Best World Cup XI So Far…
With the Quarter-Finals kicking off on Friday, we look back at the tournament’s best XI so far!
Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
Many will argue for the inclusion of sweeper-keeper Manuel Neuer or the heroic, record-breaking Tim Howard. But anyone who feels the Mexican free agent isn’t deserving of his place must have missed the Memo.
Ochoa was outstanding in his country’s scoreless draw with Brazil and other fine performances at this tournament suggest the free agent won’t be without a top club for long. As much an icon of Brasilia 2014 as his compatriot keeper, the colourful Jorge Campos, was at USA 94.
Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland)
The Wolfsburg left-back has been repeatedly linked with a move to Liverpool and, based on his performances in Brazil, it’s easy to see why.
Rodriguez was solid at the back during Switzerland’s campaign and added an attacking threat for the Swiss, including two assists against Ecuador. The youngster was one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga last season, contributing five goals and eleven assists.
Raphael Varane (France)
The young Real Madrid defender has come of age at this tournament, showcasing exactly why the likes of Manchester United were also after him before leaving Lens for Spain.
The French have conceded just two goals in their four matches in Brazil and Varane has been a pivotal figure in central defence.
Mario Yepes (Cololmbia)
Mario Yepes has been around that long that I bought him for Millwall in Championship Manager 01/02. The veteran defender won his 100th international cap during these finals and has been a rock at the heart of Colombia’s defence.
The 38-year-old will be crucial in curtailing the threat of Neymar in their Quarter-Final tomorrow.
Fabian Johnson (USA)
The Borussia Monchengladbach right-back has been quietly efficient during USA’s heroic journey in Brazil.
Johnson kept Ronaldo quiet against Portugal and was also their main attacking threat in their group matches. His early injury against Belgium was detrimental to the American’s chances of progressing.
Arjen Robben (Holland)
Robben’s shameless diving, and admissions of such, still can’t dim the impact he’s had on this tournament.
The Bayern Munich winger was inspirational in the Dutch’s incredible 5:1 win over Spain and has followed it up with a string of fine performances which suggest he’s out to atone for his costly miss in the final four years ago.
Paul Pogba (France)
Every performance from Pogba makes it all the more bewildering as to how Sir Alex Ferguson allowed the young Frenchman to leave Old Trafford while retaining the likes of Tom Cleverley.
A metronome in the French midfield, the youngster nicknamed “The Pickaxe” by his team-mates capped a Man of the Match display in their second round win over Nigeria with his first goal of the tournament. He will be crucial in their midfield battle with Germany on Saturday.
James Rodriguez (Colombia)
The breakout star of this World Cup, the Monaco attacking midfielder has illuminated the tournament with five goals and two assists – topping the Golden Boot leaderboard in the process.
His first goal, a stunning volley, in their second round win over Uruguay will take some beating as goal of the tournament with Uruguayan boss Oscar Tabarez proclaiming him the “best player at the tournament” afterwards.
While it’s arguable as to whether the Barcelona player would even had made a team containing Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo during Brazil’s last World Cup triumph twelve years ago, he’s single-handedly dragged an otherwise mundane host side to the Quarter-Finals.
Brazil would surely have suffered an early, ignominious exit without Neymar’s four goals and crucial deciding spot-kick in the shoot-out against Chile
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Another Barcelona superstar who’s had to drag his underwhelming side through the tournament.
There’s no doubt he’s been anonymous for spells but one moment of magic, like his late winner against Iran, more than makes up for that.
While there’s been an impressive array of tactics on display at these finals, Argentina’s seems simple – give the ball to their number ten.
Thomas Muller (Germany)
Is he a striker or a midfielder? Who cares, he scores goals.
The Golden Boot winner in South Africa is well on his way to becoming the first player to retain the crown, with four goals already in Brazil.
With a distinct lack of options up-front in the German squad, the onus will again land on Muller to fire them past France in their upcoming Quarter-Final.