World Cup: Players to Watch in the Quarterfinals

We take a look at players from each of the upcoming quarterfinal games
by Austin Farrow   |   Friday, July 04, 2014

Bycolored – column on Ottawa Fury & the Ottawa area soccer scene.

Feeling bad about the United States’ exit from the World Cup, but still looking forward to watching the final eight teams duke it out?

We have you covered.

There are a plethora of quality players looking to be world champions but there will be only one team. We will take this time to take a look at some of the best players the tournament still has to offer.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen some incredible players exit the tournament. The goalkeeping performances from North American icons like Guillermo Ochoa and Tim Howard were ethereal but as previously stated, there is only one nation, one champion. 31 nations are eliminated, one nation rises victorious. Will the fantastic James Rodriguez lift the first time quarterfinalists Colombia past Brazil? Can the agile Keylor Navas save the last CONCACAF team in the tournament from elimination? We can’t answer these questions for you but they will be answered for you in the coming days by the players who come to perform.

Brazil vs Colombia — Neymar vs King James

James Rodriguez and a quick, decisive Colombia squares up against the hosts Brazil. James Rodriguez is currently top scorer in the tournament with 5 goals. Brazil, containing the mercurial Neymar, will look to stop the threats of James, Cuadrado, and Jackson Martinez. Rodriguez has 130 passes completed and has scored a third of his shots on goal, making him one of the deadliest attackers in the tournament.

Colombia may possibly have the most productive player in the tournament but Brazil’s Neymar has the agility, the quickness, and creativity to leave the likes of Mario Yepes in the dust for Colombia. Neymar covers ground like a Cheetah while James is more static. Neymar for instance has travelled 40.8 kilometers in the tournament thus far while James has covered just 36.

Though distance covered for a creator like James isn’t vital, it may just be where Neymar prevails against the backline of Colombia that averages at 30 years of age due to their 38 year old captain, Mario Yepes. If Colombia want to take down the home nation, they will have to play combative and be a strong unit. They realize what they are up against in CONMEBOL rivals but there’s reason to worry that their competition thus far could make them complacent. Neymar could run rampant. If he doesn’t, it will be a great team performance out of Colombia but I don’t believe newly hailed King James himself will do it all himself this time.

France vs.Germany — Benzema vs. Mr. Golden Boot

2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner, Thomas Mueller has returned to the World Cup in fine fashion, scoring four goals thus far. He will look to continue scoring goals as his German side take on France in the quarterfinals. France, consisting of Karim Benzema, the Real Madrid danger man, look a real threat to anyone in the tournament but Germany may be too sturdy in their foundation.

Benzema has taken 25 shots in this tournament so far. We all know Benzema likes taking shots. You limit his shots and that threat is decreased considerably. He’s scored three out of 25 in Brazil. With this in mind, Germany might have the best backline in the tournament. This game depends on Benzema. If he gets only a few opportunities, will he be as clinical as he can be? Germany should find chances easier than France and will depend on more variety in their attack. Mueller isn’t as important as Benzema here as I look at it. If Benzema can potentially play at his best, the game is his.

Netherlands vs Costa Rica — The Flying Dutchman vs Navas

Keylor Navas, perhaps the goalkeeper of the 2014 World Cup, will have to have his best performance so far against the Dutch. With the threats of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie lingering he’ll have his hands full. Regardless of of how much danger Jorge Luis Pinto’s 541 can snuff out, Navas will still have plenty to do with the quality afoot.

Navas is the key here. Out of Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell and Celso Borges, you can say Costa Rica getting a goal against Netherlands’ three man backline is realistic. The Costa Rican attackers have been clinical in this tournament and they’ll be ready to impress once again when the chance beckons.

If the likes of Junior Diaz and Giancarlo Gonzalez, who have been sensational so far, can keep Robben in front of them, you’re looking at less clear chances for the Dutch to put away. If that’s the case, you’d bet on Keylor Navas coming up big when needed. Will Navas have a game identical to Guillermo Ochoa against Brazil or Tim Howard against Belgium? Or will The Flying Dutchman, Arjen Robben annihilate a Costa Rican backline that has been so strong and leave Navas with no chance?

Argentina vs Belgium — La Pulga vs Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku was subbed on in extra time against the United States to destroy the US’ hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals. He did exactly that. He shrugged off Matt Besler, arguably the best performing US defender this tournament, like he was six years old and continued to help contribute on the opening goal of the match. He then subsequently scored the winner. Lukaku was absent in the group stage for Belgium but he showed up when it mattered. At 6’3”, 221 pounds, Romelu Lukaku is sheer athleticism, the epitome of physicality, the master of his own destiny.

If Divock Origi continues to start up top in this quarterfinal game for Belgium, Lukaku off of the bench becomes a huge concern late on. However, there are other factors here. Lionel Messi, also known as La Pulga (the flea) in Spain, is a huge factor. If he can irritate and buzz around Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen with the help of Angel Di Maria, putting the game out of Belgium’s hands, then Lukaku won’t be able to save the day. Perhaps Lukaku starts. If he does, does he perform like he has with Everton in England or does he have another performance like he had in the first three group stage games? Not to mention, the threat of him being subbed on late is eliminated if he starts.

Let’s say he starts on the bench. If the likes of Kompany and Vertonghen can keep Lionel Messi and his army quiet until late in the game, the faded Argentine backline have a monster on their hands. Let’s give you some perspective. Imagine playing a video game and having to defeat smaller enemies before the boss but those smaller enemies damaged your life to 10% and then you have to defeat the boss. If the likes of Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez have to deal with Lukaku being subbed in off the bench late on, especially in overtime, Belgium could very well find themselves in the semi-finals making the home nation Brazil very happy. 

Austin FARROW

Nationality:
USA
College:
Indian River State
Club Domestic:
All MLS clubs
Club Foreign:
Manchester City
Bringing you news on soccer players across MLS and American players playing in top leagues around the world, Austin is a journalism major who enjoys the fine arts. He doesn't favor one club over another, but just enjoys all MLS play.
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