December 30th, 2014 by manpilac
James Rodrguez of Colombia scores his teams first goal past Fernando Muslera during the round of 16 match with Uruguay at the Maracana. Photograph: Mike Hewitt – Fifa via Getty Images
Costa Rica were the surprise package of the World Cup, topping a group including Italy, Uruguay and England, before eliminating Greece and falling to Holland in the quarter-finals after a penalty shootout. That improbable run would not have been possible without a series of exceptional performances by their goalkeeper, Keylor Navas. The then 27-year-old won four man-of-the-match awards during the tournament the same number as Lionel Messi and afterwards joined Real Madrid, who triggered a release clause in his Levante contract by forking out around 7.9m. But Navas has yet to become first choice at his new club, making only four appearances this season as Madrid keep faith with Iker Casillas, who endured a hellish time at the World Cup and was thought to have left his best days behind him. But it seems Casillas remains Saint Iker at the Bernabu. It is to be hoped Navass best is not behind him already.
Another goalkeeping World Cup star currently on bench duty. The charismatic Mexican announced at the end of the last season that he would not renew his contract at Ajaccio, where he enjoyed three successful years. That prompted an outpouring of affection and good wishes from the French side and his performances in Brazil led to him being linked to some of Europes biggest clubs, notably Barcelona and Liverpool. He eventually signed for Mlaga, where he has failed to dislodge Cameroons Carlos Kameni from the No1 spot. He has not made a single appearance this season and is reported to be unhappy on the sidelines. Rumours of another transfer are already circulating, with Liverpool again featuring prominently in such stories. Simon Mignolet has been warned.
Supremely nimble and creative, the 5ft 9in former France youth international emerged as one of the most exciting midfielders of the last World Cup as he embroidered Algerias play with style and smartness. Porto showed their usual shrewdness by prising him from Granada for around 6.5m after the tournament, with several bigger clubs seemingly hesitant because of the players lack of height. Brahimi has since added himself to the long list of players who have gone on to prove that size does not matter and the 24-year-old has continued to thrill for his Portuguese club, scoring a fabulous Champions League hat-trick against BATE Borisov and starring in the win over Atltico Madrid. He is one of the best attacking midfielders in the world and was recently named African player of the year.
The player who famously could not even find himself in a box of Panini stickers before the World Cup commenced went on to become one of the outstanding players of Costa Ricas run to the quarter-finals. And Arsenal fans were looking forward to welcoming the 22-year-old back to the Emirates after work permit problems had forced him to embark on three loan stints elsewhere in recent years. Arsne Wenger seemed eager to give him a chance, making it clear that the player would not be sold in the summer and insisting that he loves the forward. This season, however, Campbell has been given only the one start, in the Capital One Cup defeat to Southampton, and is reported to be increasingly bemused as to why the club kept him.
The forward spent most of last season being jeered by Fulham fans who cited him as infuriating evidence of Martin Jols misplaced trust in has-beens. Few in the Craven Cottage crowd mourned when he was packed out on loan to PSV Eindhoven. And almost all were amazed by the dazzling and, most of all, dynamic displays that he produced for his country at the World Cup, where he crowned his performances with the winning goal against Italy and his teams goal in the last-16 game against Greece, won on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Somewhat surprisingly he did not change club in the summer but remained in the wilderness until Felix Magath was sacked as Fulham manager in mid-September. He has regained his place under the management of Kit Symons and scored four times in 18 appearances.
After keeping a record 11 consecutive clean sheets for Lille last season, the Nigerian secured his reputation as the best goalkeeper in Africa and one of the finest in the world with excellent performances at the World Cup. He continues to excel for Lille despite that clubs loss of form this season, but his international fortunes have deteriorated. After being condemned by some for calling on authorities to suspend the Africa Cup of Nations because of the Ebola crisis, Enyeama played in Nigerias 2-2 draw against South Africa, a result that meant the reigning champions failed to qualify for the tournament. The 32-year-old was on the five-man shortlist for African player of the year and is another goalkeeper regularly linked with Liverpool: he would certainly have the requisite skills with his feet as, in addition to his shot-saving ability, he has scored more than 20 times in his career, from free-kicks and penalties.
Yet another goalkeeper who enjoyed a strong World Cup, the widely travelled Algerian left CSKA Sofia in July to join Philadelphia Union. That was the latest step in a peripatetic career that has seen him play for clubs in Scotland, Japan, Russia, France, Bulgaria and now the United States. His debut for his latest club was delayed for a couple of months after he was involved in a car crash in France. He was handed the No92 shirt and has since made an inauspicious start to his career in the US, with his four appearances being most notable for a costly mistake against Chicago Fire that gifted a goal to another well-travelled professional, the former Cardiff City, West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City and Wales striker, Robert Earnshaw.
The striker hit three goals for Ecuador in Brazil (and one against England in a pre-tournament friendly), helping to persuade West Ham to splash out 12m to sign him from the Mexican side Pachuca, for whom he was the top scorer last season despite only joining in January. The now 25-year-old has adapted immediately to English football and thanks to his speed, trickery and exceptional aerial ability, helped to transform Sam Allardyces side into an uncharacteristically exciting combination, his partnership with the fellow new recruit Diafra Sakho being one of the success stories of the Premier League season. The last year, then, has brought huge progress in the career of a player who 14 months ago was still playing semi-professional football in Ecuador.
The Colombian returned from Brazil with the Golden Boot award and legions of new admirers, many of whom had been puzzled just a year previously when Monaco spent around 38m to lure him from Porto, where he helped them to three titles in a row. He scored nine goals in 38 appearances for Monaco and finished as the leading assist-provider in Ligue 1 before heading to the World Cup, where his performances inspired the belief that Colombia could win the tournament for the first time. His long-range goal against Uruguay was voted the best of tournament and his five others made him the top scorer. Real Madrid had seen enough to snap him up for nearly double the fee that Monaco paid. Rodrguez has looked at home alongside Cristiano Ronaldo et al, scoring and creating plenty of goals and, er, launching a personalised range of underpants.
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Top 10 World Cup stars from 2014: What happened next?
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