Top performers and disappointments

Did Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben play up to their potential in this...

Did Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben play up to their potential in this World Cup? (Reuters)

KEATON ROBBINS & KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:47 PM ET

ROBBINS' TOP 10 DISAPPOINTMENTS

EDEN HAZARD

Belgium, Midfield

The dynamic Chelsea midfielder is one of the most highly-regarded attacking young minds in the game.

But the 23-year-old from La Louviere struggled to stand out.

Not many are pointing at Hazard's lacklustre showing in Brazil and that's because it was his first ever appearance at the Finals.

His Belgium squad boasts some of the most promising young players in the game, and although they were a dark-horse pick for many, most knew it would be a major learning experience.

Belgium did well to lose by one to Argentina, now a World Cup finalist, in the quarterfinals.

Unfortunately, Hazard left us all wondering how deep they could have gone if he was on his game.

LUIS SUAREZ

Uruguay, Forward

The curious case of Luis.

Luis Suarez had us all mesmerized as the World Cup was about to begin.

Last month, he was photographed in a wheelchair after knee surgery, and most assumed that it would be next to impossible for the striker to play in the group stage.

After missing the opener which saw Costa Rica upset the South American giants 3-1, he then made a very surprising recovery to start against England.

The 27-year-old striker single handily sank England, scoring two timely goals against the Three Lions, and it seemed Suarez fever had taken over the tournament.

But that all came crashing down in the next game against Italy, after Suarez bit down on the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Uruguay managed to win the game 1-0, but the controversy and outrage surrounding the team after the bite was too much to handle, and the Uruguayans were run over by Colombia 2-0 in the Round of 16.

This World Cup could have easily been Luis Suarez's for the taking, helping him write his way into soccer folklore.

Sadly, we'll only remember him by the bite, and not his jaw-dropping moments of magic.

XAVI

Spain, Midfield

It's tough to call out one of this generation's most decorated midfielders, but Xavi looked lost.

The 34-year-old Spanish mastermind seemed out of sorts, as did the rest of his teammates, in a humbling 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands and 2-0 loss to Chile.

Xavi could do no wrong, whether it was with his club Barcelona, or playing with the Spanish national team, but that sentiment quickly disappeared.

After a pretty much invisible showing against the Dutch, Xavi was taken out of the starting 11 in Spain's crucial match against Chile.

It was an unfortunate end to what was a remarkable international career for the Spanish legend.

MICHAEL BRADLEY

U.S., Midfield

'The General' showed a few dents in his armour during his short time in Brazil.

Toronto FC's superstar midfielder Michael Bradley, constantly left American (and loads of Canadian) supporters begging for more.

Whether it was too much soccer in such a short time, he played a full season for AS Roma in Italy, before transferring to Toronto and playing seven matches for the Reds, before the World Cup.

Or maybe it was just the pressure of the big stage.

Whatever it was, Bradley seemed out of sorts in the Amazon, and critics blamed his move to MLS for the dip in play.

While that idea is completely ludicrous, it's just too bad Bradley's World Cup will be remembered for the horrendous turnover with minutes left against Portugal, leading to the Silvestre Varela game-tying header.

EDIN DZEKO

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Forward

It's not that Edin Dzeko disappointed so much as he just didn't stand out.

Dzeko, the superb striker for Manchester City, made history with his Bosnian brothers, taking part in their country's first ever World Cup.

The Bosnian Footballer of the Year for three years running failed to put the team on his shoulders and saw his squad crash out in the group stage.

In what was deemed the easiest group in the tournament (Argentina, Nigeria and Iran), it appeared the Bosnians started to have a "just happy to be here" mentality.

Dzeko will feel hard done by though, as he was robbed of an all important tying goal against Nigeria after it was ruled offside.

STEVEN GERRARD

England, Midfield

There isn't much more to say about Stevie G.

England's captain was one of a few players from the 'old guard' that was included in a much younger English World Cup squad.

