Player of the Round:
Xhedan Shaqiri deserves huge mention for his trio of goals against Honduras that sent Switzerland through to the last 16, but this honour should go to one of the world’s best at the moment, Argentina’s Lionel Messi. His two goals against Nigeria were top-class, helping his nation to top spot in their group. The second was especially exquisite: a long range free-kick curler that Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama would not even want to dive for. After his other long range curler in the last game that broke Iranian hearts right at the death, Messi has finally shown some tournament form worthy of his big reputation. The little magician will have to continue to produce in the last 16 showdown against the Swiss, where it could very well be the Messi versus Shaqiri show.
Shock of the Round:
Well, most eyes will be pealed towards Luis Suarez, his bite on Giorgio Chiellini, and the subsequent 9 international match and 4 month worldwide ban, but let’s keep this to purely football. And of course it has to be Greece’s progression into the second round. Going into the final group game against the much-fancied Ivory Coast, Greece had not even scored a single goal and got thrashed by Colombia in their first game. Greek midfielder Andreas Samaris got the go-ahead goal before half-time, but as Swansea’s Wilfried Bony struck back to seemingly put the African nation in the driver’s seat, the referee expertly spotted a clip on Georgios Samaras and gave the penalty which the Greek striker buried to send the un-fancied Euro 2004 champions through to a last 16 game with fellow surprise package Costa Rica.
Goal of the Round:
There were so many to choose from for this round of games: David Villa’s improvised flick, Shaqiri’s first of three goals, Messi’s sublime free kick and Nigerian Ahmed Musa’s first goal against Argentina. But as may be a surprise to some, this honour goes to James Rodriguez’s solo effort against Japan. Collecting the ball on the edge of the area, Rodriguez cuts onto his weaker right foot, before pushing out wide back to his dominant left foot. Rodriguez then calmly chips the ball over the onrushing Japanese goalkeeper to seal the 4-1 victory for Colombia. It may not be a curling spectacular, but the skill and composure involved in this is second to none.
Effect of the Round:
After the last round of games brought the curtain down on the group stage, the race for the Golden Boot is truly on. The respective doubles for Messi and Neymar in their countries’ respective victories brought them onto 4 goals, but they were soon joined by Germany’s Thomas Müller, who added his fourth for the tournament after a super side foot effort from the edge of the area against the USA. Not to mention the Dutch duo breathing down their necks, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, and they seem to have a good chance of goals with Mexico next and then a possible encounter with either Greece or Costa Rica. Also, who would have thought one of Greece or Costa Rica would be in the last 8 of the World Cup?