Player of the Round:
Gary Medel, Guillermo Ochoa, Tim Howard all have two things in common. They were arguably the standout players for their countries in their respective last 16 clashes, but they were also on the losing side. As much as they deserve even more recognition than they have already gained, this accolade has to go to Colombia’s James Rodriguez, as he inspired his Colombia side to a comfortable 2-0 victory over fellow South American side Uruguay. His first effort, a magnificent long-range touch-and-volley that would be a strong contender for goal of the tournament, and his second, through good movement and some smart anticipation, helped his side to a comfortable lead with still 40 minutes to play. Rodriguez leads the race for the Golden Boot right now, and inevitably is wanted by the elite European sides.
Trend of the Round:
Late drama has been a feature for most of the last 16 clashes so far. Brazil was a crossbar away from being knocked out by Mauricio Pinilla and Chile, while Germany had to hold off an Algerian scare when they themselves took and extended their lead late in extra-time. The Netherlands found some resolve and fought back from a goal down to equalise late in the game, before an even later injury-time penalty sealed their comeback victory over Mexico. Greece found their own resolve too, when they equalised in the first minute of injury-time against 10-men Costa Rica, only to come undone in the ensuing penalty shootout. Argentina needed a late Angel Di Maria extra-time winner to see off Switzerland, who themselves almost found an equaliser in the last minute of extra-time, only for Blerim Dzemaili’s header to hit the post and the subsequent rebound went wide. And finally, Belgium found two extra-time goals before having to hold off an American fight-back in the second half of extra-time. If this is just the start of the drama for the knockout phase, this could be the best World Cup yet.
Goal of the Round:
This is a real tough one, between Rodriguez’s first goal against Uruguay and Andre Schürrle’s crucial extra-time breakthrough goal against Algeria. For once, a goal inside the six-yard box should be given as much, if not more, credit than a screamer outside the penalty area. That is why Schürrle’s smart effort takes the plaudits this time around. When Thomas Müller’s low cross from the left-hand side of the penalty box deflected off a Nigerian boot, it seemed it would flash behind Schürrle and the danger would pass. However, the German super sub made the most of the unfortunate deflection, by using his trailing left leg to somehow flick the ball forward towards the goal. It worked, and the looping finish defeated Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal. A classy strike, one so vital for Germany’s passage to the quarters.
Effect of the Round:
Costa Rica seems to be the odd one out amongst the best 8 nations in the world. They will certainly be the neutral’s choice to go as far as they possibly can. France and Germany will be the titanic clash of the quarters, while Colombia will fancy their chances against a relatively sluggish Brazil side.