World Cup 2014: Best XI of Day 9 with Gonzalez, Valencia and Benzema
Day 9 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup featured some standout displays on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
In Recife, Italy were kept at bay by a tenacious Costa Rica side while France found the back of the net five times against Switzerland in Salvador.
In Friday’s final match Ecuador rose to second place in Group E following a come-from-behind victory against Honduras.
There were standout performers in each contest, and over the next few slides we’ll have a look at Day 9’s Best XI.
Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas, Costa Rica
There was only one clean sheet on Friday, and it was posted by Keylor Navas.
They Costa Rica goalkeeper was exceptional against Italy at Arena Pernabuco, making four saves in a surprising 1-0 win.
His best stops were on Mario Balotelli and Andre Pirlo—the latter of whom had a free-kick punched away by the Levante shot-stopper.
Right-Back: Mathieu Debuchy, France
Mathieu Debuchy handled his assignments well on Friday—not only containing Switzerland’s Ricardo Rodriguez, but adding an important offensive element as well.
The France right-back contributed an impressive five tackles on the defensive side of the ball and also linked up nicely with Mathieu Valbuena when in possession.
Centre-Back: Giancarlo Gonzalez, Costa Rica
Major League Soccer has a representative in this XI, and it comes in the form of Columbus Crew’s Giancarlo Gonzalez.
The centre-back was outstanding for Costa Rica on Friday and was almost single-handedly responsible for marking Mario Balotelli out of the match.
Incredibly, the 26-year-old went about his high-risk duties without picking up a booking.
Centre-Back: Michael Umana, Costa Rica
Gonzalez’ defensive partner is the other centre-back in Friday’s XI.
With a team-leading 85 caps, the Costa Rica international used all his experience in suffocating Italy’s attack in Recife, and he only committed a single foul in the process.
Left-Back: Junior Diaz, Costa Rica
Junior Diaz completes a mostly Costa Rican defense in Day 9’s all-star team.
The typically dangerous Antonio Candreva was reduced to a shadow opposite the Ticos wing-back, who helped out his side with four tackles on Friday.
The 30-year-old also picked up an assist on the match winner when Bryan Ruiz nodded his cross from the left past Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Midfielder: Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica
Bryan Ruiz is the fourth and final Costa Rica man in this XI.
The 28-year-old’s goal near the end of the first half proved the winner against Italy, and he also completed an impressive 90 percent of his passes until his exit in the 81st minute.
The Fulham attacker played well on loan at PSV last season and has carried that form into the World Cup.
Midfielder: Andre Pirlo, Italy
Andrea Pirlo did very little wrong on Friday.
Granted, the Italy midfielder didn’t create the openings his attacking teammates have become accustomed to, but the likes of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano were being so closely marked that the Juventus playmaker was essentially passing into a wall.
At the final whistle he had still touched the ball more than 100 times while completing 93 percent of his passes.
Midfielder: Blaise Matuidi, France
Blaise Matuidi is a tenacious midfielder with good instincts on the defensive side of the ball.
But he can also contribute offensively, as he displayed on Friday against Switzerland.
In the 18th minute the France international slotted the ball into the back of the net at the near corner to give his side a 2-0 lead, and he went on to boss the centre of the park over the course of a vital Group E encounter.
Forward: Mathieu Valbuena, France
France manager Didier Deschamps opted to start with a three-pronged attack on Friday, and the decision paid off in spades.
Mathieu Valbuena in particular thrived in the system—scoring once and picking up a pair of assists as Les Bleus trounced Switzerland 5-2.
Forward: Enner Valencia, Ecuador
Honduras caused a few shock waves upon taking the lead against Ecuador on Friday, but thanks to Enner Valencia the South American outfit was able to fight back and claim all three points in Curitiba.
The 25-year-old bagged his first goal of the night in the 34th minute—just three minutes after Carlos Costly’s opener—and his second came shortly after a controversial decision by referee Ben Williams to not award Jefferson Montero a penalty in the second half.
Valencia now has three goals at this World Cup—putting him in company that also includes Karim Benzema, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.
Forward: Karim Benzema, France
Karim Benzema was everywhere against Switzerland on Friday—combining with the full-backs, linking play, providing assists and scoring goals.
He might have had a brace had he not missed his 32nd-minute penalty.
Over the course of France’s 5-2 win over Switzerland, Benzema took five shots and misplaced just a single pass in the attacking third.