Picking a Best CONCACAF 2014 World Cup XI

Karla Villegas GamaFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2014

Picking a Best CONCACAF 2014 World Cup XI

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    For the first time in World Cup history three CONCACAF teams advanced to the knockout stage. The performance of some players throughout the tournament surprised many.

    After a shaky qualification process, Miguel Herrera managed to put together a dynamic and vertical Mexico team.

    Jurgen Klinsmann made some bold picks for his U.S. World Cup side, but in the end they worked.

    In the meantime, Jorge Luis Pinto stretched Costa Rica's momentum and made history.

    Honduras was the only CONCACAF squad that didn't shine, despite having powerful players such as Wilson Palacios and Carlo Costly.

    Let's take a look at the best 2014 World Cup XI from this confederation.

GK: Keylor Navas (CRC)

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    Guillermo Ochoa was impressive vs. Brazil and Netherlands, with quick saves on the line, while Tim Howard set an all-time record for his 16 saves against Belgium, but Keylor Navas is basically the reason why Costa Rica made the quarter-finals.

    The Levante goalkeeper was brilliant from the opening match against Uruguay, where he held off Edinson Cavani.

    He was also fundamental vs. Italy, as he denied Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano's chances more than once. There was little England's Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge could do to surprise the Costa Rican.

    Navas had three clean sheets, a 98 percent average claim rate and 10.50 average saves per goal, as reported by Squawka.com.

    During the round of 16, he endured Greece's onslaughts, especially after Oscar Duarte was sent off at the 66th minute.

    In that match he also rejected Theofanis Gekas' penalty kick.

LB: Junior Diaz (CRC)

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    Junior Diaz cleared 35 balls, made six interceptions and three blocks. His defensive skills were sharp in all five games in which he appeared.

    The Mainz 05 defender proved to be a very valuable player through the left flank, from where he assisted Bryan Ruiz in the second group-stage match.

    He recovered 27 balls and covered 55,902 meters, as reported by FIFA.com.

    Diaz's endurance was key for Costa Rica, as he had to run up and down on a regular basis.

    He joined the attack constantly, especially with long passes and diagonals.

CB: Rafael Marquez (MEX)

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    Experience and leadership were the key components of Rafael Marquez's performance.

    The Leon defender kept the Mexican defense tight, plus he became a fantastic libero when Jose Juan Vazquez was in distress in the midfield.

    Brazil 2014 was Marquez's fourth World Cup, and it showed. Despite being a 35-year-old footballer, the centre-back joined the attack when the team needed diversity.

    He became the second Mexican footballer to score in three World Cups, after a powerful header vs. Croatia.

    Marquez had one assist and one key pass, plus his average pass accuracy was 80 percent, as reported by Squawka.com.

CB: Giancarlo Gonzalez (CRC)

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    Giancarlo Gonzalez is just 26 years old, and he is already in charge of Costa Rica's five-man defensive line.

    He currently plays for MLS side Columbus Crew and amazed the world with his fierceness, mindset and physical form.

    FIFA.com reports that Gonzalez recovered 37 balls, made six blocks and completed 75.3 percent of his passes.

    His aerial game was sharp, as he won 13 out of 17 headed duels, according to Squawka.com.

    He was the man who stayed behind when his teammates joined the attacking zone, as well as the team's last filter before the rivals reached Keylor Navas' goal.

RB: Fabian Johnson (USA)

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    Before Fabian Johnson played in the World Cup, he had only appeared 22 times with the United States, and he had represented Germany through his youth years. 

    Johnson decided to switch allegiances in 2011 and has been a fantastic addition to the team ever since. 

    He is a versatile footballer who can play in different positions. With 1899 Hoffenheim he used to play as a left-back, but under Klinsmann's command he has been deployed to the right flank.

    In Brazil 2014 Johnson created three chances, via key passes, won all the tackles in which he was involved, made eight clearances and made four interceptions, as per Squawka.com.

     

LM: Andres Guardado (MEX)

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    Andres Guardado had not been at his best, and that was one of the reasons why Valencia loaned him to Bayer Leverkusen during the past winter transfer window.

    However, Guardado went back to his old self with Mexico, just in time to make an impact during the World Cup.

    He took over Carlos Pena's spot after three superb appearances during the warm-ups.

    Once in Brazil, Guardado became a thriving force through the left flank. He sent crosses and deadly diagonals to the box regularly.

    His efforts paid off, and he scored once vs. Croatia. He created five chances in four games and had a 78 percent pass accuracy, as per Squawka.com.

DM: Jose Juan Vazquez (MEX)

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    When an injury sidelined Juan Carlos Medina from the World Cup, it seemed to be the toughest blow for Miguel Herrera's side.

    However, El Piojo found in Jose Juan Vazquez the perfect midfielder for his 5-3-2 formation.

    The Leon footballer had a stellar performance in Brazil, which could have been even better if he hadn't missed the round-of-16 clash vs. Netherlands, due to suspension.

    According to Squawka.com, his 91 percent average pass accuracy was the team's highest; proving to be a fantastic link with the offensive line, as he sent 103 passes to the front.

    El Gallito registered five interceptions, three clearances and one block.

CM: Celso Borges (CRC)

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    Celso Borges became a fantastic link between Costa Rica's lines, especially with the offense, through passes from the center of the pitch.

    The AIK central midfielder became the team's ball-feeder. His fine touch and ability to keep the ball helped him complete 80 percent of his passes and recover 21 balls, as per FIFA.com.

    Borges registered an average top speed of 27.12 km/h, which came in handy when he created plays through the center of the pitch.

    He also took his chances in the attacking zone and made three shots, although he couldn't change the score with any of them.

CM: Hector Herrera (MEX)

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    Hector Herrera had already proven to be a world-class player when he was part of the U-23 squad that won the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

    He can play as a central midfielder or right midfielder with the same success. Herrera's ball possession is fantastic, plus his dribbling skills allow him to join the attack easily.

    Herrera has a powerful long-distance shot, which he used on various occasions during the tournament and ultimately sent the ball to the crossbar twice; he also registered one assist, as per FIFA.com.

    The Porto midfielder also recovered 17 balls and created 11 goal opportunities.

RM: Bryan Ruiz (CRC)

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    Bryan Ruiz was named Man of the Match against Italy, as he scored the only goal of the game, which helped Costa Rica secure the first spot of Group D.

    Ruiz was Los Ticos' top scorer, as he also netted once vs. Greece, securing his 15th international goal.

    Overall, he made three solo runs into the area, made four deliveries to the box and put 60 percent of his attempts on target, as per FIFA.com.

    His speed and touch were key when he took his chances from outside the box, while his aerial game gave the team more options to attack the rivals.

ST: Joel Campbell (CRC)

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    Joel Campbell's performance earned him good reviews from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. According to The Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson, the coach is ready to take the Costa Rican back for the pre-season.

    It all started with his first appearance against Uruguay, where he displayed his speed and strength by scoring one goal and assisting Marco Urena for the third one.

    During the World Cup group stage, Campbell suffered 10 tackles, and he kept the ball in eight of them. His top speed was clocked at 31.1 km/h in the round-of-16 clash vs. Greece, according to FIFA.com.

    He is one of the most unbalancing strikers out there, and he proved it by making 13 solo runs into the area.