For the last word on a memorable World Cup, Sony Coaching Ambassador Diego Simeone picks his best XI from Brazil 2014 …
It was a fabulous World Cup with lots of attacking football and some great individual performances, but all bar one of the players in this XI comes from the two finalists: Germany and Argentina.
It’s hard to look beyond the winners and those who had the chance of claiming the biggest prize of all. Other players competed well in Brazil, but for me the best players are those who get to the final – and that’s why I have chosen these footballers.
So here’s my best XI from the World Cup:
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (Germany)
A lot of goalkeepers performed at a great level in Brazil, but the one I liked the best was Neuer. He’s a goalkeeper who gave his team the possibility of playing a very high line. As well as being a great shot-stopper, it’s his ability to operate in a dual role as both a goalkeeper and an outfield player which impressed me. That allowed Germany to play much higher up the pitch, knowing they were in safe hands at the back.
Right-back: Philipp Lahm (Germany)
Lahm leaves the national team as world champions after a decade in which he has always given absolutely everything for his country. He gives them great alternatives in different areas of the pitch and he showed that at the World Cup. He has a great ability to get up and down the pitch, is a top passer and has a big personality. In Brazil he was tight defensively, gave Germany great options on the flank and offered them alternatives both in bringing the ball out of defence and in their attacking play. He’s a complete player.
Centre-back: Gary Medel (Chile)
Even though he played in a three-man defence and despite the fact he’s not the tallest for a defender, Medel adapted really well in his role at the back. He played with a lot of leadership, great intensity and commitment. He really impressed me and what he did in Chile’s last match against Brazil was sensational. To play as he did in a team set up to attack and to press was excellent. He had a great World Cup.
Centre-back: Mats Hummels (Germany)
Hummels is a player with a big personality, he’s a great leader, he’s aggressive and an outstanding centre-back – one of the very best. He’s also good technically and scores goals. I thought he was excellent for Germany.
Left-back: Marcos Rojo (Argentina)
Rojo won the hearts of the Argentine people at the World Cup. He did well both in attack and in defence – and he showed that Sabella made no mistake in picking him at left-back. Even though he’s not a full-back, Sabella trusted him and the boy responded really well. He played a great World Cup and was the best left-back in the teams that reached the semi-finals: Brazil, Germany, Netherlands and Argentina. That says a lot.
Right midfield: Thomas Muller (Germany)
Muller is a player with the perfect characteristics for the way I see football. He’s competitive, hard-working and always plays well – wherever you put him. Be it as a forward, a striker, behind the front man or on the wing, he’s a player who has maintained great consistency over the last few years both with Bayern Munich and with the national team. He has been at a superb level now for four or five years. His is not a tactical role, he’s just a great footballer and he plays well wherever the coach picks him. There are few players like him in the world.
Central midfield: Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
Mascherano’s work in all of the games was tremendous. He achieved a level of consistency that is very hard to maintain and what impressed me most was his hugely important defensive work when the team attacked. He maintained the side’s balance, was a true leader and deserves to be remembered for his great work at this World Cup.
Central midfield: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
Schweinsteiger is an extraordinary player because he has all the characteristics a coach needs from a midfielder: he is good technically, wins the ball back, provides defensive balance, is strong in the air, has a good shot, scores goals… he’s possibly the most complete player in the world in his position. Schweinsteiger, Klose, Lahm – they are historic players for Germany and they have defined an era. Their experience provided the perfect complement to the great young players coming through for Germany.
Left midfield: Angel Di Maria (Argentina)
Di Maria is so quick and he’s a player who can beat defenders. He gave Argentina so many dangerous attacking alternatives at the World Cup and linked up perfectly with Messi, creating the possibility of breaking down any defence in one-on-one situations. He’s fast, can score goals and in that inside position he’s probably the most complete player there is. He was definitely missed in the final. The way Argentina played, it’s clear that Di Maria would have given the team an even better chance of winning in Rio.
Forward: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Messi is a player who wins you games and we saw that at the World Cup – especially in the group stages when he was decisive and then in the last 16 against Switzerland as well. After that, he worked hard in a role that’s perhaps more new to him – in the tactical aspects and the needs of the team. So even though he wasn’t as decisive in the latter stages of the competition, without his great efforts defensively and the balance he gave to the team in the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, Argentina wouldn’t have made it to the final. No doubt. For me, he deserves special praise for that.
Forward: Miroslav Klose (Germany)
Klose was rewarded for a wonderful career as he became the World Cup’s all-time top goalscorer. He’s a powerful forward and a great goalscorer, but aside from his characteristics as a footballer, what he achieved in becoming the World Cup’s top scorer is reward for his extraordinary career. He’s a living legend.
Coaches: Joachim Low (Germany) and Jurgen Klinsmann (USA)
Klinsmann has revolutionised football in the United States. He has been able to get a whole country behind the team and that’s very difficult in the USA. But above all, he got the team working together and for each other – and they competed at an excellent level in the World Cup. It was a great collective effort – and that’s what seduces us as coaches.
Low culminated at the World Cup everything he had been creating in the last six or seven years with Germany. It’s no coincidence that Germany won the World Cup; it was a question of growth, hard work, patience, building a strong project, advancing along the right road and ending up where great projects end – as world champions.
Klinsmann and Low started off working together and today, Germany are not only a hard-working team with a strong aerial threat, but a side with many attacking variants, great collective play and an attack with excellent positioning and movement. It’s an attractive style of football and what we saw at the World Cup was a reflection of what Germany has produced in the Champions League in recent seasons – a mix between what we have seen from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in Europe.