First of all, I want nobody to be under the impression that I think Lionel Messi had a bad tournament. He carried what was an ultimately disappointing to the knock out rounds, and although his goals dried up, he continued to create chances for his Argentina side right up to the final. In spite of this, I, along with the majority of the footballing world, believe Lionel Messi was far from deserving his Golden Ball. I'm normally not one for a conspiracy theory, but the idea that Adidas (who now sponsor the Golden Ball award) wanted their prized asset to win the Golden Ball and thus ensured it was awarded to him sounds very believable and likely. Or, FIFA just thought he was the best player. Either way, here's five players I think deserved the Golden Ball more than Lionel Messi.
Commanding and imperious, most fans believe Manuel Neuer to be the best Goalkeeper in the World right now, and who can blame them? Utterly fearless when coming off his line, he regularly helped his defence out when he needed to be coming well out of his area to clear the ball. The game that stands out is the last 16 tie against Algeria, where he constantly swept behind his defence to intercept and keep an extremely plucky Algerian frontline at bay for almost 120 minutes. There was one instance vs Algeria, where he almost came out to the touchline to put in a slide tackle on Islam Slimani. His cockiness is noticeable, yet it is 100% backed up by his performances. He has no fear of being embarrassed by an opposition striker, and he inspired the German defence throughout the tournament; statistically, he overshadowed all other Goalkeepers at the tournament, but the most telling stat is his clearances per 90, which ended at .91 per match according to Squawka. By comparison, Tim Howard and Hugo Lloris ended at .23 and .20 per match respectively.
Another very experienced German, his performances in the centre of midfield were simply awesome for large parts of the tournament; mixing passing and technical ability with grit and pure determination, he was a crucial part of the wining side. He won 57% of headers that he contested and his pass completion was right up there with the best at the tournament, standing at 89%. What stats cannot measure is mentality and passion, and he displayed this in abundance in the final, putting in countless blocks and even stayed on after receiving a severe gash to the face courtesy of Sergio Aguero; a worthy World Cup winner.
The lynchpin of the Argentinian midfield, his defensive contribution was outstanding as Argentina reached their first World Cup final since 1990. His battle with Bastian Schweinsteiger in the final was one for the ages, with the two battling out a fairly even midfield contest. Mascherano's role for is country at the World Cup was somewhat limited in an attacking sense, as he often sat in front of the back four, looking to break up opposition attacks and play a simple pass to a more creative player, which is shwon by is 89% pass completion; he was aware of his role, and stuck to it brilliantly,. This is best shown by the amount of interceptions he made throughout the tournament, averaging at a monstrous 2.33 per 90, according to Squawka. Bastian Schweinsteiger appears deeply unimpressive by comparison, with .36 interceptions per 90.
The Dutchman was at his destructive best during the tournament, and the way he dismantled Spain in Netherlands' first game was almost horrifying to watch, such was the way he made the World Champions look so... ordinary. The image of him hurtling past Sergio Ramos at a record breaking speed will live long in the memory of many football fans, although I'm sure it's one 47 million Spaniards will want to forget. He terrified many fullbacks during the tournament, and his trickery down the flanks made him extremely difficult to stop. His successful take ons per 90 stand at a hugely impressive 68% success rate; this dribbling ability coupled with an excellent final ball and shot led to four goals and assists in just seven games.
James enjoyed an unbelievable tournament, inspiring Colombia to their best ever finish at a World Cup finals tournament. He scored six goals in only 5 games, and became the first ever Colombian to win the prestigious Golden Boot. He was the figurehead of many Colombian attacks as they breezed through their group with 9 points, and was rightly given a heroes welcome when he returned to Colombia. Many have suggested Rodriguez should have won the Golden Ball award, and with six goals and two assists in five games, who can say they are wrong?