World Cup 2014: Best XI of Day 5 with Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos, Tim Howard
Another day of World Cup action has passed us by, with Day 5 seeing the first draw of Brazil 2014, along with a couple of big wins in crunch clashes.
Germany swept aside Portugal with contemptuous ease—and the help of the red mist of Pepe—while USA picked up a late, vital victory over Ghana in the same group.
Nigeria and Iran's draw has been the only letdown of the tournament so far—but let's pick our XI of the day and see if any players from even that dull game managed to work their way in.
GK: Tim Howard, USA
United States goalkeeper Tim Howard was easily the day's best stopper, making a few comfortable saves but more importantly being alert and competent to deal with danger before it could be transformed into a chance on goal.
He swept up behind his defence, claimed high balls with confidence and distributed well to his defence, keeping calm and organising those in front of him.
He was beaten near the end with a shot he couldn't do much about; he put in a telling performance nonetheless.
RB: Fabian Johnson, USA
USA's marauding right-back Fabian Johnson had a great game, looking sound defensively—until very late on when fatigue seemed to catch up with him—and offering a constant outlet down the flank.
His runs constantly opened up the pitch for United States to counter in the first half, but he wasn't always sought out by his team-mates. Even so, those runs attracted defensive attention, which in turn opened gaps for other midfield runners to look to exploit.
One final lung-bursting run saw Johnson win a corner late in the game—which turned into the winning goal.
CB: Geoff Cameron, USA
The United States came under considerable pressure in the second half as Ghana sought to get back in the game, and Geoff Cameron was their pillar at the back.
The versatile defender kept Ghana at bay time and time again with a series of headers, clearances and good positioning, forcing the attackers to turn back to retain possession or else waste it with an unclear shot.
CB: Benedikt Howedes, GER
Germany opted to go with four natural centre-backs in their back line against Portugal, with Schalke 04's Benedikt Howedes starting on the left side, though we're slotting him into his more familiar position for our team.
Howedes showed good positional ability and strength to slow Nani down on the outside several times, eliminating the threat of a shot or free cross from the winger, and also edged forward in support of the midfield when possible.
Not a natural attacking threat, he did a good job of recycling possession and was reliable in clearing balls into Germany's penalty area.
LB: Mehrdad Pooladi, IRA
We might not have expected too many Iran players to feature in our XI of the day, but to a man, they were better than their Nigerian counterparts.
The most impressive performer was left-back Mehrdad Pooladi, who defended strongly and held his line well, denied the right-sided players room to cross—though was aided by Efe Ambrose's ineptitude in that regard, too—and made a succession of clearances from long, diagonal balls.
Pooladi also broke forward a few times when Iran had the chance to counter, sending over a couple of dangerous crosses. Nobody in the match was spectacular, but Pooladi did his job very well.
CM: Sami Khedira, GER
Sami Khedira has barely played any football this year, but you might not have known it based on his performance for Germany against Portugal.
His midfield play was exceptional on and off the ball, driving into space when the opportunity presented itself to stretch the Portuguese defence and linking up well with his team-mates with neat, one-touch triangle passes.
Defensively, he worked hard to deny Portugal space to play through centrally, making clearances around the edge of his own penalty box when needed.
CM: Kyle Beckerman, USA
One of the biggest stars of United States' win was combative central midfielder Kyle Beckerman.
He harassed, closed down, made tackles and sought to push the U.S. second line up the field whenever possible, never giving Jordan Ayew a second on the ball and helping his full-backs double-up down the channels when needed.
Beckerman was aggressive, relentless in his running and used the ball well, a vital presence in the centre for his team's win.
RM: Mesut Ozil, GER
Mesut Ozil and the rest of the German attack swarmed over Portugal in the first half, all but wrapping up the win inside 45 minutes.
Ozil drifted in off the flank, beating his man with movement and ghosting behind the back line whenever possible.
He should have scored with a straightforward finish, but that was a rare blot on a game when he was creative and able to use the spaces afforded to him between midfield and defensive lines.
AM: Toni Kroos, GER
Toni Kroos played as the most advanced central midfielder for Germany. He enjoyed free rein to link play, sent through passes to runners and generally tormented the Portugal back line all game long.
He drifted deep to pick up the ball, was allowed to turn and face goal and no opponent ever came to grips with his retention and invention once in possession.
Long or short, sideways or penetrative, Kroos used the ball to perfection, picked up an assist and was Germany's big catalyst for their pass-and-move approach.
LM: Mario Gotze, GER
Mario Gotze will have the world's eyes on him to perform this summer, and he made a decent start against Portugal.
Playing from the left side, Gotze was heavily involved in Germany's impressive buildup play, swiftly moving into the centre-forward's position at times and finding some nice one-touch moves with his team-mates' excellent attacking movement.
Gotze also won the penalty that put Germany ahead in the game.
CF: Thomas Mueller, GER
Thomas Mueller was the match-winner, sticking a hat-trick past Portugal for Germany in their 4-0 win.
His movement and work rate was of paramount importance and his impressive finish for the second goal showed real striker's instinct from his starting position as centre-forward.
Mueller takes the early lead in the Golden Boot race as a result of his treble.