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World Cup 2014 : Soccer punch — A dream team that can give any side a run for their money

AP  Brasilia, June 28, 2014
First Published: 15:01 IST(28/6/2014) | Last Updated: 15:15 IST(28/6/2014)

Imagine having World Cup standouts Lionel Messi, Neymar, James Rodriguez and Arjen Robben all in the same team.

After two weeks and 48 group-stage games in what is widely considered the best World Cup in a generation, there are already some players who have shone above the rest.

Below is a composite team of the tournament so far, in the heavily favored 4-3-3 formation, selected by writers covering the World Cup for The Associated Press:

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Goalkeeper: Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico
Briefly punctured the euphoria in an expectant host nation by producing a series of stunning saves to secure Mexico a 0-0 draw against Brazil. One particular save, from Neymar's header, will go down in World Cup folklore. (Reuters Photo)

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Right Back: Serge Aurier, Ivory Coast
One of the few positives in an otherwise disappointing campaign for Ivory Coast, Aurier has stood out for his marauding thrusts down the right flank and his crossing ability that set up goals for Wilfried Bony and Gervinho in the 2-1 win over Japan. (Reuters Photo)

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Left Back: Junior Diaz, Costa Rica
The entire Costa Rica defense deserves credit for their entry into the round of 16, but the experienced Diaz gets the nod as he has complemented the attack, setting up Bryan Ruiz's goal against Italy with a superb cross from the left wing. (AFP Photo)

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Center Back: Rafael Marquez, Mexico
He has lost his long-time ponytail but the 35-year-old Marquez has retained the technical, positional and organisational skills that have helped guide Mexico into the last 16. (AFP Photo)

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Center Back: Thiago Silva, Brazil
As a nation frets around him, Thiago Silva has remained the unruffled presence at the heart of the Brazil defense, going about his business as quietly effective as ever. Four wins away from lifting the World Cup trophy on home soil — it doesn't get better than that for a footballer. (AFP Photo)

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Midfield: Charles Aranguiz, Chile
Has outshone the more illustrious Arturo Vidal in Chile's midfield and been key for "La Roja" both going forward and protecting what can be a jittery back four. He was also the player who sealed Spain's unceremonious exit from Brazil. (AFP Photo)

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Midfield: Blaise Matuidi, France
A midfield fulcrum during France's encouraging start to the tournament, Matuidi has passed astutely, tackled cleanly and covered the ground tirelessly in displays that don't often attract the headlines but are so appreciated by his teammates. (Reuters Photo)

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Midfield: James Rodriguez, Colombia
At the forefront of Colombia's eye-catching march into the knockout stage, Rodriguez has scored in all three games — including one of the solo goals of the tournament against Japan — and dazzled with his vision and technical ability. (Reuters Photo)

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Forward: Neymar, Brazil
The poster boy of the World Cup, Neymar came into the tournament under extreme pressure and is thriving on it. Two goals in the opening game against Croatia gave Brazil the perfect start and two more against Cameroon pushed the hosts into the last 16. (AFP Photo)

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Forward: Arjen Robben, Netherlands
Scoring two goals and dovetailing in devastating fashion with Robin van Persie, Robben helped rip Spain's defense apart in that jaw-dropping 5-1 win that signaled the end of an era for the now-deposed world champions. (Reuters Photo)

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Forward: Lionel Messi, Argentina
The Barcelona great and four-time Fifa Player of the Year is finally delivering on the world's greatest stage. Has scored four goals — two of which proved to be match-winners — and is carrying Argentina's attacking burden on his own while fellow strikers Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain struggle. (AFP Photo)

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Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto, Costa Rica
Costa Rica didn't just grind its way out of a tough group — the team went to-to-toe with Uruguay and Italy in its first two games and came away with two wins, four goals and a place in the last 16. The 61-year-old Pinto, who never played professionally, deserves credit for his bold and tactically astute approach. (AFP Photo)


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