In arguably the greatest World Cup ever, the five week adventure that is the grand global tournament in Brazil has now concluded.
Now in a fitting conclusion that saw a resilient and mentally strong German side win their fourth world championship (and first as a unified national side), we’ve put together a final team of the tournament that represents the best starting XI. The best eleven includes many of those newly crowned holders of soccer’s biggest prize, but also sees deserving members from other nations that need to be remembered as the best players of this World Cup in not only the modern era, but arguably all eras.
GK: Manuel Neuer (Germany) – It would have been pure comedy if the 28-year-old Bayern Munich rising legend also was named as one of the center-backs of the tournament. Neuer arguably raised the bar of his position. He combined the usual characteristics of world class goalkeeper (no bad gaffes, amazing saves) with his exhilarating pursuit of balls outside of his box domain. He has transformed for just one of several star net-minders into the latest global goalkeeping superstar.
RB: Philip Lahm (Germany) – He may have only played in the position for the final three games, but his main rivals to the best right-back prize didn’t have extraordinary World Cups. Pablo Zabaleta came on in the last three games but had a shaky group stage, Dani Alves lost his starting job as the tournament went on, Stephen Lichtsteiner was solid but not spectacular, and Glen Johnson’s tournament was over before it even started. Juan Zuniga had some nice moments and of course is marred for knocking Neymar out of the tournament (and almost accidentally ending his career). But Zuniga was beaten a few times in the tournament, including by Ivory Coast forward Gervinho’s fine goal. All of them opened the door for Lahm to reclaim his throne as the best right back, with his usual, dangerous forays forward combined this time without getting caught out like he has in the past in big matches.
CB: Mats Hummels (Germany) – His knee problems may have caught up to him in the final as Lionel Messi got by him a couple times, but the Borussia Dortmund man certified himself as one of the best center-backs in the world. His return to the German side for the France quarterfinal was massive and brought the best out of Jerome Boateng. At only 25, Hummels may see himself on another World Cup Best XI before his career is done, and Boateng may join him there as well.
CB: Ezequiel Garay (Argentina) – The top defender of the stingiest defense in the tournament (along with the winners Germany), the former Benfica man completed his own ascent into one the premiere men in his position with outstanding positioning and tackling in front of Sergio Romero. Garay was able to do it with two different partners, holding steady with Federico Fernandez and getting the best out of Martin Demichelis. Doing the latter was probably his greatest feat of the tournament, and sees him barely beat out the incredible revelation that was Giancarlo Gonzalez of Costa Rica.