World Cup 2014: Best XI of Day 23 with David Luiz, Mats Hummels and Manuel Neuer
Day 23 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup featured offense from the defense, some standout goalkeeping and a devastating injury.
In Rio de Janeiro, Mats Hummels put in a Man of the Match performance as Germany beat France 1-0, the Borussia Dortmund defender scoring the winner and also making a handful of important interventions on the defensive side of the ball.
In Fortaleza, host nation Brazil continued their march through the knockout rounds by beating Colombia 2-1, although an injury to superstar forward Neymar—which will keep him out for the rest of the tournament, per BBC Sport—will have them nervous ahead of Tuesday’s semi-final against Germany.
There were other key performances on Tuesday, and over the next few slides we’ll have a look at Day 23’s Best XI.
This best XI is almost entirely subjective, taking into account basic statistics but mostly revolving around our assessment of each player's effect on his team.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer, Germany
Manuel Neuer has already become one of the cult icons of this World Cup, what with his swashbuckling performance against Algeria in the round of 16.
Against France, however, the goalkeeper’s contribution was more about traditional shot-stopping—something he did to typically remarkable effect in Rio de Janeiro.
The 28-year-old made five saves in Friday’s quarter-final victory, and none was better than his denial of Mathieu Valbuena after the attacker had been set up by Antoine Griezmann midway through the first half at the Maracana.
Right-Back: Philipp Lahm, Germany
Philipp Lahm was restored to the right-back position on Friday—a decision made because of both illness and necessity.
With a virus having ravaged part of his squad and Jerome Boateng having struggled in the position, Germany manager Joachim Low moved his captain to the extremity of the defense against France.
And he was repaid in spades.
If Les Bleus had targeted the wide areas as a German weakness prior to kick-off, they found the exact opposite to be true over the 90 minutes.
Lahm, for his part, still had nearly 90 touches, passed for a high rate of efficiency and contributed a pair of important tackles.
Centre-Back: David Luiz, Brazil
Thiago Silva might have earned a spot in this Day 23 XI had he not picked up a needless booking in the second half that will see him miss Tuesday’s semi-final through suspension.
David Luiz, meanwhile, played an inspired match against Colombia and scored what proved to be the winner in the 68th minute.
Following James Rodriguez’s foul on Hulk, the Paris Saint-Germain defender released a free-kick that dipped over the wall before beating goalkeeper David Ospina inside his left-hand corner.
Centre-Back: Mats Hummels, Germany
Earlier in the week, Mats Hummels hadn’t even traveled to Porto Alegre for Germany’s round-of-16 showdown with Algeria. But after recovering from a virus, the defender put in a Man of the Match performance against France at the Maracana.
First, the 25-year-old made a vital intervention on Antoine Griezmann, who had delivered a cross intended for Karim Benzema.
Then, less than a minute later, he headed in Toni Kroos’ free-kick for what proved to be the winning goal.
Left-Back: Benedikt Howedes, Germany
An underachiever against Algeria in the round of 16, Benedikt Howedes rebounded with a sublime display on Friday against France.
The makeshift left-back didn’t put a foot wrong at the Maracana, and it’s telling that Mathieu Valbuena was actually moved to Philipp Lahm’s flank to get away from Howedes.
Through the 90 minutes, the Schalke defender contributed an eye-popping nine tackles.
Central Midfielder: Paul Pogba, France
Paul Pogba will have plenty of opportunities to shine on the international stage. And while he put in a decent performance on Friday against Germany, France nevertheless went out of the World Cup after losing 1-0 in Rio de Janeiro.
It wasn’t for lack of effort on his part.
While teammates Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi struggled to make an impact, Pogba raised his game. He showed a willingness to run at opponents, and while his passing was a bit off, his commitment was as evident as ever.
Central Midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany
Germany manager Joachim Low has finally hit on something of a balanced midfield. And he’s done it with Philipp Lahm playing right-back.
Bastian Schweinsteiger shined against France on Friday. Clearly approaching full fitness after a bout of injury trouble, the 29-year-old helped turn Germany’s lateral-passing midfield into something more useful—something Les Bleus simply couldn’t handle.
While Toni Kroos distributed the ball with accuracy and Sami Khedira provided an element of reliability, Schweinsteiger was the midfielder to move the ball forward, whether by passing or on the run.
He’ll be vital on Tuesday against Brazil.
Attacker: Oscar, Brazil
Oscar has toiled in something approaching obscurity at this World Cup. Accustomed to being a playmaker, he’s had to either provide crosses from the right or mop up his teammates’ mistakes.
He did both on Friday.
With Brazil often looking vulnerable when Colombia attacked at pace, Oscar kept things as tidy as he could in the centre of the park. He cleaned up messes left by others. He was, for lack of a better term, his side’s janitor.
With Thiago Silva suspended for Tuesday’s semi-final and Neymar reportedly out because of injury, his contribution will be even more important against Germany.
Attacker: James Rodriguez, Colombia
James Rodriguez’s World Cup ends with six goals and two assists. Even when the tournament comes to its end, few players will have made such an impact.
Against Brazil, the 22-year-old struggled to get into meaningful space as Fernandinho attacked him with tackle after tackle.
But after Julio Cesar conceded a late penalty, he calmly put the ball into the back of the net to pull Colombia back to within a goal.
Attacker: Neymar, Brazil
We have seen the last of Neymar at this World Cup.
According to the BBC, the Brazil forward sustained a fractured vertebra in his back on Friday and has already been ruled out of Tuesday’s semi-final against Germany as well as a prospective final.
His side’s spiritual leader, the 22-year-old picked up an assist on Thiago Silva’s opener against Colombia and also contributed a trio of tackles on the defensive side of the ball before being carried off on a stretcher.
Centre Forward: Thomas Mueller, Germany
Friday was not a good day for forwards.
Of the four goals scored between the two quarter-finals, three came from central defenders; the other was a penalty conversion.
But Germany’s Thomas Mueller put in a good shift against France. Operating off of Miroslav Klose, he enjoyed plenty of touches but just couldn’t squeeze off his customary number of shots.
The 24-year-old’s defensive contribution, however, was impressive, and no doubt he’ll be looking to end his mini goalscoring slump against Brazil on Tuesday.
All stats via WhoScored.com unless otherwise noted.