Lionel Messi earned the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball as FIFA named the Argentinian star the tournament's top player. Although he was held scoreless in the knockout rounds, he scored four group stage goals and guided his team all the way to the World Cup title game, where it ultimately lost 1-0 to Germany on Sunday.
Still, no player had the same type of impact as Messi. No, he didn't have an excellent game in the semifinals against the Dutch, but that's because he was being man-marked by two or three Dutch midfielders at a time. His dangerous forays into the box were always exciting and his touch, througout the tournament, was sublime. We can't ignore the perfect assist he had in the final minutes against Switzerland, either. With all the attention on Messi, he coolly slid a pass to Angel di Maria who found the back of the net.
Finally, Messi realized the form he typically shows for his club and was able to demonstrate it on an international stage. Entering the tournament, the debate was between Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar for the world's best player. Messi seized his chance and took his team further than it had been since 1990, which is more than either of the other contenders could say.
Rodriguez earns Golden Boot
With six goals in the 2014 World Cup, Colombia's James Rodriguez earned the Golden Boot, finishing one ahead of Thomas Muller.
The German will, of course, be more than content given that he's a World Cup champion after Germany beat Argentina 1-0 on Sunday afternoon. Muller's five goals came as a result of the offensive machine that Germany proved to be. Muller led Germany with five goals, while teammates Andre Schurrle (3), Toni Kroos and Miroslav Klose (2 each), scored multiple times.
But from Rodriguez's standpoint, his six goals were even more impressive given that his team was eliminated in the quarterfinals -- and the breakout star had two less games to reach his tally. Rodriguez notched one goal in every one of Colombia's matches while recording two assists as well. He may have had the goal of the tournament with his stunning volley against Uruguay.
No player increased his stock more than Rodriguez.
Neuer takes Golden Glove award:
Manuel Neuer lived up to his billing as the world's top keeper, engineering four shutouts en route to the World Cup title. His size and strength were massive assets for the German backline, which entered the tournament with serious question marks surrounding its defense.
Neuer lived dangerously a few times, bolting off his line to greet through or lofted balls ahead of on-coming strikers but he never missed. His timing was superb while acting as a keeper-sweeper as well. His confidence was never more evident than a late-game save against Argentina when he punched the ball clear of an oncoming forward only to catch it again, settled safely inside the box. He stood tall and held his angles against Lionel Messi -- the aforementioned best player at the tournament.
While Neuer never had to make as many eye-popping saves as Argentina's Sergio Romero or Costa Rica's Keylor Navas, his keeping throughout the tournament always gave Germany an advantage.