Grading Every Germany Player at the 2014 World Cup
In a manner only too befitting of this footballing nation, Germany overcame Argentina in the final of the World Cup with a collective performance that trounced any individual brilliance that the South Americans could muster.
Joachim Low's side certainly have their own stars—from Arsenal's record-breaking signing Mesut Ozil to Bayern Munich's cast of Euro-conquering warriors—yet there was no individual in this side who dared stand out and steal the limelight from his side on Sunday night. Germany had reached the final as a team and eventually went on to win it as a team.
As such, with the benefit of hindsight, we can now dive into this squad of world champions and deduce just which players performed to their best ability.
Here are the World Cup grades of each German player.
Note: We will be grading these players based not only on the amount of times they played for Germany, but the impact they had on their country's overall success at the tournament. Impact subs deserve just as much credit as those who started each game. As such, we will not be including players who never featured for Low's side in this tournament.
Although Ozil found himself shifted out to the left of Germany's 4-3-3 formation, rather than his old role as No. 10 in previous competitions, and often found himself drifting through earlier games in the competition, the Arsenal midfielder kept his best performances for the crunch games later in the World Cup.
According to WhoScored.com, no German player made more key passes against Argentina than Ozil over the course of his 119 minutes on the pitch Sunday night.
Perhaps not the box-to-box attacking midfielder that we once saw for Germany years ago, but certainly still a very good footballer who brought plenty to this side.
With five goals and three assists in seven games for Germany at this World Cup, according to WhoScored.com, Thomas Mueller was undoubtedly the key attacking threat for his nation throughout this historic tournament.
Although the Bayern forward was unable to bag a goal in the final and catch James Rodriguez for the Golden Boot award, we reckon the World Cup trophy will prove more than ample compensation.
A striker seemingly built for tournament football and undoubtedly one of the pillars upon which Low built this world-conquering side on.
As one of the more controversial members of this Germany side due to his untested role as fill-in left-back from day one, Benedikt Hoewedes eventually grew into his position and proved his worth in the end.
German fans across the world would have been biting their nails following worrying performances against Ghana, the USA and Algeria, but once Low tweaked his formation, we saw Hoewedes solidify himself as a defensive full-back and ensure Germany conceded just once goal in their final three games.
Not the biggest or most talented star in the squad, but a player who did exactly what was asked of him to ever-impressive precision as the stakes grew and grew.
Like many defenders of his style throughout the game, Jerome Boateng suffered from being too handy in a number of positions.
Initially playing as a full-back in Low's opening 4-3-3 formation throughout the group stages, the Bayern defender did absolutely fine despite the centre-back pairing beside him showing constant struggle against pacey opponents.
It was only once Low pulled Philipp Lahm back into defence and Boateng inside beside Mats Hummels that we saw Germany look a little confident in front of their own goal. Alongside Hummels, Boateng looked at home and was outstanding in Germany's quarter-final clash against France and the final itself against Argentina.
For years to come we'll look back on a laboured Lionel Messi who found himself constantly harassed by the forward charges of this towering Bayern defender. A player who continues to grow and grow as one of Europe's most undervalued central defenders.
Where would Germany have been without their behemoth of a goalkeeper between the posts throughout this competition?
Manuel Neuer may have already been considered amongst the best prior to this competition, but through his imaginative approach to goalkeeping and his resourceful desire to play as a sweeper, the Bayern shot-stopper confirmed himself as the world's greatest by the end of the competition.
Key saves against the likes of Karim Benzema, Oscar and even Messi seem like a logical yardstick to judge this towering champion of the game with, but instead it's his counter-attacking throwouts, his inch-perfect charges in one-on-one situations and his utter dominance in the air from each defending corner that put Neuer above the rest.
It comes with little surprise that it took another great goalkeeper to make Germany great once again.
To call Philipp Lahm "consistent" sounds like something of an understatement. The captain of this World Cup-winning squad was simply outstanding in each and every game on the road to the final, despite playing in midfield and eventually back in defense.
In the centre of the park, Lahm offered solace from the injured legs of Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger with the kind of defensive midfield performances that would have had his club manager Pep Guardiola purring in his seat.
Yet it was once the Bayern captain made his way back to full-back that we saw him at his best. Twisting and turning in the opposition half with late runs and inch-perfect passing, Lahm offered everything in attack whilst never letting his opposite number get behind him on his own flank.
Quite simply the best right-back in world football at the moment and a worthy captain to this World Cup-winning side.
Toni Kroos may no longer be a Bayern player in the Bundesliga next season, but his contributions to German football will be felt for decades to come.
Like Lahm, Kroos was often asked to stick in a shift in the defensive aspect of Germany's midfield while Low continued to wait for the fitness of Schweinsteiger and Khedira. Yet it was once the aforementioned pair got back into the swing of things that we saw the No. 10 move forward and really thrive.
Throughout the competition Kroos scored two goals and created three assists—Mueller was the only German player to create more, according to WhoScored.com—and was undoubtedy Germany's key playmaker as they marched towards the final.
Although Hummels didn't quite start every game for Germany in this World Cup—missing the Algeria game through injury—the Dortmund star was undoubtedly one of this side's key players.
The German defence with and without Hummels was as clear as night and day, with Jurgen Klopp's favoured defender offering performance after performance to showcase just why he's considered amongst the best in the world at centre-back.
Like Boateng, Hummels will undoubtedly find himself immortalized in the pages of history for a final performance against Argentina that ensured we saw nothing of the best player in the world. This defender was absolutely necessary to any German success this summer.
