Player of the Round:
For the first time in the tournament, there hasn’t really been too many standout performers. France-Germany was more a game of attrition rather than any individual brilliance, while Argentina gave a brilliant team performance to shut out Belgian’s highly-rated ‘Golden Generation’. Nevertheless, this honour still deservedly goes to Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas. Entering the tournament as a relative unknown, Navas – though eliminated with his nation – leaves Brazil with a much bigger reputation as one of the best shot stoppers at the World Cup, and he will surely been moving on to a bigger club. After his penalty shootout heroics against Greece, Navas was at it again, keeping the Dutch out time and time again. He also deserved his bit of luck, as two Dutch efforts struck the post. Alas, Navas could not repeat his penalty shootout heroics against the Netherlands, but he, along with his tiny nation, bows out with heads held high.
Shock of the Round:
This may not be too much of a shock, but then again it’s something you don’t see everyday. When Louis van Gaal sent on Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul in place of Dutch number one Jasper Cillessen, it was a big gamble in itself. For one, Cillessen had just pulled off a magnificent save late in extra-time to prevent Costa Rica’s shock semifinals berth. Secondly, Krul came on with little time to adjust to the frenzy tempo of the game. And last, van Gaal could have brought on another striker or penalty specialist. Fortunately for the Dutch manager, his gamble paid off – in a way, since Cillessen might have saved one or two anyway, and also because his penalty takers scored theirs. To be fair to van Gaal, he already had his penalty specialists (all of whom scored) in Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt, plus last 16 match-winner from the spot Klaas Jan Huntelaar, and the only other probable taker on the bench was Jonathan de Guzman. And also, van Gaal just showed every other manager how to fully utilise their squad’s individual talents.
Goal of the Round:
Only five goals was scored in the quarters, so there wasn’t much competition for David Luiz and his sumptuous free-kick against Colombia. The former Chelsea man has been known for the spectacular, and his match-winning goal would have been of little surprise to regular watchers of the Premier League. The way Luiz managed to generate so much power in a side foot from a distance so far out is one only he can explain, and the way the ball dipped in the air to just manage to escape the reach of the Colombian goalkeeper is simply, a thing of beauty. A goal to win any game, none bigger than a World Cup quarterfinal clash.
Effect of the Round:
Nothing against Costa Rica, but the semifinals match-ups are worthy of what has been a brilliant World Cup so far. Germany will have the chance to avenge their 2002 final loss, where, without their inspirational talisman captain Michael Ballack, they lost to a Ronaldo-inspired Brazilian side in the Far East. The Netherlands and Argentina renew a unique kind of rivalry, with Dennis Bergkamp’s out-of-this-world effort at the 1998 edition the highlight of their past clashes. The Argentinians will have to cope without Angel Di Maria, who is arguably their second-most effective player behind Lionel Messi, while the Dutch will continue to rely on their forward duo of van Persie and Robben.