Top 5 Players from the World of Football This Weekend
A busy weekend of international football has taken precedence this weekend, with vital World Cup qualifiers having been played across the globe.
There are thousands of players from across the globe to pick from, but here is Bleacher Report's attempt to whittle it down to just five of world football's very best performers this weekend.
Circumstances—both for the players and their side—their overall contribution in relation to their team's level of success and the level at which they were playing at are all factors considered here.
Disagree with any of the picks or feel as if there’s a standout omission? Let us know in the comments section below.
But before then, here are our top five performers:
Robin Van Persie (Netherlands)
Louis van Gaal has spoken during the last week, stating that only three players were certain of their place in the Netherlands squad next summer: Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben, Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, according to Eurosport.com (Yahoo! Sports). And this was a performance which proved exactly why the latter is such a key component to van Gaal's side.
Louis van Gaal: "Robben, Strootman and Van Persie aside everyone is fighting for a ticket to Brazil and they damn well know it." #Oranje— Mohamed Moallim (@jouracule) October 9, 2013
Outstanding technically, with intelligent movement and a cutting edge in front of goal, this performance was vintage van Persie as the Dutch hammered Hungary in an eight-goal blitz. And van Persie took full advantage of the opportunities he was given in the Amsterdam ArenA, netting three times to become the Oranje's all-time record goalscorer.
The first, on 16 minutes, opened the scoring, van Persie twisting his neck to loop a cross that was slightly beyond him past the Hungarian 'keeper at his near post.
The rampant Dutch were four up by half-time, with van Persie heading a Robben cross into the back of the net a minute before the break, a goal to level the record which he celebrated with former record holder Patrick Kluivert, now a coach on van Gaal's technical staff.
And in the 52nd minute, the Dutch No. 9 had the record all to himself, with a goal that saw all three of van Gaal's untouchables involved. A break down the left saw Strootman fire a diagonal ball into the penalty box, Robben nodded down and the on-running van Persie slotted home from close range.
Additionally, van Persie's link-up play was exemplary throughout and his partnership with Robben next summer could frighten the very best of defences in Brazil. Hungary offered little in terms of defensive resistance, but van Persie was magnificent.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)
A goal down to Austria—who would move level on points with the Swedes if they could hold on—with a final game against Germany to come, Sweden stood very much on the precipice of failing to do what was needed: claim three points and make a playoff place their own.
However, while the team assembled by Erik Hamren is best described as workmanlike, their captain is anything but.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is, perhaps, the greatest player the Blagult have ever produced—certainly since the 1950s—and the PSG striker stood up and made all the difference here, grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and leading his country to the playoff spot they craved so dearly.
Ibracadabra had been bright throughout, linking well with midfield and showing signs of his creative qualities albeit with little reward. However, when his country needed him to come up with a big moment, the 32-year-old came up with two.
Firstly, after an incisive passing move down the left, Seb Larsson found Ibrahimovic in the inside left channel, and the 6'5" forward clipped an intelligent cross onto the head of left-back Martin Olsson, the Norwich defender diverting his header into the far corner.
And with five minutes remaining, Sweden's skipper clinically placed his country into November's playoffs. A wonderful long ball from Spartak Moscow's Kim Kallstrom cut through the stationary Austria defence, and Ibrahimovic, having timed his run to perfection, controlled perfectly with his right foot, before sliding the ball into the far corner with his left, to send Solna's Friends Arena into raptures.
Zlatan's winner from last night: quick glance over his shoulder to see where defenders are, one touch to set himself, weak foot, bang. Class— Lee Roden (@LeeRoden89) October 12, 2013
On this night, it was very much a case of "Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Zlatan."
Luis Antonio Valencia (Ecuador)
While Colombia-Chile was the hipsters' choice from South American qualifying on Friday evening, the more important game came in Ecuador, as the hosts welcomed Uruguay with the two locked in a tight battle for the final automatic qualification place for next summer's tournament.
