Numbers crunched to come up with a star-studded World Cup XI based on performances at Brazil 2014
Here's a rundown of the strongest statistical XI according to WhoScored.com's unique ratings, with a number of eye-catching performances from a fleet of high-profile individuals that have somewhat carried their respective nations
By Martin Lawrence
Last Updated: 11/07/14 3:28pm
Two vastly contrasted semi-finals saw a rampant Germany emerge to face Argentina in this Sunday's final showdown. While Joachim Löw's side ran riot against hosts Brazil it should not be forgotten that they too have had their struggles in the tournament, so you shouldn't write this off just yet.
Nevertheless the Europeans, now favourites with the majority of betting markets, have perhaps been the strongest team this summer, with a tournament-leading WhoScored.com rating of 7.18 highlighting as much. Die Mannschaft have impressed as a collective more than any other side, so it's perhaps less surprising to find only one German in the best individual XI going into the weekend.
Tim Howard (USA)
Earning a place in the side courtesy of one of this summer's most outstanding individual performances, Tim Howard had had a strong tournament up to the US' last-16 clash with Belgium. The Everton man ensured that game went right to the wire by producing a huge 15 saves, the most in a single game at the World Cup, to garner a perfect rating of 10 from WhoScored.com - only the second of the tournament - and take his average to 7.87 over four appearances. No keeper produced more saves per game (6.75) and only five had a higher save success rate than the 35-year-old (82%).
Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast)
One of two players in the XI whose impressive performances were not enough to help his side through the group stages, Serge Aurier's displays were deserving of better. The hotly sought-after young full-back made an exceptional start to the tournament, picking up assists for each of the Ivory Coast's goals in a 2-1 win over Japan before another excellent run-out in a defeat of the same scoreline to Colombia, completing five successful dribbles from the back against the South Americans.
Stefan de Vrij (Netherlands)
The first of three Dutch players in WhoScored.com's top-rated team, 22-year-old De Vrij has been hugely impressive in his first World Cup campaign. Off the back of a strong season with Feyenoord, the centre-back netted in Netherlands' opening-game rout over holders Spain and has looked extremely comfortable in a back three at international level, particularly in the knock-out stages of the tournament. Only three players have produced more tackles at the World Cup (22), while only Luiz Gustavo has made more interceptions (20).
Ron Vlaar (Netherlands)
After a near-faultless performance - earning WhoScored.com's man of the match award with a rating of 9.2 against Argentina - Aston Villa captain Ron Vlaar was cruelly denied in the shoot-out. Nevertheless, the man they call Roncrete has been in fine form all tournament long. Vlaar ranks third for interceptions, just behind his aforementioned defensive teammate (17), second for clearances (55) and has won 16 of the 18 aerial duels he has contested, warranting his rating of 7.70.
Ricardo Rodríguez (Switzerland)
Another full-back strongly touted with a big-money move this summer, Ricardo Rodríguez continued to put himself in the shop window with a string of impressive performances. Like Aurier, he made a flying start to set up both goals in Switzerland's comeback win in their opener with Ecuador, later showing his capabilities at both ends against Argentina, completing four dribbles and six tackles. With regards to the latter, only two players have produced more tackles per game at the tournament (5).
Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
The Bayern winger lines up in a familiar spot on the right in this XI having also partnered Robin van Persie to great effect in the group stages of the tournament. The Dutchman earned WhoScored's man of the match award in each of his first four appearances at the tournament, scoring three and picking up an assist as Netherlands escaped a daunting group. Exceeding expectations to the last, Robben was the star for the Oranje this summer and his importance often inspired their tactical set-up. Only Lionel Messi has completed more dribbles (39), while only Alexis Sanchez has won more fouls (22) - 'won' perhaps being the salient word in some cases.
James Rodríguez (Colombia)
If you can be a breakthrough act to have cost your club €45m the previous summer than James Rodríguez is certainly that. It's testament to the Colombian's quality at this World Cup that Monaco are tipped to make a significant profit on that expenditure sooner rather than later, with Europe's powerhouses circling. The playmaker is currently in line to earn the Golden Boot award having netted six times, one of which was perhaps the goal of the tournament against Uruguay, as well as picking up two assists and three man of the match awards from WhoScored over his five appearances.
Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
If there was one player that failed to progress through the group stages whose performances were perhaps most deserving of a place in the knock-out stages it was probably Pjanic. The Roma star pulled the strings for Bosnia & Herzegovina with 66 passes per game - 88.9% accurate - while only Xherdan Shaqiri has created more chances per game (4). With only five players averaging more dribbles per game (4.3) and none having delivered more accurate crosses per match (3.3), the 24-year-old is certainly one of the players that deserved to go further in the competition.
Thomas Müller (Germany)
Gunning for James Rodríguez's leading scorer tally, Thomas Müller will also have Miroslav Klose's recently claimed all-time World Cup record within his sights. Having netted five times for the second successive edition of the tournament, Müller has the chance to go one better in the final and certainly deserves that shot. No player has directly contributed to more goals this summer (8), having also registered three assists, and the often unsung Bayern-man has led from the front for Germany, whilst also being pushed out to either flank since the inclusion of his aforementioned compatriot.
In reality, the end of Neymar's tournament through a cruel injury blow effectively ended Brazil's. With the weight of a nation on his shoulders the young forward carried the load, as well as a number of his teammates, throughout the Selecao's route to the semi-finals. The 22-year-old netted four times, picked up an assist and led the way for Scolari's side in terms of shots (18), key passes (13) and dribbles (17), despite missing the humiliation at the hands of the Germans. He may not have impacted on the outcome of the game, who's to know, but it's foolish to suggest that Tuesday's debacle wouldn't have panned out differently had Neymar been involved.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
What better way to conclude a star-studded attacking line-up than with the world's greatest natural footballing talent? Lionel Messi may have been somewhat subdued by his standards in the knock-out stages but he continues to offer Argentina a way out. It's not presumptuous to suggest that if Alejandro Sabella's side are to overcome Germany in the final, the Barca man must play a pivotal role. If he's been below his own par at this tournament it's certainly not below anyone else's. Messi has completed the most dribbles at the World Cup (39), ten more than any other player, created the most chances for teammates (21) and registered four goals and an assist.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.