With the World Cup drawn to a close, many are left disappointed while others celebrate their achievements. Germany won the World Cup, but many other individuals & teams left admirers in their wake. While FIFA gave out it’s individual honours with Messi the choice for Golden Ball particularly bewildering football enthusiasts. We at Outside of the Boot thought long & hard before deciding our choices which might just be a bit more fair & rational than FIFA’s choices!
There are some surprises, and also occasions where the hipsters may not be pleased. Nevertheless, here are the best performers at the World Cup divided into Primary Awards, Talent Radar Awards and Secondary Awards.
– PRIMARY AWARDS –
We’ve long stated that FIFA’s World Cup Golden Ball Award and their annual Ballon D’Or fails to recognise all the best performer adequately. Often the most high profile names & goal-scorers are given the award. But we as an independent website are not restricted by sponsorship deals, corruption, biases and any other controversies/conspiracies.
Thus our World Cup Primary Awards include the best performance overall at the World Cup, the best players in their respective positions and an XI of the best individuals at the tournament in Brazil. We will ofcourse also give away the award for the Best Coach at the World Cup.
Best Player of the World Cup | Philipp Lahm (Germany)
The man who is often over-looked for FIFA’s top honour has once again provided an example of just why Philipp Lahm is potentially one of the greatest footballers of all time. Leading his national team to glory, Lahm played both in midfield and at right-back in Germany’s successful campaign. His change to his more regular right-back role actually turned Germany’s fortunes as they otherwise looked vulnerable. He beats competition from team-mates Thomas Müller & Manuel Neuer, while both James Rodriguez & Arjen Robben came close as well.
Best Coach of the World Cup | Jorge Pinto (Costa Rica)
Who would have thought Costa Rica would emerge from the Group of Death in top spot and be just a penalty kick or two away from the semi-finals? Credit to the players especially the likes of Gonzalez, Duarte, Gamboa & Diaz, but credit also to their coach Jorge Luis Pinto for employing that 3-5-2 so successfully. Others who just miss out include Louis Van Gaal & Joachim Löw.
Best Goalkeeper of the World Cup | Manuel Neuer (Germany)
The first question that will be asked is why not Keylor Navas. Yes the Costa Rican did manage a better save/game rate but Neuer’s goalkeeping is beyond just saves. The command he has of his area, his ability to organise his defence, distribution and shocking comfort on the ball as an out-field player make him the best in the World and at this tournament. Besides Navas, the likes of Guillermo Ochoa & Tim Howard also deserve a mention, the former especially impressing consistently.
Best Defender of the World Cup | Philipp Lahm (Germany)
Captain, leader and an example to follow, Philipp Lahm is one of the most exceptional footballers right now; he is considered as one of the best defenders and is still largely underrated as a player overall. His shift to right-back from the quarter-finals made an impressive German side look all the more solid. His intelligence on the field is arguably unmatched by any in World football. Daley Blind & Cristian Gamboa were the close runners-up, with no centre-back outrightly staking a claim.
Best Midfielder of the World Cup | James Rodriguez (Colombia)
23 years old, playing for the non-traditional favourites, deployed in midfield and 2014 Golden Boot winner; there aren’t too many individuals winning more in life than James Rodriguez. He is not an unknown by any means (no matter what others may tell you), but even those following him from his younger days were left surprised how well he took control of the World Cup, drawing many admirers in the process. Neymar (yes, he played attacking midfield and not forward) was an option for this award alongwith Toni Kroos of Germany, but James was the outright winner by some way.
Best Forward of the World Cup | Thomas Müller (Germany)
Beating competition from Arjen Robben & Karim Benzema, Thomas Müller is the deserving winner of the Best Forward Award. He started the tournament off with a hat-trick before adding two more later on. It’s his ability to create chance, take his own and bring players into the game that make his an exceptional talent. Rarely mentioned among the best players, but certainly a top performer.
Best XI of the World Cup
Reflecting our individual awards, our World Cup Best XI is dominated by the eventual winners Germany although the result of the final would have had no bearing on the squad above. Five Germany players make the squad while the Dutch have two. Bayern Munich is the most represented side as four of Germany’s representatives are joined by Arjen Robben. Lionel Messi’s exclusion just shows the extent to which we disagree with FIFA’s choice for the Golden Ball award.
Throughout the World Cup we continued to focus on the younger players, as we have in the domestic season, under our Talent Radar feature. Our countdown to the best young players at the World Cup serves the purpose for those looking for detailed content on these young players. Remember the players eligible for the Talent Radar feature are those that were 21 and below at the start of the season (2013-14); the start of the season is taken as June 1st 2013 for convenience.
