World Cup 2014: Best XI of Day 18 with Arjen Robben, Keylor Navas and More

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2014

World Cup 2014: Best XI of Day 18 with Arjen Robben, Keylor Navas and More

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Day 18 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup saw two extraordinary ends to the round-of-16 games, with more goals in the final minutes of the matches than in the initial 85 of each.

    Netherlands left it very late to turn a 1-0 defeat into a 2-1 win and knock out Mexico, while Greece needed a 90th-minute equaliser to force extra time against Costa Rica. That match ended 1-1 after 120 minutes, with Costa Rica progressing on penalties.

    Keylor Navas was their hero, saving the only unconverted spot kick, and he features in our XI of the day.

GK: Keylor Navas, CRC

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Guillermo Ochoa seemed a sure-fire bet for this position—until Costa Rica's Keylor Navas came up with a near-perfect display himself.

    His 90-minute performance was pretty good all-round, taking the ball in the air and making a handful of saves which varied from the routine to the impressive—but a 91st-minute parry was poor, and cost his team a goal to take the match to extra time.

    During that 30 minutes, Navas propelled himself back into the spotlight with a series of blocks and saves, particularly and most spectacularly on Kostas Mitroglou with barely any time left to play.

    To top it all off, Navas produced a magnificent save in the penalty shoot-out to thwart Theofanis Gekas, the only man to not score his penalty.

DR: Paul Aguilar, MEX

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    Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

    Paul Aguilar was a constant threat for Mexico going forward in the opening stages, before later on being one of their most consistent defensive players.

    He was quick to close down and make tackles on Dirk Kuyt when he was the wing-back down the Dutch left, before showing Memphis Depay down the flank instead of allowing him to cut infield to create danger.

    Despite giving away a succession of fouls, it was telling that most of the Dutch threat came from the opposite flank, being unable to open up Aguilar successfully.

DC: Giancarlo Gonzalez, CRC

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Even before Oscar Duarte's red card, Costa Rica's big man at the back was Giancarlo Gonzalez.

    He became even more vital after that, on hand to protect Keylor Navas' goal as best he could, marking attackers tightly and looking to be aggressive and proactive in his defensive work.

    In extra time, the No. 3 produced a fantastic last-ditch block to prevent Greece taking a 100th-minute lead, just one example of countless times when he was on hand to make timely interceptions and clearances. He also netted a spot-kick in the shoot-out.

DC: Stefan de Vrij, NED

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    Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

    Netherlands centre-back Stefan de Vrij was impressive at the heart of the Dutch defence against Mexico.

    He was touch-tight to the forwards when they rampaged forward, was aggressive in his defensive work and made countless clearances from crosses into the penalty area.

    De Vrij almost scored with a close-range effort for his side, while he was also impeccable with his passing out of defence—though admittedly Mexico stood off deep from the Dutch back line.

DC: Kostas Manolas, GRE

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    Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

    Greek central defender Kostas Manolas continued to improve his growing reputation with another big performance in the round-of-16 clash against Costa Rica.

    His impressive reading of the game enabled him to snuff out danger before Costa Rica managed to really get much of their build-up play going, beating Joel Campbell to the ball a number of times in the air and making it difficult for the opposition to get time for a shot.

DL: Jose Holebas, GRE

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    Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

    Jose Holebas might play from defence, but he was about the best attacking outlet that Greece had during the 120 minutes.

    His blazing pace from left-back left Costa Rica struggling to keep up with him at times, even when they attempted to double up on him later in the game.

    A number of Holebas' crosses were bent in with crazy accuracy and gave his team-mates great ammunition to attack. His penalty in the shoot-out was well-struck, too.

MC: Hector Herrera, MEX

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    Hector Herrera put in another excellent performance for Mexico, making plenty of running throughout the game and showing good movement on and off the ball.

    He was one of the more offensive players for the CONCACAF side, looking to break out of the midfield line and make forward passes to join up play when possible, though of course he was also expected to contribute heavily defensively.

    His manager Miguel Herrera felt the officials did not help his team, as per BBC Sport:

    Robben dived three times. You should caution a guy who is trying to cheat, and then if Robben did it again he would be sent off. Why did FIFA choose a referee from the same confederation as the Netherlands instead of one from South America, Asia or Africa?

    The doubtful decisions were always against us. In three matches we had horrible refereeing. The man with the whistle knocked us out. I want the referee committee to take a look and that the referee goes home, just like us.

MC: Celso Borges, CRC

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    Renato Spencer/Getty Images

    Celso Borges played a key role in Costa Rica's performance, working incredibly hard off the ball to help keep the team's shape and compactness after they were down to 10 men.

    It wasn't a particularly vintage or creative display, but he closed down, pressed and kept running throughout the 120 minutes, supporting his defenders and attempting to do the same in attack, at least initially.

    His passing was concise and, importantly, accurate, not wasting possession when his team were under pressure. He also scored a fine penalty for his side.

FW: Bryan Ruiz, CRC

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Bryan Ruiz just about earns a place on the team for his decisive contribution to the match, though he certainly faded in and out of Costa Rica's win over Greece.

    The talented forward showed good movement and link-up play at times and when his team were under pressure showed a higher workrate than usual to fill in around the midfield zone, looking to pick up possession after turnovers.

    Ruiz also scuffed in—it was a mis-kick, wasn't it?—Costa Rica's goal during the match and netted a fantastic penalty himself.

FW: Arjen Robben, NED

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    Arjen Robben might be criticised in some quarters for going to ground too easily to draw the match-winning penalty, but in truth Mexico gave him far too many opportunities to do so.

    A threat when he played centrally, Robben changed the game entirely when he moved to the right flank and started dribbling directly infield.

    He was perhaps the only Dutch player who was better than any of his opponents and he had a big say in the outcome of the game. Robben was also adamant he did not dive for the penalty late in the game, as per BBC Sport.

    "I have to apologise. In the first half I took a dive," he said. "The one at the end was a penalty."

FW: Joel Campbell, CRC

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    Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

    Joel Campbell put in a huge shift for Costa Rica, gamely running the channels to give his team an out-ball in the first 90 minutes.

    Though Costa Rica were the more attack-minded side initially, they didn't really create much of note, leaving Campbell often running fruitlessly, chasing down defenders and trying to hold the ball up until team-mates supported from deeper.

    He was utterly exhausted by extra time but still made a number of runs to relieve the pressure on the defence, winning free kicks and making ground inside the Greece half of the pitch. Campbell also rolled home a penalty in the shoot-out.