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Angel Di Maria – Argentina
The Real Madrid winger has played every game bar the semi-final for Alejandro Sabella’s side, scoring the winner in the second-round tie against Switzerland. his pace, vision and work-rate from both the wing and the centre of midfield have been intrinsic to the South American’s progress to the final.
Mats Hummels – Germany
Strong as an ox but decidedly cultured, the Borussia Dortmund defender scored against both Portugal in the opening match for the Germans, as well as the winning goal in the quarter-final against France. Linked with a move to Manchester United in recent months, Hummels’ price-tag will have surely risen after a solid World Cup cup display for the finalists.
Toni Kroos – Germany
Another long-term Manchester United target, Kroos looks set to join Champions League holders Real Madrid upon the completion of the tournament in South America, with his fabulous passing and clinical finishing catching the eye of the Spanish giants.
Scored twice in the 7-1 humiliation of Brazil in the last four, and bagging two assists in the opening day rout of Portugal, the 24-year-old Bayern Munich man looks certain to be a star of the future.
Philipp Lahm – Germany
Captain fantastic for Joachim Low’s Germany, Lahm has barely put a foot wrong during the Europeans’ progress to the World Cup final. A tireless worker, highly disciplined, the Bayern Munich skipper will get his hands on the trophy this weekend if they can overcome Argentina in Rio.
Javier Mascherano – Argentina
The former Liverpool man’s stunning last-ditch challenge on Dutch live-wire Arjen Robben rounded off a superb semi-final performance from the 30-year-old. Mascherano revealed that he ‘tore his anus’ during the challenge, a challenge that arguably kept Argentina in the competition! The Barcelona midfielder NEVER stops, ever.
Lionel Messi – Argentina
Argentina’s shining light, and often savior, Leo Messi scored four times in the group stage, and set up Di Maria for his extra-time winner in the second round. Without the Barcelona attacker’s goals, Alejandro Sabella’s side would have exited the World Cup in the group stage, and if he puts in a strong performances against Germany this Sunday, he could well lead his often underperforming side to glory in the Maracana.
Thomas Muller – Germany
The Bayern Munich attacker is the second top scorer at the World Cup, just one behind Colombia’s James Rodriguez, but considering Muller’s poaching abilities, it will be very little surprise if the 24-year-old tops the list come Sunday evening. Always in the right place at the right time, and with expert finishing technique, Muller has been outstanding so far, and will be a favourite for the Golden Ball.
Neymar – Brazil
Sadly seeing his tournament cut short by a potentially career-threatening injury in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Colombia, Neymar was a joy to watch up until that moment, scoring four times, and dazzling audiences with his tricks and flicks. Brazil missed him terribly during their 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi-finals, and he certainly did enough to earn a spot on this shortlist.
Arjen Robben – Netherlands
The Dutchman was at his devastating best in South America this summer, with one astute commentator remarking one match that the former Chelsea man seemed to be playing in fast-forward, despite the searing heat and stifling humidity. Clearly the standout player for the semi-finalists, Robben broke the record for fastest ever spring by a player during the 5-1 rout of Spain in the group stage, in which he scored twice.
James Rodriguez – Colombia
Arguably the standout young player of the World Cup, ‘Hamez’ was a relative unknown going into tournament despite having made a £40m+ move to Monaco the season before last. Currently top scorer, despite a quarter-final exit, Rodriguez also scored one of the goals of the tournament against Uruguay in the second round; a vicious, dipping volley from range.