Five outstanding performers

SCORING SUBSTITUTES

This has been a World Cup for substitutes. Before the final, no less than 31 players had scored after coming on as replacements. Different theories abound to explain the phenomenon. Many seem to agree with the assumption that since a lot of matches in the tournament were played in hot temperatures, players got tired earlier than usual and this was an obvious advantage for the fresher ones. Especially Belgium benefited from this as four of its six goals in the tournament were scored by substitutes. However, none of the Argentinean substitutes could score!

LOUIS VAN GAAL

Many doubted whether the Dutch would even progress past the group stage; the apprehensions were greater because Louis van Gaal had been unveiled as the next Manchester United manager before the World Cup began. But not many reckoned with his spirit and tactical nous.

During van Gaal's previous tenure, Netherlands had failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. The Dutchman had a point to prove and he did it in his inimitable style.

Use of various formations, putting players in unusual positions and timely substitutions defined van Gaal's tournament.

JORGE LUIS PINTO

He could look funnily angry at times, but there was nothing to suggest he was furious at the end of the World Cup. Costa Rica had enhanced its reputation by miles; Jorge Luis Pinto did a little better than that. When it came to defensive organisation, arguably, no side was better prepared than CostaRica. Italy, England and Netherlands failed to score against the North American team as it entered the quarter finals for the first time. Pinto also deserves credit for fostering a wonderful team spirit within the side.

JAVIER MASCHERANO

As Arjen Robben threatened to knock Argentina out of the World Cup towards the end of regulation time in their semifinal, Mascherano tore his anus to produce a masterful tackle that quelled danger. Yes, as strange as it sounds, that's what he did. And you wouldn't expect anything less from the Barcelona player.

In a World Cup that saw an unending focus on Lionel Messi, Mascherano was a silent hero for the Argentines. He stridently protected his defenders and distributed the ball cleverly through the tournament.

JAMES RODRIGUEZ James Rodriguez came into the tournament as a potential star; he was fully gleaming by the time Colombia was knocked out in the quarters. Six goals and a couple of assists by the Monaco player lit up the World Cup and he became every neutral's favourite. His reputation was enhanced when he fought off Brazil's targeted fouling ploy in quarterfinals to deliver an impressive second half performance.

As the final whistle con- rmed Colombia's exit, James sobbed uncontrollably. It was a sad moment; for until then, he had elicited only smiles around the world.

PRIYANSH