If you thought you could look away for a moment, think again. If you thought the knockout phase couldn't possibly live up to the group stage, think again. If you thought you would get anything less than a scintillating show, well, think again.
Because Saturday's action at the World Cup was once again brilliant stuff.
With four South American teams in action, including the hosts fighting to stay alive, a compelling set of matches was to be expected. Let's take a look back at the results and catch up on the Golden Boot watch as the Round of 16 commences.
|Team 1||Result||Team 2|
|Brazil||1-1 (3-2 pen)||Chile|
Golden Boot Watch
|Robin van Persie||Netherlands||3|
|Clint Dempsey||United States||2|
|Wilfried Bony||Ivory Coast||2|
|Avdija Vrsajevic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Bryan Ruiz||Costa Rica||1|
|Lee Keun-Ho||South Korea||1|
|Joel Campbell||Costa Rica||1|
|Oscar Duarte||Costa Rica||1|
|Marcos Urena||Costa Rica||1|
|Stefan de Vrij||Netherlands||1|
|Vedad Ibisevic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|John Anthony Brooks||United States||1|
|Edin Dzeko||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Miralem Pjanic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Son Heung Min||South Korea||1|
|Koo Jacheol||South Korea||1|
|Jermaine Jones||United States||1|
Saturday scorers highlighted
If you were worried that the knockout phase wouldn't be as enthralling as the group stage was to open the World Cup, Brazil and Chile quickly put those concerns to rest, opening the Round of 16 with a thrilling match that required penalties to sort it all out.
When the dust had cleared, Neymar and Brazil had survived, winning 1-1 (3-2 on penalties).
And boy, was it a marathon affair. Brazil were the stronger side early, putting the Chileans under pressure from the start. That would lead to them scoring in the 18th minute off a set piece, as David Luiz took credit for what was probably a Chile own goal.
ESPN FC has the replay:
But Chile weren't intimidated, and it wouldn't take long for them to level the score. A bad Hulk giveaway on a throw-in would be all Chile needed, as Alexis Sanchez quickly netted the equaliser:
One of the reasons Chile are so tough to play against is their aggressive, pressing style. The Sanchez goal was the perfect embodiment of that system working perfectly.
And then things would get really, really interesting, as both teams tried to find a winner in the second half. It appeared as though Hulk had found one about 10 minutes into the second frame, deftly controlling a lobbed ball over the top and nicking a ball across the face of goal and past Claudio Bravo.
But official Howard Webb was having none of it, calling Hulk for a handball and giving him a card. Was it a handball, though? Decide for yourself:
RESULTS! 79% think Howard Webb made the right decision & this was a handball from Hulk. You be the judge. WATCH » http://t.co/0pQI9H3NRZ— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 28, 2014
With neither team able to find another goal in regulation, the game headed to overtime. Chile appeared to be playing for penalties at that point while it was Brazil who continued to ask questions and seek another score, but, in the 120th minute, it was Chile's Mauricio Pinilla who smacked the bar on a shot, nearly ending Brazil's World Cup.
In fact, Brazil was this close to disappointing an entire nation, as Bleacher Report on Twitter noted:
Apparently, both versions of football are games of inches.
And so a shootout was forthcoming, and Julio Cesar and Neymar stepped up as the heroes. Watch the entire pressure-packed ordeal for yourself:
How about the ice in the veins of Neymar in that situation? No player in this World Cup is under more pressure, and no player has stepped up in a bigger way than he has. Dermot Corrigan of ESPN puts it all in perspective:
Pressure on Neymar - not just with pen, but in whole World Cup - just incredible. And he's taking it on. No wonder he got emotional there.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 28, 2014
Neymar's nerve even more impressive considering Pletikosa got a hand to [and should have saved] his pen in first game.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) June 28, 2014
Meanwhile, after a disastrous World Cup in 2010, Cesar had his retribution, which he spoke on afterwards to James Horncastle of BT Sport:
Julio Cesar: Four years ago I cried in desperation. Today they are tears of joy.— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) June 28, 2014
It was truly a match that neither team deserved to lose. It was a spectacle that provided so much drama, you never wanted it to end. It was the perfect way to start the knockout phase.
And Chile's manager Jorge Sampaoli knew it and expressed great pride in his team after all was said and done, via Henry Winter of The Daily Telegraph:
Sampaoli #chi coach: “I’m very proud of my players. My team fought very hard and played well for 120 mins. They played in a beautiful way"— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) June 28, 2014
It's hard to top a game like that. But James Rodriguez did his best to do just that.
The Colombian star was once again amazing for his home country, notching a brace as Colombia defeated the Luis Suarez-less Uruguayans, 2-0. His first goal in particular was special, and perhaps the strike of the tournament thus far.
Check it out for yourself:
James Rodriguez's wonderstrike -- watch and be amazed » http://t.co/dQnOw9minQ— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 28, 2014
For good measure, he'd make it two.
If you didn't know James Rodriguez before the World Cup, you do now. He's the top scorer of the tournament. WATCH » http://t.co/UhXKx2iSov— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 28, 2014
Is there any doubt that this man is the top player thus far? Colombia were supposed to struggle without Radamel Falcao at striker. Instead, they've thrived with Rodriguez leading the way. What a talent he is.
With all of that going on, the Golden Boot remains firmly up for grabs, with Rodriguez in the lead at five goals, Neymar, Lionel Messi and Thomas Mueller tied with four goals apiece and Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Karim Benzema knocking on the door with three tallies.
Before Saturday, you might have gotten the feeling that Neymar would be tough to top in this competition. He's Brazil's go-to guy, and it's become very clear that he isn't going to be bogged down by any pressure or nerves. There are some incredibly talented scorers left in this tournament, but beating Neymar on home soil will be no easy task.
But goodness, Rodriguez has been otherworldly. He sure looks capable of crashing Neymar's party and spoiling this World Cup for the Brazilians in the process.
Of course, given the way things have gone thus far at the World Cup, anything can happen. And probably will, for that matter.