With both sides level on points but the hosts having a better goal difference, Reinaldo Rueda's side knew that a victory would have them with one foot and four toes over the line ahead of next summer, while leaving La Celeste needing a minor miracle from the final group matches to ensure they didn't need to make the trip to Jordan for a cross-Confederation qualifier.
And while Uruguay's defence gave a good account of themselves, they had no answer for Ecuador skipper and Manchester United midfielder Luis Antonio Valencia.
In the altitude of Quito's Olympic Stadium, Valencia was at his driving best. Running with pace, power and purpose at Uruguay's defence, he was excellent throughout, scaring the Uruguayan back line who simply had no answer to him.
Whether he was running through the centre and committing the likes of Diego Godin and Diego Lugano or tormenting full-back Jorge Fucile, Valencia was involved in everything that was good about Ecuador's attacking play, and he had an all-important role in Jefferson Montero's winning goal.
Picking up on a long throw down the right, Valencia flicked the ball round a defender all-too-eager to commit himself, before squaring across the six-yard box for Montero to tap past Muslera for the only goal.
It was a showing which oozed quality and will only have further puzzled Manchester United supporters who have grown increasingly concerned by Valencia's lacklustre performances at Old Trafford in recent times. This was what the former Wigan and Villarreal man is capable of.
Gervinho (Ivory Coast)
The former Arsenal winger has been in outstanding form since his summer move to Roma and a reunion with manager Rudi Garcia, and he proved decisive as Ivory Coast won the first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff against fellow African heavyweights Senegal in Abidjan.
A notoriously flakey figure with the national side, this was Gervinho at his most devastating, full-of-pace, determined running and impact in the final third as he played a key part in all three of the Ivorian's goals.
The "Roma Rocket" Gervinho was outstanding again for #IvoryCoast. Deserved ovation from the crowd when he came off. A true match winner.— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) October 12, 2013
Only five minutes were on the clock when Gervinho flew into the opposing penalty area, only to be felled by Cheikh Kouyate; Didier Drogba stepped up to convert the penalty.
Nine minutes later, Kalou found Gervinho free down the left, and the 26-year-old saw his cross deflected into the net via the foot of defender Lamine Sane.
And four minutes into the second half, the Elephant's No. 10 made another key contribution, a wonderful slide-ule pass sending Salomon Kalou through on goal, and the Lille forward buried it with aplomb.
In the end, Ivory Coast ran out 3-1 winners, and Gervinho, largely ridiculed during his stay in the Premier League, was the undoubted star of the show.
Emmanuel Emenike (Nigeria)
A difficult afternoon in the Ethiopian capital saw Nigeria's Super Eagles struggling to impose themselves against a gutsy performance from the home side. With 65 minutes on the clock, Ethiopia had a deserved 1-0 lead, which arguably could (missed chances) and should (did the ball cross the line?) have been more.
However, while Stephen Keshi's Nations' Cup winners had been far below their best, in striker Emmanuel Emenike and winger Victor Moses, they still carried an attacking threat. And in the end, the Fenerbahce striker made all the difference, as Nigeria pulled off an undeserved win and put themselves within touching distance of a place at next summer's World Cup.
In the 68th minute, Emenike was allowed to pick the ball up some 30 yards from goal and having been allowed to turn and drift across the field onto his right foot, Emenike unleashed a ferocious effort which 'keeper Jemal Tassew got a hand to, but couldn't keep out.
That went in, though. Ooof! Some ping from Emenike.— Jonathan Wilson (@jonawils) October 13, 2013
That goal proved a key moment in the game, seemingly knocking the stuffing out of the home side and giving Nigeria fresh impetus.
Nonetheless Ethiopia had appeared to weather the storm, which saw Ahmed Musa hit the post for the African champions, while their substitute Addis Hintsa also came close. Yet, in the 90th minute, Emenike made one last play to break the hearts of those who had packed inside the Addis Ababa Stadium.
A long clipped ball over the top saw Emenike give chase, and with a frightening turn of pace, he stormed past defender Aynalem Hailu, who hauled down the Nigeria No. 9. Emenike dusted himself down, before sending the 'keeper the wrong way to give the Super Eagles the win.
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