World Cup Predictions 2014: Projections for Top Players on Day 17

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World Cup Predictions 2014: Projections for Top Players on Day 17
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Robin van Persie returns from suspension to boost the Netherlands ahead of their round-of-16 encounter with Mexico on Day 17 of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Manchester United man will likely be going up against club teammate Javier Hernandez as Mexico attempt to make the last eight of a World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Costa Rica and Greece meet for Sunday's other match in the last 16, the two sides making surprise appearances this far into tournament with one guaranteed to make it even further.

The knockout rounds are when the pressure really starts to build at the World Cup, and star players either rise to the occasion or buckle under pressure. Let's take a look at the top players on show on Day 17.

 

Robin van Persie, Netherlands

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

Van Persie has arguably netted the most spectacular goal of the tournament so far with his flying header in the Netherlands' 5-1 mauling of Spain, per football broadcaster Eoin O'Callaghan:

He went on to bag another against La Roja and scored the vital equaliser as Louis van Gaal's side beat Australia in their second group game.

A yellow card in the match against the Socceroos saw him suspended for the final group game against Chile—which the Dutch won 2-0—but he returns for the Mexico game fresh from his break and in fine form.

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He and Arjen Robben will be essential to unlocking a Mexico defence that managed to hold off Brazil's attack for a 0-0 draw in Group A.

And Van Persie definitely has the quality to inspire the Dutch to victory by scoring at least once to add to his already impressive tally for the tournament.

The one area of his game that is a worry is his discipline, and he showed this against Australia, per Sky Sports writer Alex Ferguson:

But he should be able to keep his wits about him for this vital encounter and put in a strong performance in Fortaleza.

 

Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico

Miguel Tovar/Getty Images

Mexico's Ochoa has been one of the best shot-stoppers of the tournament so far indeed; a BBC Sport poll voted him the group stage's best goalkeeper:

His performance against Brazil was inspired as he pulled off a string of wonderful saves to keep a clean sheet for the second game in a row, per Squawka:

He finally conceded late on against Croatia with his side already 3-0 up and through to the last 16, and his performance against the Dutch on Sunday will be key to Mexico's chances.

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He has incredible reflexes and oozes charisma, but it is unlikely he will be able to repeat his Brazil performance a second time—which is what he will need if he is to keep out the Dutch attack.

Robben and Van Persie have been clinical so far in the tournament, and with Wesley Sneijder also a threat, Ochoa is in for his toughest test yet.

A clean sheet would go a long way to seeing Mexico through to the last eight, but it cannot be expected as Ochoa is highly likely to concede against the Dutch's attacking power. 

 

Joel Campbell, Costa Rica

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Arsenal's Campbell has emerged as the star of the Costa Rica show as the Central Americans won Group D, dropping only two points in the process.

The 22-year-old forward was man of the match as Costa Rica came back from 1-0 to beat Uruguay 3-1 in their World Cup opener, and he maintained his form for the win against Italy and draw with England.

Arguably, Greece present an easier proposition than any of Costa Rica's group opponents did; they only scraped through to the last 16 courtesy of a late penalty against Ivory Coast.

Campbell's movement and instinct should cause Greece all kinds of problems. He is a terrific finisher, and he could certainly get on the scoresheet if he maintains his tournament form.

The prospect of a last-eight spot will likely inspire Campbell, and Costa Rica must start as pregame favourites to prevail in Recife, not least because of the presence of the young Gunner.

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