The 2014 FIFA World Cup has now moved into the Quarterfinals stage and there are only 8 teams now in the fray. The games until now have thrown up some interesting and inspirational performances, making the selection of the team of the week all that more difficult.
There have been quite a few contenders for the goalkeeper of the week, including Mexico’s Ochoa, Costa Rica’s Navas, and USA’s Howard. While all 3 indeed deserve to be selected, perhaps Germany’s Neuer had to do the most for his team to win the game against Algeria. Ochoa’s and Howard’s heroics could not see their team get the win, while Navas was partly helped by a Greek side that was more interested in looking for personal glory rather than on a team effort to win the game. But Neuer had to be on top of his game, coming out often, playing the sweeper role, to get his defence out of sticky situations throughout the game. In the end, his saves proved to be as important as the goals scored to win the game.
The Mexican Right Back did a fabulous job in the game against Netherlands. He was consistent in his defence, and during the early stages of the games, his forward runs created a headache for the Dutch. It was a pity he ended up on the losing side, though the fact that most of Holland’s attack came from the opposite side speaks volumes of the job he did in closing them down.
Being handed the captaincy for the night, Algeria’s Rafik Halliche put in an outstanding performance to counter Germany’s threat. Not only was he positionally good, he also broke up attacks by intercepting passes that could have become dangerous attacking threats, thereby nipping Germany’s forward move in the bud. He made a lot of clearances the entire game, proving a wall that the Germans couldn’t break down.
Brazil’s captain led from the front against Chile, making a lot of clearances to keep Alexis Sanchez at bay. He was quick to cover the back line, ensuring that no runs were made behind the defence. Even for Chile’s equaliser, he almost got his team out of trouble, but his gamble didn’t pay off. He was good in the air and made sure Julio Cesar had a not too uncomfortable day.
He may have been a Left Back, but Jose Holebas was the biggest attacking threat for Greece, homing in from the left to create problems for Costa Rica. He had great speed, and added to that his accurate passes made life troublesome for the Costa Rican defence, who were already a man down. He made such a nuisance of himself that despite their reduced numbers, Costa Rica had 2 men on him to reduce his threat.
Throughout the match against Uruguay, Juan Cuadrado made attacking forays from the right, the middle and the left too. In short, he was constantly changing his position, making it difficult for the Uruguayan defenders to mark him. His assist for Colombia’s second goal showed his awareness and team ethic, choosing to provide for an easier goal effort rather than going for glory himself.
With his team down to 10 men for a considerable period of time, it was important that the Costa Rican midfielder showed discipline in the middle of the park to negate any threats from the Greek forward line. And Celso Borges did that with particular relish. He kept pressing throughout the game, and worked tireless for the entire 2 hour duration. Even when he was in possession, almost all his passes were accurate. And his penalty kick was a cherry on the cake.
The French midfield was completely dominant during their game against Nigeria, and Paul Pogba played an important part in ensuring that happened. He made sure that France had a majority of the possession, and also helped in getting the ball back whenever they lost. Added to that, he scored France’s first goal, calming the nerves of both the fans and the manager.
He may not have started the game, but Germany’s Andre Schurrle certainly had a big impact in the game. He had the most number of shots on goal despite playing 45 minutes lesser than the rest, and it was his goal that finally breached the Algerian defence and resistance. He exploited the gaps in the opposition defence much more effectively, and changed the flow of the game.
There is no competition here. James Rodriguez wins a place in the team of the week hands down. If that chest down, turn and volley does not have you reaching to put his name on the sheet, then I don’t know what else will. Not only was he instrumental in scoring both goals that took his team to the Quarterfinals, he was excellent off the ball too, much appreciated by the standing ovation he got as he was taken off with a few minutes remaining.
He may be particularly irritating to watch if you are not a Netherlands fan, with the number of dives and simulations he racks up in every match. But you cannot but admire his attacking talent as he takes apart opposing defences. He may have been theatrical in his bid to get the penalty, but there was no doubt that it was indeed a foul. Robben had a great influence throughout the game, keeping the Mexican defence on their toes.