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The 5 Best Players at the World Cup So Far

Sam PilgerFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2014

The 5 Best Players at the World Cup So Far

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    Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

    After 48 games and 136 goals, the group stages of the 2014 World Cup finals drew to a close last night.

    It is already abundantly clear this tournament will become known as one of the most exciting ever World Cups.

    One of the main reasons the last two weeks have been so enthralling is most of the world’s leading players have turned up and delivered but which of these players has shone the most? 

    Here I rank the five best players at the World Cup so far based on their contribution in the group stages.

5. Guillermo Ochoa

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    So far the strikers have dominated this World Cup, but there has been one goalkeeper who has stood firm against the onslaught.

    The Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa has been in outstanding form in Brazil conceding just one goal in three group stage games to help secure his nation a valuable place in the second round.

    Ochoa’s finest moment came when he kept a clean sheet in Mexico’s second game against Brazil.

    The hosts put a combined seven goals past Croatia and Cameroon in the group stage, but they couldn’t find a way past the inspired Ochoa.

    The 28-year-old is currently a free agent, but he will have no shortage of offers after the World Cup.

4. Thomas Mueller

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    The 24-year-old German loves playing on the biggest stage of all. 

    At the last World Cup in 2010 Muller announced himself by winning the Golden boot with five goals in South Africa.

    After the group stage in Brazil he already has four goals and is joint leading scorer with Lionel Messi and Neymar. 

    The attacking midfielder plays with energy and intelligence, and has been supremely clinical in front of goal.

    In Germany’s opening game he quickly stated his intentions by claiming a hat-trick against Portugal before also scoring the winner against the USA yesterday to to send his country through as group winners. 

    Muller is just warming up and there should be more goals.

3. Lionel Messi

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    There was ill-informed talk before the World Cup that Lionel Messi was possibly was not the force he once was after enduring a relatively poor season with Barcelona.

    Never mind Messi had just scored 41 goals in 46 appearances over the course of the season as Barcelona came within a single goal of successfully defending their La Liga title.

    In Brazil Messi has swiftly silenced any more of this talk with a series of brilliant match-winning displays.

    In his opening game Messi scored Argentina’s decisive second goal in their 2-1 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina by surging through and finishing with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area.

    In the next game he shattered the resolve of the brave Iranians with a late winner, and in the final group game scored twice more in a 3-2 win over Nigeria.

    Traditionalists believe Messi needs to win a World Cup to be hailed as the greatest player ever. He has made the perfect start so far. 

2. Neymar

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Imagine the pressure of being the great hope and poster boy for the hosts Brazil at this World Cup finals. 

    While the world is watching, the expectations of over 200 million Brazilians sit squarely on your shoulders.

    This is the position of Neymar, but rather than wilting, he has so far been thriving on it all, and he has inspired Brazil in to the knockout stages with four goals.

    Neymar scored twice in Brazil’s 3-1 win over Croatia and twice more in their 4-1 destruction of Cameroon.

1. Arjen Robben

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    There is no doubt what has been the most thrilling moment at this World Cup finals so far. 

    It was the moment Arjen Robben won a straight race with Sergio Ramos from the half-way line, surged past him, checked back, had Iker Casillas scampering around his feet before slamming the ball in to the top corner to give Holland a resounding 5-1 win over the reigning world champions Spain. 

    This was football at its purest and most exhilarating.

    At times a frustrating player, Robben has been enjoying himself in Brazil and has played with a renewed purpose.

    The Dutchman scored twice in that incredible win over Spain, and he followed it with Holland’s opening goal in their 3-2 win over Australia with another powerful run from the half-way line.

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