By Shane Thomas
Iker Casillas - (Spain)
Was unfairly castigated for the goal that led to Spain's defeat in their opening game to Switzerland. But made a crucial penalty save in the quarter-final that was as important as David Villa's winning goal and was one of the players of the final. Had Casillas not rescued Spain twice when Arjen Robben burst through the match would have been out of sight long before their extra-time winner.
Special Mentions: Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)
Sergio Ramos - (Spain)
At the start of his second spell in charge of Real Madrid, I have it on very, very good authority that Fabio Capello was driven to distraction by the stubbornness of Ramos to improve his defensive qualities. Indeed, for much of his career, Ramos seemed to be defender in name only. But in the past year, he has to be one of world football's most improved players. He is now a good deal more solid without losing the forward thrusts that are a pre-requisite of the full-back position these days.
Special Mentions: Maicon (Brazil), Gregory Van Der Wiel (Netherlands), John Paintsil (Ghana)
Carlos Salcido - (Mexico)
He first caught my eye after impressing against England in a pre-World Cup game. Dangerous coming forward, with an eye for long range shooting on either foot, at times Salcido was Mexico's most potent attacking threat. If there's any sense he'll be playing in a major European league within in the next 12 months.
Special Mentions: Ashley Cole (England), Fabio Coentrao (Portugal)
Joris Mathijsen - (Netherlands)
Mathijsen did an excellent job of holding together the Dutch back line in what was one of the competition's tightest defences. Even in the odious violence of the final, Mathijsen was one of the few to come out of the match with any professional dignity, which is the way that he conducted himself on the pitch throughout the World Cup.
Mauricio Victorino - (Uruguay)
Uruguay were probably the most well organised side in South Africa. But if I have to single out one player it has to be Victorino. He was a mammoth presence in both the quarter-final and semi-final. He may never produce the same level of performance again but on the game's biggest stage, Victorino was a colossus.
Special Mentions: Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique (both Spain), Juan (Brazil), Bruno Alves (Portugal), Ryan Nelsen (New Zealand), Simon Kjaer (Denmark), Per Mertesacker, Arne Friedrich (both Germany), Diego Lugano (Uruguay), John Mensah (Ghana)
Xavi - (Spain)
If Xavi is in your team, and is playing well, then your team will win a hell of a lot of games. There is not a better player in his position and there hasn't been for about a decade. Xavi had a good tournament and Spain won the World Cup. Simple really.
Bastian Schweinsteiger - (Germany)
Schweinsteiger started the season unable to find a place on the flanks for his club. So in a lesson that English footballers would do well to pay attention to, he converted himself from an attacking wide man to a midfield playmaker. And what a conversion it's been. He ran the show in Germany's defeat of England and gave the best individual performance of the competition as they gave Argentina a hammering. Was not far off being player of the tournament in my eyes.
Special Mentions: Alvaro Pereira (Uruguay), Michael Bradley (USA), Kevin Prince-Boateng (Ghana), Xabi Alonso (Spain)
Thomas Muller - (Germany)
Muller was the unsung attacker in Bayern Munich's run to the Champions League final. After this summer, Muller is unlikely to be unsung for much longer. He has that happy knack of knowing where the ball will be before it arrives. Combine this with excellent touch, mobility and a cool head in the final third. And let's not forget Muller won the Golden Boot. Fast becoming one of my favourite players to watch.
Special Mentions: Alexis Sanchez (Chile), Elano (Brazil), Arjen Robben (Netherlands), Landon Donovan (USA)
Andres Iniesta - (Spain)
Amongst the best attacking midfield players in the world, and is producing his best when it matters most. Spain often came up against compact teams who set out to frustrate the new World Champions. And often it was Iniesta who found the skeleton key needed to unlock any defence. 'The gloworm' is a shining light in a game that is fast excluding its cavaliers in favour of homogenous roundheads. We should treasure players like Iniesta.
Special Mentions: Robinho (Brazil), Andre Ayew (Ghana), Gervinho (Ivory Coast), Yasuhito Endo (Japan)
Diego Forlan - (Uruguay)
Not only did Forlan have to play in a position that he's never had to play in before, but he did so after a mammoth season for Atletico Madrid. In addition to all their league fuxtures, 'Atleti' also got to the finals of both the Europa League & the Copa Del Rey. If anyone had a list of ready made excuses to underperform at this World Cup, it was Forlan. And yet, he was absolutely brilliant, carrying Uruguay to their best World Cup performance in the modern era, deservedly winning the Golden Ball award for player of the tournament. Well he's not just FIFA's star man. He's also mine.
Special Mentions: Wesley Sniejder (Netherlands), Keisuke Honda (Japan), Mesut Ozil (Germany)
David Villa - (Spain)
It beggars belief how it has taken people so long to notice what a player Villa is. His scoring record over the past few years beats all-comers. And from his electric goal to get Spain going against Honduras to his repeated contributions up to the final in Johannesburg, Villa was Spain's go-to guy. There is not a more lethal and mobile centre-forward on the planet right now, and showed his flexibility by operating just as dangerously for Spain from the left as down the middle.
Miroslav Klose (Germany), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
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