Talent Radar Best Young Player | James Rodriguez (Colombia)
Goldent Boot winner, Golden Ball nominee, individual honours on our site, top clubs chasing his signature and the eyes of billions Worldwide on this young man, James Rodriguez has had a World Cup beyond any form of expectation. A few individuals define World Cups, and though he only played till the quarters, this World Cup may well be remembered for young James Rodriguez.
Talent Radar Best Young Goalkeeper | Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
With not many options to choose from (none actually), Thibaut Courtois is the obvious choice for this positional award. Having followed him closely for the past season or two, we are convinced he’s among the best keepers in the World, though he was barely called upon this World Cup.
Talent Radar Best Young Defender | Raphaël Varane (France)
The man who made it into our World Cup Best XI also makes it into the Best Young Defender category, beating competition from the likes of fellow central defenders Stefan De Vrij & Bruno Martins Indi. He also held off a dangerous challenge from Ricardo Rodriguez.
Talent Radar Best Young Midifielder | James Rodriguez (Colomnia)
To add to all the other accolades he’s getting, James Rodriguez is the obvious choice for the Best Young Midifelder award. James Rodriguez’ World Cup has been capped off by the Golden Boot award but he’s also won three individual awards here and is in two of the Best XIs; we suspect he’s more pleased with the latter than a simple Golden Boot award..
Talent Radar Best Young Forward | Joel Campbell (Costa Rica)
There were not too many young players quite playing the role of a centre-forward, most were ultimately playing in attacking midfield. Combining the lack of nominees and some exceptional performances from the surprise package of the tournament, Joel Campbell was the obvious choice to be named as the best young forward.
Talent Radar Best Young Players’ XI
There were not too many surprises or conflicts in terms of who can be picked, the players listed above were the most exceptional youngsters at the World Cup. The defence was arguably the easiest choice, while there were decision to be made in the attacking midfield position. Impressive players like Ahmed Musa & Memphis Depay miss out while Xherdan Shaqiri drops to a central midfield role for positional convenience.
– SECONDARY AWARDS –
We also thought as an independent website, it would be fair to recognise some of the footballers who rarely get recognised by the media, or indeed FIFA. Here, we give the awards for the Best Alternative XI featuring players only outside of the traditional big leagues of Europe and those who we personally have rarely seen in action. This XI will thus include the lesser knowns who have risen to fame after their performance at this World Cup. We also have named the best performers based on their region (AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL & UEFA).
Best African Player | Sofiane Feghouli (Algeria)
Sofiane Feghouli epitomised Algeria at this World Cup. The Arab-African country were exceptional in their performance, gaining many admirers for their brand of football, with Feghouli at the heart of it in a fluid attacking trio behind the lone striker. He utilised the wings well but was quick to get into the box as often as possible as well. Quick, fluid & energetic sums up Feghouli.
Best Asian Player | Mehrdad Pooladi (Iran)
All the Asian sides disappointed at this World Cup, some more than others, but there were positives to take for a few. Iran for on can be pleased with their defensive display that nearly kept Argentina out and also gave them glimmer of hope at qualification. Mehrdad Pooladi was one of the star solid men in their defence, as they nearly kept two cleansheets in the group stage.
Best European Player | Thomas Müller (Germany)
Leading his side to glory, and setting the stage for surpassing Miroslav Klose’s World Cup record four years from now, Müller has now had two impressive World Cups. In a tournament where the Europeans were predicted to be overcome by weather conditions, the Bayern man proved this theory wrong. Many count him unlucky to have missed out on any individual FIFA honour.
Best North American Player | Cristian Gamboa (Costa Rica)
To sum up Cristian Gamboa’s performance at the World Cup: he would have been in our World Cup Best XI had Philipp Lahm not been his usual brilliant self. Part of a Costa Rica side that was incredible impressive, surpassing and sort of expectations, Gamboa (alongwith Diaz) were the main men who allowed the side’s 3-5-2 to function, balancing defence & attack excellently.
Best South American Player | James Rodriguez (Colombia)
Although he faced some degree of competition from Neymar, James Rodriguez was the outright winner of the Talent Radar Young Player Award. The 23-yr-old has an exceptional World Cup, winning the Golden Boot award and nearly leading his country to a semi-final.
NOTE: Consider this “Best European Player of the World Cup” award as a commemorative one for Thomas Müller. Philipp Lahm was ofcourse our best player, making him the best in Europe as well. But it was a close contestt between Müller & Lahm, so we decided to honour both.
Again, loads of players to choose from but these were the ones from the ‘lesser knowns’ that stood out. Some of them have already secured moves to bigger clubs; we can only hope that we see some of these players at bigger clubs some time soon. From the ones above, Cristian Gamboa is by far the stand-out performer, while Kostas Manolas (who we only saw in the Champions League prior to this), is another exceptional player.
Co-founder and Chief Editor here. Obsessed with tactics. Keen follower of young players. Creator of #TalentRadar. Appeared in A Football Report's list of "Best in Football Writing 2012".
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