Eleven to win the trophy, anywhere, anytime

Eleven to win the trophy, anywhere, anytime

Apart from being a pointless exercise in self-aggrandisement, picking a team of the World Cup helps the writer to fill column inches, be more creative with respect to formations and build a fantasy team that is unlikely to be fielded even in the event of a football match between aliens and humans for the right to live on planet Earth.

Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas

This World Cup has seen more goals than the previous edition which was largely soporific. The fact becomes more curious when you consider that some of the goalkeepers have been magisterial throughout the tournament. Tim Howard against Belgium and Guillermo Ochoa against Brazil are some of the standout performances but the man between the sticks has to be Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas.

Conceding a solitary goal against Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli (the five forwards scored 117 goals between them in league and Cups last season), Navas took Costa Rica into the knockout stage. Not content, he saved Theofanis Gekas’ penalty in the shootout against Greece in the prequarters to set up a Dutch date. He once again kept a clean sheet but the penalties was a bit too far.

Centre-back:

Mats Hummels: Germany have found a perfect mix of defending and attacking. While their plethora of midfielders and attackers have hogged all the headlines, Mats Hummels has been one of the main reasons as to why Germany are where they are.  Adept at playing along side Per Mertesacker or Jerome Boateng, Hummels has also weighed in with two goals.

Ezequiel Garay: Argentina’s backline was one of the reasons why many pundits refused to back them but having not conceded in three knockout matches so far, their defenders have excelled. Be it Marcos Rojo from left-back or Javier Mascherano (more on him later) from defensive midfield, they have been solid. Benfica’s Garay, who confidently dispatched the Albiceleste’s second penalty against Netherlands, gets into the side because of his defensive attributes and his ability to strike a dead ball.

Ron Vlaar: For John Heitinga in 2010, read Ron Vlaar in 2014. The Dutch have been solid and unspectacular since their thrilling evisceration of the Spanish as Louis Van Gaal has fallen back on being defensive first before counter-punching through Arjen Robben. While the likes of Daley Blind has improved his stock, Ron Vlaar has once again proved that he is a quality performer.

Midfielders:

Juan Cuadrado: The Colombians have been magnificient to watch with their gung-ho brand of football a breath of fresh air. And Fiorentina’s attack-minded wing back Cuadrado, who supplied four assists apart from scoring a goal, was one of the standout performers for the Los Cafeteros.

Javier Mascherano: The buttocks-tearing tackle that prevented Arjen Robben from scoring against Argentina might, in time, become one of the most cult images in football. Haring back like a rabbit on steroids, the Barcelona midfielder, who also has the ability to drop back into defence and recycle possession, put in an almighty block to deny Robben. Even otherwise, Mascherano has been Argentina’s other man at the World Cup.

Toni Kroos: One of the most complete midfielders in World football, Toni Kroos started the tournament with two assists against Portugal. While he was subdued in some of the later contests, he shone against Brazil in the semis.

James Rodriguez: A favourite to win the Golden Ball award, Colombia’s Ham-aez Rodriguez has been this edition’s male form of Irene Adler. Be it attacking with verve or finishing with sheer impudence, Rodriguez proved that Monaco were right to pay that obscene amount of money to Porto to secure his services.

Forwards: Arjen Robben: Having first burst into the spotlight more than a decade ago, it’s amazing that he has managed to keep himself relevant in conversations which start with Lionel Messi and end with Neymar. Chasing lost causes, cutting in from the right or being one of the few Dutch footballers capable of having the oomph factor, Robben has had a very good tournament.

Lionel Messi: Journalist Jonathan Wilson put forth an interesting theory that Messi has had a greater effect in the defensive third of Argentina’s pitch than at the other end. That is because teams, that are so terrified of Messi, sit deep and build a few cul-de-sacs around the Argentinian whenever he has the ball. Even then, Messi has effortlessly picked off teams to score four goals thus far. While Argentina will sit deep and invite Germany, the Europeans will do so at their own peril given Messi’s genius.

Neymar: The Brazilian forward began the tournament with a brace of goals as the hosts recovered to beat Croatia. Neymar again scored a brace in the big win against Cameroon before displaying the cojones of Atlas as he buried his team’s decisive penalty against Chile which eventually took to a meeting against Colombia.

Manager: Joachim Loew: The first coach to oversee his side scoring four or more goals five times in two consecutive World Cups (Australia, Argentina and England in 2010) and (Portugal and Brazil in 2014) since the mind can remember.

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