Team of the World Cup: Messi, Muller, Rodriguez... no Neymar
Seven players from the final but not a single Brazilian in our pick of the experts' picks
The World Cup is over and the pundits have been picking over the bones of the tournament to come up with their best teams.
After 64 games involving 32 teams there are plenty of players to choose from, but unsurprisingly all the candidates for the team of the tournament come from sides that made it to the quarter finals at the very least, and seven of the XI played in the final on Sunday.
Here's our pick of the experts' picks:
Manuel Neuer (Germany)
The tournament will be remembered for several outstanding performances between the sticks, but the experts are unanimous in their decision on who dons the gloves. Despite the heroics of Keylor Navas, Guillermo Ochoa and Tim Howard, none can hold a candle to German stopper Manuel Neuer. "His supreme shot-stopping, awareness and use of the ball helped Germany to keep five clean sheets en route to glory as he cemented his place as the undisputed top player in the world in his position," says Goal.com.
Philipp Lahm, Mats Hummels (Germany), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Costa Rica), Daley Blind (Netherlands)
These four were the outstanding candidates chosen by most pundits, despite the claims of Thiago Silva, Ron Vlaar, Pablo Zabaleta and Rafael Varane. Lahm began the World Cup in midfield but is picked in defence because he is, according to Rio Ferdinand of the BBC, "the best right-back in the world". His team-mate Hummels had an outstanding tournament. "Rarely flustered, always in the right place, he is already among the world's best central defenders and will remain so for a long time," says The Times. Gonzalez was one of the performers of the tournament as Costa Rica shocked the world. "A towering figure at the back who did more than any other Costa Rican player to ensure that the underdogs only conceded two goals in five games," notes the Daily Mail. Dutch defender Blind will be a wanted man now says Michael Owen in the Daily Telegraph. "He was comfortable on the ball, his distribution excellent, was versatile and defended well when necessary."
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Javier Mascherano (Argentina), James Rodriguez (Colombia), Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
German enforcer Schweinsteiger was neck-and-neck with compatriot Toni Kroos among the pundits, but he gets the nod thanks to what Jason Burt of the Telegraph calls his "awesome display in the final". He "embodies everything good about German football" adds his colleague Henry Winter. Alongside him is his opponent on Sunday, Mascherano, who is an almost unanimous choice. "He has had a sensational tournament. He is an absolute must," says Tim Vickery of the BBC. Moving into the attacking positions there is a player who featured in every single expert's World Cup dream team - James Rodriguez. "A star is born," says Michael Owen. "The world did not know much about him before Brazil but after winning the golden boot he is a superstar now. " The final midfield berth goes to Dutch winger Robben. He is a controversial figure but "he dragged an average Holland side to third place through skill, pace and sheer force of will", says Owen Wilson of The Guardian.
Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Muller (Germany)
No place for Neymar in attack. The Brazilian wonderkid hardly gets a sniff as the experts are almost unanimous in their choice of strikers. Henry Winter of the Telegraph describes Muller as one of his favourite-ever players, while Sky Sports pundits praise his "extraordinary record" at World Cups following a five-goal haul in Brazil. "Phenomenal," says Rio Ferdinand of the BBC. Messi may have been a controversial choice for the golden ball award but "to overlook him would be to take his brilliance for granted", says The Times. He was not the player we are used to seeing at Barcelona but, as Goal.com notes, he carried his country through the group stages. "He is judged by higher standards than everyone else. You can't leave him out because he is a genius," says Michael Owen. ·