Cape Town - With the curtain having gone down on the 2014 World Cup, Sport24 selects the best XI from the showpiece event.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
In many ways, Neuer has redefined what goalkeepers can do by taking on the role of a sweeper. The Bayern Munich man made less than four saves a game, and this was in a large part due to the fact that opponents were rarely able to take pot shots at him as he had cleared the danger before they got near the box.
However, when called upon, his shot-stopping was top quality, as was his ability to distribute.
Right-back: Philipp Lahm
While Lahm played much of the tournament as a holding midfielder, on his return to the full-back position he showed just how good he is.
Not the flashiest of players, but he is brilliant on the ball, Lahm has great positional sense and is able to provide dangerous deliveries going forward.
The German skipper made more passes (562) than any other player at the World Cup, with a very impressive completion rate of 86.3%.
Centre-back: Mats Hummels
Hummels’ lack of pace was perhaps evident in the final against at fleet-footed Lionel Messi, but that was perhaps the only black mark on his record.
For the remainder of the competition, Hummels was solid and composed in defence - wherever he was asked to play - and chipped in with goals against Portugal and France.
Centre-back: Giancarlo Gonzalez
Costa Rica only conceded two goals during the tournament and Gonzalez was one of the reasons why.
Gonzalez was calm and collected and marshalled his defence with precision on their way to keeping three clean sheets.
Left-back: Daley Blind
Good on both attack and defence, Blind may have played more like a wing back, but he still gets the nod.
He produced two excellent passes to set up Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie against Spain, and added a well taken goal of his own to his CV in the third-place play-off against Brazil.
Midfielder: Arjen Robben
Say what you will about Robben’s penchant for diving, the Dutch winger was immense throughout the competition.
The player of the tournament in the eyes of many, Robben was a constant menace. The Bayern Munich ace scored two goals, created one and won two penalties, a more than fair return.
Midfielder: Javier Mascherano
Having watched Mascherano perform so impressively as a defensive midfielder, one has to wonder just why he’s been made to play in the centre of defence in recent years.
A last-ditch tackle on Arjen Robben in the semi-final will live long in the memory, but that was just one of a number of key contributions.
Midfielder: Toni Kroos
This was one of the hardest picks, with Kroos just edging out team-mate Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Kroos was world class throughout as he made Germany tick with his silky passing, eye for goal and a killer ball. It’s just too hard to ignore two goals, four assists and a pass completion rate of 84.8%.
Schweinsteiger may have been a driving force in the semi-final and final, but Kroos was prominent throughout
Midfielder: James Rodriguez
Six goals from five matches was quite some return for the Colombian, and that’s without taking into account the high quality of his efforts.
The breakthrough star of the tournament, Rodriquez shook off a disappointing first season with Monaco to show he really is the real deal.
Striker: Lionel Messi
Messi may have claimed the Golden Ball award, but he wasn’t even a sure pick in our line-up, with the desire to squeeze in another midfielder nearly seeing Messi edged out.
However, one can’t deny that the Argentina captain had his moments of brilliance and was the driving force behind his side’s run to the final.
Perhaps it’s because we expect so much of Messi that there is a tinge of disappointment, but the forward still enhanced his reputation at the competition while other superstars struggled.
Striker: Thomas Muller
While Messi performed in fits and spurts, Muller was consistent throughout. For a forward, Muller demonstrates an incredible work rate and his thirst for goals appears unquenchable.
Having started with a hat-trick against Portugal, Muller didn’t look back, scoring two more goals and bagging three assists.