It's too bad he didn't take advantage of the situation and really lead a promising attack-minded side over the hump.

Instead, he seemed to be okay with hiding in the midfield, while the likes of Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and company did the heavy lifting.

Ho-hum, just another World Cup bust for the Three Lions.

FRED

Brazil, Forward

Fred kicked off the tournament with an ugly dive that led to a lucky penalty kick, and left as the 'Invisible Man'.

The 30-year-old forward has always been one of the mainstays on the Brazilian national team.

But his constant selection, on top of actually starting, for one of the most prestigious teams in the world is baffling.

I don't think we'll be seeing the "Invisible Man' anymore.

DIEGO COSTA

Spain, Forward

The most hated man in Brazil left his homeland more embarrassed then when he timidly entered it.

Diego Costa, the 25-year-old striker who tore it up in La Liga with Atletico Madrid last season, became public enemy number one after he decided to represent Spain instead of his native Brazil.

That didn't go over too well, as Costa was showered with boos from the second he stepped onto the pitch in Brazil.

Despite Brazil's 7-1 shelling by the German's in the semifinals, something tells me the newest player for Chelsea wishes he was still a 'Samba Boy'.

SERGIO AGUERO

Argentina, Forward

I know, I know Argentina is in the World Cup final on Sunday, but it's not due to the stellar play of Sergio Aguero.

The 26-year-old striker for Manchester City is widely regarded as one of the best forwards in the game.

So you would think pairing him up with Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Angel di Maria would be an absolute nightmare for opposition.

Not so much.

He's looked ineffective at the best of times, and unless he has a major showing Sunday against Germany, many won't be talking about Aguero when reflecting on Argentina's 2014 World Cup run.

CRISTIANO RONALDO

Portugal, Midfield/Forward

It's depressing to think that one of the greatest athletes on this planet will probably never lift a World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo can only do so much, and with his Portuguese side grouped with Germany, U.S.A and Ghana, they were in for quite the battle just to make the Round of 16.

Portugal got hammered by Germany 4-0 in the opening game, and immediately questions shifted to Ronaldo's knee injury.

It was clear the Portuguese superstar wasn't at 100%, and once again left fans craving to see him break out at the tournament.

 

 

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LARSON'S TOP 10 PERFORMERS

KEYLOR NAVAS

Costa Rica, Goalkeeper

Navas isn't the best goalkeeper in this tournament. Heck, he hardly looks like a goalkeeper. But Costa Rica wouldn't have made history here without him.

Navas was solid during the group stage before putting in one of the best performances of the tournament in a second-round match versus Greece. Down a man, Costa Rica needed Navas to come up with multiple big, point-blank saves in the second half and extra time to extend the game. Then, in penalties, he stoned a pair of Greek spot kicks to lift the Ticos into the quarterfinals.

Costa Rica's 'keeper was equally as good in a last-eight tilt with the Netherlands before eventually losing on penalties.

THOMAS MULLER

Germany, Midfield/Forward

If he scores in the final, the German talisman is my pick for the Golden Ball.

As we've seen in this tournament, Muller can hurt teams in a number of ways. Whether he's playing as a lone false No. 9 or on a wing, Muller has hurt teams throughout this tournament, scoring five goals and collecting three assists.

His best display of versatility so far came in a resounding 7-1 win over Brazil when German manager Joachim Low played Muller wide in a 4-5-1 and allowed him to completely embarrass Brazilian fullback Marcelo.

For me, he's just behind Messi as the most dangerous player in the world.

PHILIPP LAHM

Germany, Midfield/Full Back

Another German, but can you blame me? You could probably add a few more Germans to this list.

There hasn't been a more consistent fullback in the world over the last decade than Lahm, who German manager Joachim Low correctly moved out of midfield and into defence in time for the knockout stages

Lahm is a player that's mistake-free. You hardly notice him in some matches. He's one of the few players in the world that's just as good at the back as he is on the attack.

