If Day 16 was anything to go by, then the World Cup 2014 round of 16 is going to be absolutely spectacular.
Brazil and Colombia booked their respective places in the quarter-finals on Saturday, with controversy, drama and individual brilliance once again on show, but who will be following them into the last eight on Day 18?
Sunday sees the Netherlands take on Mexico before Costa Rica face off with Greece in two ties that could once again go all the way to the wire. Here’s a glance at the match odds, predictions and an analysis of the day’s possible key players.
|Netherlands vs. Mexico||Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Netherlands: 27-25, Draw: 5-2, Mexico: 3-1||1-1|
|Costa Rica vs. Greece||Arena Pernambuco, Recife||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Costa Rica: 3-2, Draw: 2-2, Greece: 23-10||2-0|
Arjen Robben, Netherlands vs. Mexico
The way that former Chelsea man Arjen Robben has matured as a player since joining Bayern Munich is staggering.
Once a selfish player who constantly made poor decisions when bearing down on goal, Robben has become one of the best wingers on the planet, and he’s certainly proving as much in Brazil.
His three goals in the tournament have all been superb, showing both composure and panache to put himself well in contention for the Golden Boot.
The 30-year-old’s international form stretches beyond the World Cup, though, as OptaJohan revealed:
13 - Arjen Robben has been involved in 13 goals (8 goals, 5 assists) in his last 9 games for the Netherlands. Key.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) June 23, 2014
Arguably the player of the group stage, Robben now has his sights firmly set on a place in the quarter-finals, and Mexico’s defence need to be very wary of his threat in Fortaleza.
Even the Dutch themselves didn’t expect Robben to be this good in Brazil, including journalist Elko Born, who said that he’s reached an unprecedented level of brilliance in the tournament—per Jim White of The Telegraph:
“He has reached a whole new level. We Dutch knew he was good, knew he was important. But we didn’t see this coming. What we are seeing is amazing.”
White goes on to report that Robben reached 19.3 miles per hour during a storming run against the Spanish, and such levels of quality have warranted endless praise—including from Gary Lineker and Joey Barton:
The best player of the World Cup group stage is Arjen Robben. He's been utterly outstanding!— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 23, 2014
Whilst the World was watching Ronaldo and Messi, Robben has came along and lit this tournament up. MVP so far...— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) June 23, 2014
If the winger continues his breathtaking form then Mexico could be in for a long afternoon on Sunday, as keeping Robben quiet takes a very mean defence.
However, the Mexicans have only conceded one goal so far, and a tight affair is expected. It’s one of those games that could be decided by a moment of brilliance, and Robben is more than capable of providing it.
Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica vs. Greece
Costa Rica have surpassed all expectations at the World Cup so far, but their journey is far from finished.
With Greece their opponents on Day 18 in the round of 16, the Central American nation will more than fancy their chances of making the last eight and will turn to captain Bryan Ruiz for inspiration.
Ruiz had been branded a flop with club side Fulham before he touched down in Brazil, but he seems to have found another gear with Costa Rica and was key behind his nation’s group-stage form.
Bryan Ruiz is a naughty player 🔥— Anthony Pilkington (@Pilkington_11) June 24, 2014
Most notable of all, the 28-year-old scored the winning goal in Costa Rica’s famous 1-0 victory over Italy—earning him the Man of the Match award, per Budweiser UK:
His quick feet, vision and awareness have made him a nightmare for defenders in the World Cup so far, and though Greece’s back line are famously stubborn, they’ll have a tough time coping with what Ruiz has to offer.
Costa Rica’s playing style of all-out attack means that Ruiz is heavily involved going forward, and he’s promised that his side won’t be changing their approach against the Greeks—per Matt Barlow of MailOnline:
In many countries they thought we were only here to participate and not compete. It is a dream come true to be in this round. It is going crazy back home in Costa Rica. 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.
It certainly is working, as two wins out of three has put Costa Rica within one game of their best-ever finish at a World Cup, and you’d be unwise to bet against them making history on Day 18.
With Ruiz on form and players around him showing the kind of heart that so many big nations have been missing, Costa Rica’s World Cup 2014 candle will continue to burn as the tournament’s climax approaches.