Hits and misses

Hits and misses

From Rodriguez to Ronaldo, here are the stories of successes and failures on the big stage.

Every World Cup leaves the mind crying out for more action, more goals and more drama.  It’s a lifelong dream for all players playing professional football to represent their country in a World Cup. 

The following five players lit up this edition with superb goals, heart-stopping moments and enhanced their reputation. 

n James Rodriguez (Colombia): He, arguably, has been the stand-out young performer this World Cup, rightfully picking up the Golden Boot award with six goals. The Los Cafeteros came into the tournament as darkhorses and Rodriguez lifted them up a notch as they almost upset hosts, Brazil, in a quarterfinal that ultimately descended into a fracas. 

He has been nothing but a baby-faced assasin in front of goal and will be one of the biggest stars in world football when the caravan moves to Russia in four years time. A bid from Real Madrid is expected later in the transfer window and Monaco will do well to hold on to him. 

n Neymar (Brazil): A tackle from behind cruelly ended his campaign but, boy, he was good when he played. 

Brazil lacked a striker who could finish but Neymar was a man on a mission to score as well create goals. There were doubts regarding his fitness but he was one of the few players who shined for the hosts.

Still only 22, time is on Neymar’s side and he will very much be the focal point of Brazil’s attack four years down the line in Russia.

n Lionel Messi (Argentina): The law of averages will mean that the Argentine genius will stop appearing in all ‘good’ listicles but he has to be in this one. 

Shackled and man marked through out games has meant that Messi has never been in full flight, but he has still found a way to leave his imprint on most games in the tournament.

It’s a tournament which ultimately ended in heartbreak for Messi, the Golden Ball winner, but the effect he had the on the team -- where he dragged them to the final shouldn’t be discounted. 

It’s possible that he may not win a World Cup or even a Copa America, but it will be foolhardy to suggest that Messi needs to some silverware for his country to be mentioned in the same breath as Argentina’s other famous football - Diego Maradona.

n Thomas Mueller (Germany): Four years ago, Diego Maradona dismissed him. Four years on, he continues to confound his critics. 

The space investigator gets into positions before finishing as if it’s the easiest job on a football field. With five more goals to his name in this edition, rush to your nearest bookie and put a quid on him to overhaul Miroslav Klose’s goals record.  While Mueller couldn’t find the goals that would have enabled him to overhaul Rodriguez, he had a very good Finals. He also joins the select band of players to have won the Bundesliga, Champions League as well as the World Cup. 

While he may not have the grace or the panache that other famous German strikers have had in the past, Mueller’s game is based on being ruthlessly efficient inside the 18-yard area. Given that he is only 25, he could go on to be one of the most clinical finishers in the history of the World Cup.

n Keylor Navas (Costa Rica): The undoubted flag-bearer for the also-rans, Keylor Navas almost took Costa Rica to a World Cup semifinal.

Coming into the tournament as one of the best keepers around, he did nothing but enhance his reputation on the world’s biggest stage. 

While he ran out of steam in the quarterfinals against Netherlands, he has been one of the revelations of the tournament.

While Manuel Neuer picked up the Golden Gloves, Navas was probably the most impressive keeper in the edition and he should use it as a launchpad for future success.

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