one of the old-stagers that has impressed the most for the Oranje.

Most feared for Louis van Gaal’s men going into the tournament, given they were drawn with Chile and Spain, but they have looked the outstanding side in their group and, in-fact, the entire tournament.

Robben has been one of the major reasons for this, too. The Bayern Munich winger has played in a more central striking role and thrived, with his pace being a huge weapon for his side so far.

Lionel Messi

There are few things in football that Lionel Messi hasn’t achieved, but winning a World Cup is one of them and there is a feeling that his whole career will be defined by this tournament.

After a slow start in Argentina’s game against Bosnia, he suddenly sparked to life – scoring to help his side to victory and since he has carried his nation.

Under extreme pressure, Messi scored a majestic goal in the last minute to help Argentina avoid embarrassment against Iran, before notching twice against Nigeria.

Ominously for the rest of the competition, his performances have continued to improve so far, too, and if he can continue to score at this rate he may just confirm his place as the best footballer of all-time.

Thomas Muller

The Germans went into the competition as one of the favourites to win it, and their group-stage displays have only gone on to further confirm this opinion.

As efficient as ever, Germany are yet to be beaten and Muller’s goals have been a major reason behind that.

The 24-year-old has now scored nine goals in as many appearances at World Cup – with his four goals in three games this year putting him in position to retain the top-scorer crown that he won in 2010.

Much was made of Germany’s striking problems, with few top quality centre-forwards available for selection, but Muller’s goals have compensated for their paucity of out-and-out strikers.


The poster-boy of the competition, the 22-year-old is arguably under the most pressure that any footballer has ever experienced.

But, rather than use that as an excuse, Neymar has embraced it. Off the back of a disappointing club season – where he never found top form in his first season at Barcelona – he has looked a man transformed, rising to the expectation.

He has already scored four goals in the tournament so far and he will surely add to his tally in the latter stages.

The only worry is just how reliant Brazil have been on him, with most of his team-mates struggling to reach the top of their games.

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