Many will remember the final of the 2014 World Cup with the image of Mario Goetze calmly slotting the ball home late on in extra time, but for some it will be the blood, bruises and tears of Schweinsteiger throughout the match.
It may have been Goetze up one end who stole the limelight, while Neuer theatrically defended his goalmouth down the other, but it was Schweinsteiger who fought valiantly in the midfield battlefield that really deserves our applause.
The German and Bayern vice-captain may not have been at his best or fittest at the start of this competition, but with his desire and match sharpness we saw Schweinsteiger's performances grow and grow until they reached their peak on Sunday night.
A wonderful conclusion from one of the best midfielders of this generation.
Despite many considering his place in the starting lineup all but taken by Lahm, Khedira eventually won back the hearts of fans and Germany's coaches alike with performances that complemented Low's midfield perfectly.
Although the Real Madrid star missed out on the final with a late injury just prior to kick-off, many fans will fondly look back on his passionate display against Brazil to ensure his team reached the defining match of the tournament.
If there was one player who truly improved himself for Germany at this World Cup, it was Chelsea's wide forward Andre Schurrle.
Often considered something of a reserve player over the past few years for Low's side whilst at Bayer Leverkusen, Schurrle has clearly seen his confidence skyrocket whilst in London, and it was clear for all to see throughout this competition.
Despite never actually starting a game for Germany in the tournament, Schurrle scored three goals en route to the final whilst also contributing an assist, as recorded by WhoScored.com.
It was perhaps most fitting that the forward was called upon just half an hour into the final against Argentina, when Christoph Kramer was taken off with a head injury, and proved decisive with the cross that led to Goetze's winning goal.
One player with a very bright future ahead of him for Germany.
No player has scored more goals in the World Cup than Miroslav Klose.
Although this competition was all about collective brilliance and Germany's team performance winning the ultimate prize at the end of the day, we can't do this without taking a small timeout to congratulate Klose on what he has accomplished.
As if to rub in the extent of Germany's dominance at this tournament, 36-year-old Klose ran like a fledgling international at the start of his career whenever he came on or started for Low's side.
A penalty-box striker who offered so much in the build-up play and closing down all over the pitch—a player Germany will gravely miss.
Mario Goetze won the World Cup for Germany on Sunday night.
When we consider the importance of Goetze to this side throughout the competition, his stock tends to follow ever so slightly. Yet it would be impossible to grade his World Cup without taking that career-defining goal into account.
To put it quite simply: Goetze did very little for Germany in the lead up to this World Cup final. He looked disinterested, tired and anything but the player he once was at Dortmund—as Bayern fans will surely testify following last season's displays.
Yet it was one moment of magic that turned it all around for him. A cushioned chest and a carefully-calibrated volley in front of billions of viewers across the world, and all of a sudden he went from zero to hero.
An immensely talented young footballer who proved that he can win any match when he wants to.
Per Mertesacker has been an outstanding player for Arsenal in the English Premier League for a number of years now and often committed himself to the German national team with nothing but absolute conviction, yet he was undoubtedly one of this side's more disappointing performers.
Quite rightfully, many will state that the Arsenal defender was simply not right for the system that Low wanted to play, but with his exclusion from the German defense came a solidity that went on to win the trophy for his nation.
A good defender in his own right, but perhaps not one that suited this German style of football.
Shkodran Mustafi is a talented, young defender from Sampdoria who should have perhaps played a larger part in Germany's success at the World Cup.
A centre-back by trade, Mustafi got his shot in the round of 16 against Algeria when he started at right-back to allow Boateng to move infield to replace the injured Hummels.
Yet the defender looked anything but comfortable against the African side—like most of his teammates that night—and was unfortunately taken off injured in the 70th minute. As later reported by FIFA, Mustafi had tore muscle fibres in his left thigh and was out of the competition.
A player for the future who was unfortunately ruled out of the competition before he could really make much of an impact.
Despite playing a very small part in Germany's success at this World Cup, the promise and potential of Kramer was clear for all to see whenever he came on late against Algeria and France.
The Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder is an all-around performer in the middle of the park and clearly brought a wealth of talent to the German side when called upon.
So confident in the 23-year-old's ability was Low that he chose to start him in the World Cup final when news of Khedira's injury had finally sunk in. The first start of Kramer's tournament had came in the most important match of his life.
Unfortunately it was not be, when the central midfielder went off in the 32nd minute with a head injury. Kramer has little to show for his time away with Germany at this World Cup, but will undoubtedly be relishing his chances of a more integrated role in years to come.
It's often quite hard to forget that Julian Draxler is just 20 years old. Despite already proving himself as Schalke's commander-in-chief in the Bundesliga each week, the left-sided playmaker has yet to really impose himself on Low's plans for Germany.
As such, we saw just 14 minutes of the young prodigy at this tournament, when he came on late in the day against a Brazil side that had long since ceased caring about the outcome of the match.
Like Kramer, Draxler will have very little to take from this competition, but he will be hopeful of his contributions to his national team in the future.
Despite only playing around 60 minutes of football at this World Cup, you would be forgiven for assuming that Lukas Podolski was a key player for Germany.
So true are his intentions and desire to do whatever he can for his side that Podolski was more often seen congratulating or cheerleading his teammates at the side of the pitch rather than doing anything of specific significance on it.
At 29 years of age, we may yet see another bow from the Arsenal forward at the Euros in 2016 or even the next World Cup in Russia, but for now he looks to keep his back seat for the German national team.
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