He made a fantastic play in a semifinal win over Brazil this week, showing a flash of speed to deny Marcelo when the game still hung in the balance.

MANUEL NEUER

Germany, Goalkeeper

No offence to American Tim Howard, but Neuer is in another class. He makes everything look so easy.

For anyone to win this tournament, their 'keeper has to produce at least one or two moments that alter the complexion of a game. Late in a second-round fixture against Algeria, Neuer dashed off his line a number of times to break up plays that might have resulted in the North Africans going ahead.

A man who looks like he's carved out of stone, Neuer also denied Brazil on multiple occasions in the second-half of what turned into a lopsided semifinal.

It might sound silly, but denying Brazil a pair of goals early in the second half allowed his teammates to breathe easier. That match could have become 5-3 pretty quickly.

ARJEN ROBBEN

Netherlands, Forward

Had Robin van Persie played his part, the Dutch might have been playing in Sunday's final. Instead, it was Robben who picked up most of the slack in the Dutch attack, contributing plenty in almost every fixture.

Never mind the fact he stepped to the spot to convert in back-to-back penalty kick tie-breakers, Robben's heroics -- antics? -- at the end of a match against Mexico also allowed the Netherlands to advance to the quarterfinals.

Other than a certain Argentine on this list, there's nobody better while running with the ball at their feet. Now then, if he could only stop acting like every tackle is life-ending.

RON VLAAR

Netherlands, Centre Back

A man's man. The kind of man-mountain centre back who's a monster in the air and a menace to any striker attempting to play with his back to the goal.

While Vlaar has his shortcomings, he did extremely well as the quarterback in the heart of what was essentially a three-back system. Maybe more noticeable was the fact Vlaar is a rare breed of centre back who doesn't shy away from playing. He's comfortable picking out passes despite being a stay-at-home defender.

In truth, Brazil's David Luiz could learn a thing or two from a centre back who knows his role.

LIONEL MESSI

Argentina, Forward

We haven't seen the best player in the world take over a match yet at this World Cup, but Messi still has four crucial goals for a fairly average side he has managed to guide to the World Cup final.

Looking back, where would the World Cup finalists be without Messi? He scored a pair of dramatic winners against Bosnia and Iran before banging home a double in a final group game against Nigeria.

For all the big names Argentina has up front, Messi has been the only one to consistently come through in the clutch. He'll need a monster game against Germany on Sunday if the South Americans are to have any chance.

JAMES RODRIGUEZ

Colombia, Forward

He's a player most wanted to see more of before the Brazilians beat him up.

Rodriguez will undoubtedly win the young player award at this tournament, and maybe the Golden Boot. His six goals over five games still leads the tournament.

Nothing against the Colombians, but you have to wonder what Rodriguez would look like in a top five side. He could do no wrong at this tournament, scoring one of the top goals of the competition in a second-round win over Uruguay.

Although Jose Pekerman used him centrally against Brazil, I'm not convinced that's his best position.

MATS HUMMELS

Germany, Centre Back

The best defender in the tournament, for my money.

Not that Germany needed it, but he's also one more feather in German bench boss Joachim Low's attacking cap. Hummels has scored twice off set pieces at this tournament, including the game-winner in a quarterfinal matchup versus France. He also outbattled the entire Brazilian team in Tuesday's semifinal to set up the goal that pretty much finished the hosts off before the game was 30 minutes old.

Hummels is that steady presence every manager in this tournament dreams of having anchor their back line.

NEYMAR

Brazil, Forward

We didn't see the best of Neymar at this tournament prior to his injury, but the kid still has four goals through five games, tying him for third in the tournament. He also converted a crucial penalty kick in a shootout win over Chile.

Having been lucky enough to take in three Brazil matches during my time here, the electricity inside a stadium whenever Neymar got on the ball was unbelievable. He seems to glide by opposing defenders effortlessly.

You can't help but wonder if things might have been different had he taken part against Germany. Maybe the Brazilians could have converted early pressure into a goal, allowing them to collect their bearings.


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