6 Players to Watch on Day 18 of the 2014 World Cup

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentJune 29, 2014

6 Players to Watch on Day 18 of the 2014 World Cup

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    The Netherlands are back in action on Sunday when they play Mexico in the round of 16.

    Louis van Gaal's team, who helped knock out World Cup title holders Spain, will meet the Group A runners-up in Fortaleza in the day's early game.

    In the late game, surprise package Costa Rica play Greece, who needed a last-minute penalty against Ivory Coast to advance, in Recife.

    Here's a list of six players who have important roles to play on Day 18 of the World Cup.

    Feel free to use the comments section below to agree, disagree and add your own.

Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica

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    Costa Rica surprised everyone to finish top of Group D ahead of Uruguay, Italy and England, but they'll fancy their chances of progressing further with a game against Greece to come in the last 16.

    La Sele's success in Brazil has been built on shrewd tactical plans, ferocious pressing and some fearless attacking football.

    Bryan Ruiz scored the goal that beat Italy, and the 28-year-old will be expected to take whatever chances come his way against a Greek defence that can be stubborn and well drilled.

    But Ruiz, in quotes carried by the Daily Mail's Matt Barlow, has promised Costa Rica won't change the way they play in the knockout rounds:

    We've been working really hard. We have a philosophy about how we play and we're going to die with it, because it's working.

    Our opponents from now on will have more of an idea about how to play against us. They can study us and what we did in the group games. This next round is going to be very tough.

    Can the captain will his team into the next round, where the winner of Netherlands vs. Mexico awaits?

Georgios Samaras, Greece

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    Greece only scored two goals in the group stage. But that's all they needed to advance to the second round.

    Thumped by Colombia and held by Japan, it was Greece's 2-1 win over Ivory Coast that sent them through to the last 16.

    And it was Georgios Samaras who scored the vital goal with a late penalty. It was his ninth goal for Greece and his first since the European Championships in 2012.

    Greece haven't been part of the conversation about whether this is the most exciting, most attacking World Cup. It's not the way they play.

    But they'll have to score if they want to get past Costa Rica in Recife. And that responsibility will fall on Samaras' shoulders.

Rafael Marquez, Mexico

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    A day without football on Friday was the perfect opportunity for some to pen their team of the tournament so far.

    Rafael Marquez, Mexico's 35-year-old captain, was in plenty of them. Back playing in Mexico, he's again looking like the player who spent seven years at Barcelona.

    He's part of a defence that has conceded just once in three games, including keeping Brazil quiet.

    Stopping Neymar for 90 minutes isn't bad practice for trying to do the same against Robin van Persie when Mexico play Netherlands in the last 16.

    Striker Javier Hernandez told Goal.com Marquez is proving his doubters wrong with his performances in Brazil:

    He's a great character. He has a very good record, he's scored consecutively in three World Cups.

    He's a very important player for us and I think a lot of people criticise him for his age, he went to Mexico and won two leagues over there and now he's the captain here, scoring goals and supporting us in the best way possible, inside and outside of the pitch.

    El Tri will need their veteran anchor to be at his best if they're to proceed in this tournament.

Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico

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    The 2014 World Cup has, so far, been hailed for the quality of the attacking football on show.

    But Mexico have shown the benefits of a well-organised and hard-working defence. They have conceded just once in Brazil. And even that was Ivan Perisic's late goal for Croatia when Mexico were already 3-0 up.

    They had goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa to thank for keeping a clean sheet against Brazil. His stop to deny Neymar's header was one of the saves of the World Cup.

    In quotes carried by the Daily Mirror's Martin Lipton, Ochoa said he was well aware of the tough task he faces in Fortaleza on Sunday:

    Holland are a team that plays like a computer, very intelligent, with many quality players, and we must be careful of all of them.

    We have watched their games and seen that they have players who can make a difference, but so have we.

    The other thing is that we have our strengths. We will be aware of them, but they need to be aware of us. We will play our football, and play to win.

    Ochoa will need another performance like that which he had against the tournament hosts when he lines up against Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and the rest.

Arjen Robben, Netherlands

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    Pace is a quality that frightens any team, and Netherlands have plenty of it with Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben in their ranks.

    The 30-year-old has three goals in three games at the World Cup. Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, writing in his column for the Daily Mail, believes Robben has been the best player in Brazil so far:

    Arjen Robben has been the outstanding player of the tournament for me so far....

    ... Robben has scored three goals in two games and RVP and [Nigel] De Jong were waxing lyrical about his stats, not least the fact that he’s hitting more than 30kph with the ball still under control, then smashing it home after running half the pitch.

    Rafael Marquez, Mexico's aforementioned 35-year-old centre-back, has had an outstanding tournament. But he won't be relishing the prospect of seeing Robben running at him. 

Robin van Persie, Netherlands

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    It didn't take long for the Netherlands and Robin van Persie to make a statement in Brazil.

    The 5-1 win over holders Spain in their opening game instantly made them contenders to win the World Cup in some minds.

    Louis van Gaal's team is not as full of stars as Netherlands sides have been in the past. But they do have some outstanding attacking players in Van Persie and Arjen Robben.

    If they are to get past Mexico in the last 16 and progress further into the tournament, Van Gaal will rely on Van Persie to score the goals. He's already scored three in games against Spain and Australia.

    Suspended for the final group game against Chile, the 30-year-old should be fresh for the game against Mexico in Fortaleza.