Mario Götze's close-range volley in extra time proved to be the difference between Germany and Argentina in a pulsating World Cup final. A 1-0 win at the Maracanã on Sunday confirmed the Germans as champions and the opinion of the masses was that it was little more than they deserved. Germany were WhoScored's highest rated team (7.17) of Brazil 2014 and it goes without saying that Die Mannschaft were worthy winners in Rio.
They would never have got to the final, though, had it not been for the goals of Thomas Müller. The Bayern Munich star set Germany on their way to glory from the penalty spot in the 4-0 win over Portugal while his five goals in Brazil took his overall World Cup total to 10. Müller directly contributed to the most goals (eight - five goals and three assists) at the competition and created the most clear-cut goalscoring opportunities (five), as the 24-year-old displayed his impressive attacking quality in South America.
Lionel Messi also performed admirably in the tournament, with the pint-sized attacker WhoScored's highest rated player (8.52). Messi played the most key passes (23) at the World Cup and while many felt he did not deserve to win the Golden Ball, the fact is he shouldered Argentina's goalscoring burden. With Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Rodrigo Palaco all underwhelming, the Argentina captain single-handedly dragged La Albiceleste through to the knockout stages. Argentina may have failed to lift the trophy on Brazilian soil, but the Barcelona attacker showcased his offensive ability once more, completing more dribbles (46) than any other player.
Arjen Robben, who is the first of three Netherlands players to feature in the highest rated XI, partners Messi up front. Robin van Persie's header may have been the most memorable Oranje goal of the World Cup, but Robben was undeniably their most potent attacking threat. He was the most fouled player (28) at the competition as teams looked to hinder his attacking influence, but that did not affect the 30-year-old, with no player winning more man of the match awards (four) than the Bayern ace.
Robben was vital to Netherlands finishing third at the competition after they overcame hosts Brazil in Saturday's third place playoff. However, A Seleção would never have been in the position to contest the accolade had it not been for Neymar, who was crucial to their progression to the semi-finals, where they eventually crashed out to Germany. Brazil's golden boy missed the last two games of the tournament due to a back injury suffered in the 2-1 win over Colombia and his absence clearly had an adverse psychological effect on the players in heavy defeats to Germany and Netherlands.
Neymar scored four of Brazil's 11 World Cup goals and averaged more key passes (2.6) and more dribbles per game (3.4) than any other Brazilian, while the youngster won possession the most times in the attacking third (11) of every player at the tournament. However, another South American youngster perhaps overshadowed his exploits. James Rodríguez scored the most goals (six), while his performance against Japan was the best of any substitute (rating 9.37) at the World Cup.
Miralem Pjanic also features in the highest rated XI and completes a star-studded midfield. In Bosnia and Herzegovina's World Cup debut, the 24-year-old was one of only 20 players to both score a goal and provide an assist in the same match, this coming in Bosnia's three - one win over Iran. Only Xherdan Shaqiri (4.3) averaged more key passes per game than Pjanic (four) as the Roma star excelled in South America, despite the Dragons' group stage exit which could arguably be blamed on below par finishing.
Forming the heart of the defence is Dutch pairing Ron Vlaar and Stefan de Vrij. Some expected Netherlands to exit the World Cup early on after their poor showing at Euro 2012, but the pairing were solid in a backline which conceded just four goals in seven games. Only Ezequiel Garay (70) made more clearances than Vlaar (63) or De Vrij (50) of every player at the World Cup, highlighting how both were able to read the game effectively and relieve any danger on Netherlands' goal.
Ricardo Rodríguez features at left-back having continued his club form into the summer and potential suitors would have been impressed by the performances of the young Wolfsburg ace. Only Josip Drmic (three vs Honduras) created more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities in a match than Rodríguez (two vs Ecuador), who also made a team-high 20 tackles as he showcased an ability that will appeal to plenty of teams during the off-season.
Making up the backline is Ivory Coast's Serge Aurier, whose stock must surely have risen on the back an impressive showing in Brazil. While the Elephants crashed out at the group stages, the right-back assisted two of the four goals they scored at the World Cup. Furthermore, no Ivory Coast player averaged more interceptions (three) than the youngster and of every player to feature more than once for the national team, only Serey Die (three) made more tackles per game than Aurier (2.7).
Featuring in between the sticks and completing the XI is goalkeeper Tim Howard as a result of his commendable rearguard performance for the USA. The experienced goalkeeper averaged the most saves per game (6.75), while Howard made the most saves in a match (15 vs Belgium) of every shotstopper at Brazil 2014 and ended the competition with an impressive save success rate (81.8%).
However, while these individuals make up the highest-rated XI, the team of the moment is without question Germany. While only Müller features in WhoScored's highest rated XI of the tournament, that says more about the quality of Joachim Löw's side as a collective rather than relying on individual displays to guide them to glory. Müller was the standout performer for the world champions as they went one step better than the 2002 World Cup to lift the trophy in Brazil's capital.
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