Much unlike the group stages, which was quite a goalscoring fest, the knockout stages have yielded lesser goals with most sides adopting a more conservative approach in the hope of nicking the game by the odd goal. The quarter-finals have turned out to be pretty much what everyone expected it to, few goals but endless drama. If the drab affair between Argentina and Belgium had fans disappointed, the final quarter-final fixture between the Dutch and less fancied Costa Rica got them up from their seats. Surprisingly, only one of the four fixtures from the recently concluded round stretched onto extra time while the remaining three were settled within the regulation time, but the fans from Asia are not complaining.
With arguably one of the most mouth-watering semi-final line ups one could have hoped for, this World Cup is surely on its way to compensate for any lack of excitement from the quarterfinals in the final few matches. But before we look that far ahead, let us have a look at the players who made a telling contribution to their side in the round of 8.
The best XI from the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup:
Keylor Navas : The Costa Rican custodian was like a man possessed last night, thwarting the Dutch attack time after time ensuring that the match stretches into extra time. At times when he was defeated by Wesley Sneijder’s long-range efforts, the wooden framework came to his rescue. However, Navas failed to exert his presence during the penalties as the Dutch converted each one of their penalties calmly to send the Americans packing for home.
Dirk Kuyt: Striker, right midfielder, right-wing back, right full back. The versatility that the former Liverpool man possesses is enviable. With Janmaat falling out of favor with Louis Van Gaal, the industrious Fenerbahce forward seamlessly slotted into his role almost like a pro.
David Luiz: The former Chelsea center half, who recently agreed a move to PSG, put up another inspiring performance alongside his captain Thiago Silva to steer the hosts into the final four. A terrific free kick in the second half decided the fate of the match as Colombia failed to recover from the 2-0 deficit, managing just one goal in the process thanks to a penalty from James Rodriguez.
Mats Hummels: The German defender has been a rock at the back for the Die Mannschaft this World Cup and once again his header within the first quarter of the match against the French sealed the outcome as Didier Deschamps’ boys failed to threaten Neuer’s goal seriously.
Jose Basanta: Filling in for the suspended Marcos Rojo, Basanta put up a strong performance against the likes of Hazard, De Bruyne and Chadli late on in the match. Sabella must have taken note of this performance and it should not be surprising if he is preferred over Rojo in the semi-final given Arjen Robben is the one to be kept in check.
Javier Mascherano: The Barcelona midfielder might have had an easy run so far in the tournament but against the likes of Witsel and Fellaini, he had his task cut out. The La Albiceleste midfielder bossed the game through the ninety minutes as Witsel and Fellaini failed to exert their influence in the game, making it a relatively easy outing for the South Americans as they enter their first semi-final in 24 years.
Fernandinho: The Manchester City midfielder was terrific for the Samba boys against Colombia as he not only held and passed the ball around superbly, but shut down the threat of James Rodriguez completely as the Monaco striker struggled to create any lasting impression on the game.
Wesley Sneijder: The Dutch playmaker has a staggering record for his country in the World Cup finals and perhaps was the most influential player in the last edition as they reached the final before wilting to Spain. However, Sneijder started this World Cup slowly but seems to be picking up his game right when his team needs him most. The former Inter star passed the ball and struck the woodwork twice during the match after having Navas completely beaten on both occasions.
Lionel Messi: The Argentina captain may not have had his best game against Belgium but was still one of the most threatening players on the pitch. He looked frustrated at times and perhaps, that got the better of him as he missed a clear opportunity during the fag moments of the match after being through on goal against Courtois. However, just like every goal that his country has scored so far, Messi had an important contribution in this one too as he twisted and turned in the center circle before finding Di Maria.
Gonzalo Higuain: Higuain has been receiving some stick from the fans for his damp performances so far in the World Cup, until yesterday. The striker broke his duck with a sweet right-footed first time strike leaving Courtois completely standstill. The goal seemed to have affected his morale as he was seen more involved in the game and could have got his second after a termendous 60 yard solo run he managed to hit the bar.
Arjen Robben: Barring his theatrics and antics on the pitch, he has been perhaps the most dangerous player in this World Cup. Everytime he has the ball it seems the Dutch could possibly score. The manner in which the Bayern man outran defenders even 25 minutes into extra time is terrific and speaks volumes about the desire he has this time to lift the much coveted trophy.