5 Players Whose Stock Rose in 2014 World Cup Semi-Finals

Rob Pollard@@RobPollard_Featured ColumnistJuly 10, 2014

5 Players Whose Stock Rose in 2014 World Cup Semi-Finals

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    The World Cup offers the biggest prize in football and a stage on which players who perform well will be remembered forever.

    This summer's event in Brazil has been one of the best in recent memory, a tournament full of attacking intent and eventful matches.

    The semi-final stage saw Germany inflict one of the heaviest ever World Cup defeats on Brazil, the host nation, who carried the weight of their country's expectation on their shoulders throughout the competition.

    It was a remarkable game that saw Brazil fall five goals behind inside half an hour, with the ruthless Germans going on to score another two before Oscar's late consolation.

    The image of David Luiz, red-eyed and shocked to the core stands as the abiding memory of an incredible 7-1 battering that sent shockwaves through the world of football.

    "This was not a team losing. It was a dream dying," said Daniel Taylor in The Guardian.

    It's difficult to disagree.

    The 0-0 draw between Argentina and the Netherlands in the other semi-final was far less entertaining, but the Albiceleste's dramatic 4-2 penalty shootout win sets up a potentially great match on Sunday—a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals.

    Here we take a look at five players whose reputation was enhanced by their showing in the semi-final. 

1. Toni Kroos

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    Toni Kroos, the 24-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder, produced a wonderful performance in his side's 7-1 thrashing of Brazil. There were many candidates for the Man of the Match award in this game, but Kroos pipped it.

    He scored two and made another in a bizarre six-minute period, and from then on it was his one-touch football and superb passing game that really shone.

    His first goal was a first-time left-footed strike that flew past Julio Cesar from the edge of the box; his second a tap-in after a one-two with Sami Khedira inside the area after he'd won the ball high up the pitch.

    It was a masterful display from a player who could go on to be remembered as one of the very best of this generation of German footballers. 

2. Thomas Mueller

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    There are very few players who can match the intelligence of Thomas Mueller. He opened the scoring in Germany's emphatic win, and he then used his famed movement and vision to cause all sorts of problems for the hosts for the rest of the game.

    Mueller is surely now ranked as one of the most valuable players in the game today. He has 10 World Cup goals in 12 matches and already has Miroslav Klose's record of 16 strikes in his sights.

3. Sami Khedira

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    Choosing which German players should feature in this list isn't easy given the brilliance on display in their superb win over Brazil, but a mention simply has to go to Sami Khedira, whose bursting runs and tireless efforts were key to the victory.

    He made the fourth goal and scored the fifth, proving too much for Brazil in the 19-minute period in the first half that saw five German goals. 

4. Javier Mascherano

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    Ahead of the tournament in Brazil, much of the talk surrounding Argentina concerned their array of attacking talent.

    Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Sergio Aguero and of course Lionel Messi were seen as the stars who would help deliver a World Cup triumph for Alejandro Sabella's side.

    However, it's Javier Mascherano who has arguably been the star of the show for the finalists.

    In the semi-final win over the Netherlands in Sao Paulo, Mascherano was everywhere, making a string of tackles that gave Argentina the defensive solidity they needed to keep the Dutch at bay—including one match-winning sliding challenge on Arjen Robben with just seconds remaining.

    When you see him perform so well in the defensive-midfield role he operated in at Liverpool, it's difficult to understand why he's used as a centre-back so often at Barcelona. His was a magnificent showing. 

5. Ron Vlaar

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    He may have missed the first penalty in the shootout defeat to Argentina, but Ron Vlaar produced a heroic performance for 120 minutes, which enhanced his reputation significantly.

    The Aston Villa man isn't one of the most decorated or celebrated players at the tournament, but his dogged resistance to Argentina's attacks was one of the most striking elements of this match.

    He made a series of well-timed challenges and interceptions to keep Argentina's significant attacking threat at bay. He was unfortunate to end up on the losing side, and he will now return home in a strong position to negotiate a new deal with his club side.