Stats Zone World Cup 2014 Team of the Tournament
Centre-back: Ron Vlaar (NED)
There was a moment early on in that era-ending group opener between Spain and the Netherlands when Diego Costa, the feared Chelsea-bound striker expected to take the world champions up another notch, was calmly robbed of the ball by Ron Vlaar, hitherto known to most Premier League watchers as the leader of a dodgy Aston Villa defence. As the inattentive youth of today might say: Wait, what?
Truth is, Villa fans have known for a while how important "Concrete Ron" is to their team: of the seven games he missed last season, they lost six. At the World Cup, often playing in a three-centre-back formation which covered for any lack of pace, Vlaar was in his element.
Although he didn't top the tournament in any defensive category, he was high up the list for most: only Garay made more clearances (63) or headed clearances (38); only five men made more blocks than his 5. His 21 interceptions were topped only by team-mate Stefan de Vrij (25) and Brazil's Luis Gustavo (23), while only three men won more than his 18 aerial duels.