So, the World Cup is over, and we all have our views on who should be in the team of the tournament. Here are my choices and honourable mentions.
GK: This is a very competitive position with several stand out performances. Mexico's Ochoa led the way in the group stages with those amazing saves to shut out Brazil. Costa Rica's Navas, and Colombia's Ospina also provided strong leadership for their countries. But really, it has to be Neuer, for the utterly commanding displays in the knockout phase, where he seemed to combine the regular goalkeeping duties with a traditional sweeper role. He certainly earned the golden glove.
FULL BACKS: Perhaps there were not so mnay obvious candidates here, but when Philip Lahm swtiched position from midfield to right back, it was clear what had been missing. In the group stage, Chile's Isla was excellent and provided an important attacking outlet. On the left it is even harder. Daley Blind of the Netherlands would be a shoo in had he played there every match, and I like the muscular commitment of Argentina's Rojo.
CENTRE BACKS: A lot of candidates flirted with success in these positions. Marquez and Yepes, in the groups stages, showed that old guys could provide cool leadership from the back. After that there was a wave of sentiment towards Brazil's defence, before that was spectacularly debunked in the their final two games, which leaves us with Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands. There was something a bit unconvincing about Germany's central defenders, even though both Hummels and Boateng had strong matches but without true consistency. Argentina's Garay was always strong and Vlaar for the Dutch got better and better in each game.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: After the goal-fest of the group stage, holding midfielders came into their own in the knockout and squeezed the space away from the creative guys. Pogba was probably best in the group stage, but drifted along with the French effort after that. The best performers were in the final: Mascherano and Schweinsteiger were simply heroic, and Kroos was an effective deep-lying distributor to keep the German attacks flowing.
CREATIVE MIDFIELD: James Rodriguez remained the best creative player in the tournament. Most teams were overly reliant on a number 10 type player, more correctly classified as a forward. Wesley Sneijder proved to be a declining force compared to 2010.
FORWARDS & STRIKERS: Out and out strikers had a tough time in a continuing trend in world football. Higuain was quiet, Klose a bit past his best, van Persie inconsistent…then there was Fred! So we really come down to the 10s: Neymar, Messi, Robben, Muller. Had Neymar played the final two matches, I believe he would have made an impact but we will never know for sure. Messi was good in the group stage and peripheral in the knockout and should never have won the golden ball. Robben spent a bit too long on the floor for my liking. Muller, despite some irritating traits, finds great positions, is intelligent and quick, and has a remarkable scoring record.
TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT – FINAL
GK: Neuer (Germany)
RB: Lahm (Germany)
CB: Vlaar (Netherlands)
CB: Garay (Argentina)
LB: Blind (Netherlands)
DM: Schweinsteiger (Germany)
DM: Mascherano (Argentina)
DM: Kroos (Germany)
MF: Rodriguez (Colombia)
FW: Muller (Germany)
FW: Neymar (Brazil)
How have Last 16 matches affected the selections from the end of the group stage? Not radically, though a couple of players have fallen off their earlier standards and need to be replaced. And one player is dropped for too much diving! Rafael Marquez endured a painful exit for Mexico against the Dutch and did not have a great game. And Benzema did very little for France against Nigeria. It is time to bring in a couple of Brazilians: Thiago Silva has led the team well and they have been solid at the back, and further forward Neymar has been the spark that has got everything going for Brazil, so both of these changes need to be made now. Finally it is goodbye to Arjen Robben as I am just tired of seeing him constantly fall to the ground. Colombia's Cuadrado comes in to do the wide role in attacking midfield.
GK Ochoa (Mexico) – continued to be excellent even in defeat; other strong performances from Costa Rica's Navas and USA's Howard
RB Isla (Chile) – sorry to see Isla and Chile go home; still cannot find a better right back in this tournament
CB Silva (Brazil) – has led the team well under heavy pressure, and Brazil have done well defensively
CB Yepes (Colombia) – still defying the years and performing for 90 minutes in the extreme conditions
LB Blind (Netherlands) – having to play in a few different positions, but remains the stand out left back
MF Pogba (France) – added to crucial goal to his all round mastery of the midfield
MF Rodriguez (Colombia) – nothing needs to be said here; 2 more goals and 1 of them a masterpiece
MF Cuadrado (Colombia) – always enterprising; great headed assist for the second goal against Uruguay
FW Muller (Germany) – continues to be the main outlet for Germany's attack; intelligent positioning
FW Messi (Argentina) – was crowded out by the Swiss defence, but kept going to the end and laid on the goal; got little help
FW Neymar (Brazil) – single handedly has carried Brazil's stuttering attack.
After the completion of the group games, the player performances are being to take shape. Here is WorldCupStory's team of the tournament so far, in a 4-2-3-1 formation. There has been some lobbying for the inclusion of Neymar, and the point is well made, but for now Arjen Robben keeps his place on the left.
GK Ochoa (Mexico) – 2 clean sheets from 2 games and simply amazing performance against Brazil
RB Isla (Chile) – The Chilean wing backs have been a key part of driving Chile's attack as well as tight defensively
CB Marquez (Mexico) – 0 goals conceded and true leadership from Rafa, who is on his way to being a real World Cup legend
CB Yepes (Colombia) – apparently he is 38, but you would never know it; stylish and calm leadership from the back
LB Blind (Netherlands) – Laying on goals from left wing back, including for the great van Persie lobbed header v Spain
MF Pogba (France) – the French midfield is a well oiled machine and has provided a stable platform for lots of goals
MF Rodriguez (Colombia) – the king of creative juice in the Colombian midfield, plus goals, and still only 22
FW Muller (Germany) – hatrick against Portugal and generally sharp positional play up front in both matches so far
FW Messi (Argentina) – has carried Argentina through the group stage with 4 goals, and some crackers there too
FW Robben (Netherlands) – amazing pace is undiminished over the years, hunger for goals is as strong as ever too
ST Benzema (France) – 3 goals, a missed penalty, and a stunning volley 1 second after the final whistle; Benzema is on fire
And it is probably only fair to name and shame a TEAM OF DUFFERS of the tournament too.
GK Akinfeev (Russia) – keystone cops goalkeeping in the match with South Korea
RB Perreira (Uruguay) – Maxi saw red for a needless kick to the shins of Cost Rica's Joel Campbell
CB Pique (Spain) – one game against the Netherlands was enough before the out of form defender was dropped
CB Pepe (Portugal) – daft head butt on the sitting Thomas Muller could only lead to a red card
LB Marcelo (Brazil) – most memorable contribution was the opening goal of the tournament, an own goal
MF Song (Cameroon) – another needless red card for hitting Croatia's Mandzukic
MF Gerrard (England) – absolute stinker against Uruguay, at fault for both goals
MF Busquets (Spain) – never have so many passes been made to such little effect, and a dreadful miss against Chile
FW Ronaldo (Portugal) – no goals and leadership via pouts and sulks
FW Fred (Brazil) – disgraceful dive in the opening match, nothing positive contibuted so far
FW Costa (Spain) – damp squib of a debut tournament and constantly booed