World Cup XI Who Failed to Make It Past the Group Stage
The 2014 FIFA World Cup has provided us with glimpses of entertaining performances from plenty of players, but unfortunately not all of those players were enough to help their nations through the group phase.
Whilst the real stars such as Neymar, Lionel Messi and James Rodriguez continue their paths toward the final, some of the group phase successes only saw their tournament last three matches.
Here is our best XI from the opening three games for each side, featuring only players who failed to progress to the knockout stages.
GK: Eiji Kawashima, JPN
Japan didn't impress enough at the finals, certainly not compared to the ability within their ranks with their midfield talent, but goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima came out of the tournament with plenty of credit.
The shot-stopper was too often left exposed by a below-par defence, conceding six goals in three games overall—though he did keep a clean sheet against Greece in a 0-0 draw, where he was barely troubled.
RB: Serge Aurier, CIV
Ivory Coast's assault on the World Cup ended in dramatic circumstances when they conceded a last-minute penalty to Greece in the final group game.
Before then, the sight of Serge Aurier rampaging down their right flank was a common sight, their main outlet from defence into midfield and to move into attack. Aurier's pace and athleticism allowed him to get up and down the wing constantly, delivering his crosses from wide toward the aerial threat of the forwards.
He claimed important assists for Ivory Coast in the opening game comeback win over Japan.
LB: Mehrdad Pooladi, IRN
Iran's left-back Mehrdad Pooladi was an impressive performer in all three games, showing a real solidity in defence and more adventurism than most in the side with his ability to get forward.
He was part of a stubborn and compact defence which gave Nigeria and Argentina nightmares to break down in the opening games of the group.
Good acceleration and technique on the ball made him a useful outlet going forward, as he swapped passes with his midfielders to break downfield when possible.
CB: Amir Sadeghi, IRN and Sergio Ramos, ESP
It wasn't just Pooladi who impressed in Iran's stubborn defence; central defender Amir Sadeghi was imperious in the air and quick to close off space for opposition forwards and attacking midfielders attempting to make through-passes.
Sadeghi held the back-line together to go within a minute of keeping a clean sheet against Messi and his team-mates of Argentina.
Sergio Ramos endured a very tough second 45 minutes for Spain against Netherlands, though was still far better than team-mate Gerard Pique. He then certainly recovered to perform far better against Chile and Australia, though it was nowhere near enough to help his team progress.
CM: Andres Iniesta, ESP and Miralem Pjanic, BIH
Spain might have severely underwhelmed going forward, but key playmaker Andres Iniesta certainly kept his standards as those around him lost their own.
He tried to raise Spain's tempo by dribbling past opponents, playing short, sharp passes and, in the first half against Netherlands when his side were on top, constantly splitting open the Dutch defence with through balls.
Bosnia-Herzegovina enjoyed a good midfield partnership between Miralem Pjanic and Muhamed Besic, but the former was the stand-out for his ability to shape his team's play and search out the more advanced players with regularity from his central midfield role.
AM: Enner Valencia, ECU and Ivan Perisic, CRO
In our advanced midfielders, two goalscorers take the credit as they helped their respective teams go close to progressing.
Ecuador's Enner Valencia scored three goals in three games, helping his nation to four points, but a costly late goal conceded against Switzerland saw them go out in third place. Valencia was powerful in his leaping and showed great heading ability, but his off the ball movement and ability to create space for others was also key.
For Croatia, Ivan Perisic was superb from the left flank, taking on opponents and really taking the game to Brazil and Cameroon. He was rewarded with two goals himself. They didn't have quite enough to do the same to Mexico, despite Perisic's late goal, and exited in third place too.
FW: Tim Cahill, AUS and Asamoah Gyan, GHA
Tim Cahill scored one of the goals of the World Cup with his thunderous volley against Netherlands, crashing his effort in off the crossbar in what was his last ever game at the finals.
He led the line extremely well for his restricted side, scoring also against Chile in the opening game and really giving Australia a better all-round attack than the sums of their individual attackers by way of his hold-up play, heading ability and willingness to drop deep to link up in the middle third.
Finally, Asamoah Gyan continued his impressive scoring record at the World Cup by hitting two goals in three games, as well as recording one assist. The African striker was one of the few Ghanaian attackers to show composure and creativity in the final third rather than relying on long-range efforts or hopeful crosses, but he couldn't offer enough to see his team through to the knockouts as they picked up just a single point.