After four-and-a-half weeks, 64 matches and a record-equalling 171 goals, the curtain came down on the 2014 World Cup on Sunday with Germany defeating Argentina to lift the trophy.
The tournament in Brazil proved to be one of the finest in living memory as the world’s finest footballers strutted their stuff on the biggest stage of all.
Some of football’s biggest stars shone brighter than others, while a select few even left the World Cup with their reputation in tatters (Luis Suarez and Alex Song, anyone?).
Here Sport360° selects our best World Cup XI featuring who we believe to be the best performers in Brazil. It was no easy task and there are a couple of notable absentees so we are keen to hear what your World Cup XI is.
GK: Manuel Neuer
Set a new standard for ‘sweeper/ keepers’, proactively snuffing out any danger. Cajoled a defence that conceded four goals, providing security by making the secondhighest number of saves (25). Personal highlight was firm last-minute stop from France’s Karim Benzema in quarter-final.
RB: Philipp Lahm
Can now be talked of as one of Germany’s all-time great players after excelling as captain during victorious run in Brazil. His movement to right-back in knockout stage provided much-needed balance to side. Also provided two assists during his competition-leading 651 passes.
CB: Mats Hummels
Excelled at both ends of the pitch during Germany’s triumphant spell in South America. Registered the highest number of tackles and interceptions per game for his team, with his resolute display versus France the highlight. Also added two goals, making him the joint highest scoring defender in Brazil.
CB: Ron Vlaar
A surprise star after struggling in a poor Aston Villa side. Lived up to his nickname of ‘Roncrete’, holding an inexperience defence together. After playing a key role as the Dutch weathered Spain’s bright start in their opener, went on to keep Lionel Messi silent in the semi-final defeat to Argentina.
LB: Daley Blind
Provided essential width and endevour in the Netherlands’ 3-5-2 formation. Was equal second place in the assists table, memorably setting up two of the Dutch’s five goals when mauling Spain. Ended a breakthrough tournament against Brazil by claiming his first international goal.
CM: Javier Mascherano
Lionel Messi wore the armband, but Mascherano was the true leader for Argentina. Was inspirational in defensive midfield, covering the third-most ground in the competition with 81.2km. Produced the tackle of the tournament to deny Arjen Robben in the semi-final.
CM: Toni Kroos
Proved he is the consumate technician, effortlessly dictating play for Germany. With 633 passes only Philipp Lahm made more, with Kroos’ range truly noteable. Precision at set-pieces was key, but also added goals to his repertoire including a double in the 7-1 thrashing of Brazil.
AMR: Arjen Robben
An essential figure in the Netherlands’ run to third place. Re-cast as a forward, became the fastest player in recorded history with his 37kph burst in the 5-1 mauling of Spain. A constant threat on the counter-attack, scored three times and covered most ground for his team (79.3km).
AMC: James Rodriguez
Astounded expectations by scoring a leading six goals in Brazil to take the Golden Boot. Both the quality and quantity of strikes ensures his spot in the team of the tournament. Struck one of the great World Cup goals with his sumptuous chest-and-volley in the last-16 match against Uruguay.
Without Neymar, the dreams of a nation died. The poster boy of this World Cup lived up to his pre-tournament billing, scoring four goals and claiming one assist. The Selecao’s struggles without him against Germany proved his value, with the hosts offering no threat in their shameful semi-final exit.
ST: Thomas Muller
Has continued to make playing at World Cup seem like child’s play. Repeated his feat from South Africa by scoring five goals, the highlight his hat-trick in the opening demolition of Portugal. Worked ceaselessly for Die Mannschaft, covering a tournament-leading 84km.
SUBSTITUTES: Tim Howard (USA), Cristian Gamboa (Costa Rica), Gary Medel (Chile), Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Colombia), Mathieu Valbuena (France), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Alexis Sanchez (Chile)