6 Players to Watch on Day 19 of the 2014 World Cup

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentJune 30, 2014

6 Players to Watch on Day 19 of the 2014 World Cup

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    The next round of last-16 ties take place on Monday.

    In the day's first game, France take on Nigeria in Brasilia. In the second game, Germany play Algeria in Porto Alegre.

    France and Germany, winners of their respective groups, will be expected to advance to the quarter-finals.

    But there have already been plenty of shocks at this World Cup, and the two African nations will be hoping to add their names to the list of those who have caused an upset.

    Here's a list of six players who could shape what happens on Day 19 of the World Cup.

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

Joseph Yobo, Nigeria

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    If Nigeria are going to shock France in the second round, 33-year-old Joseph Yobo will have to find a way to keep Karim Benzema quiet.

    For Yobo, however, there is nothing to lose against a side that he told the Sundiata Post are clear favourites:

    We are here at the highest stage of football to do our best. We did well against Argentina, one of the tournament favourites, and we can do better against France in the next round.

    We will do our best to win, but we have nothing to lose. Many have not given us a chance, but we will do it.

    Nigeria couldn't stop Argentina's star man, Lionel Messi, in their last group game. And if Benzema has a similar influence in the last 16, Nigeria will be heading home.

Hugo Lloris, France

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    Hugo Lloris hasn't had a great deal to do in Brazil. He had to pick the ball out of his net twice against Switzerland, but the game was already won by that point.

    Perhaps Lloris' biggest success at the World Cup has been leading a team and a squad that was so divided four years ago in South Africa.

    Lloris told the BBC that France have given the fans a team to be proud of again:

    We have noticed a change, a rekindled fondness from the fans.

    There have been some ups and downs in the past few years that's true.

    We have done what we needed and made the effort on the pitch to make the fans happy so far, but we want to go further.

    Just like they were against Honduras, Switzerland and Ecuador, France will again be the favourites when they take on Nigeria in the last 16.

    Suddenly, a team who looked dead and buried after the first leg of their World Cup qualifying play-off against Ukraine have a chance of booking a place in the quarter-finals.

Karim Benzema, France

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    Karim Benzema's form is one of the key reasons France have gone from World Cup outsiders to realistic contenders in the space of three games.

    Alex Young of Goal.com has been impressed, writing, "Karim Benzema has been one of the stars of the World Cup so far with his three goals and two assists aiding France's impressive start in Brazil."

    Nigeria, France's opponents in the last 16, conceded three in their last game against Argentina, although much of that was down to Lionel Messi's brilliance.

    But they will face a striker in similar form when they line up against Benzema.

    However, the 26-year-old did hint, in quotes carried by the Daily Mirror's Jack Lang, that Nigeria might be able to bully France out of their rhythm, just as Ecuador did in the group stages:

    It was a difficult match. In the first half especially it was hard because they defended well as a team. After the red card there was more space.

    Why didn't we score? Their goalkeeper! We had chances but he dealt with them all.

    We had a lot of success in the game before [against Switzerland] because practically every shot went in. Today we came up against a team that disrupted us, especially with their physicality.

    Only Ecuador have managed to stop Benzema from scoring, and that was only because of a wonderful individual performance from goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.

Per Mertesacker, Germany

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    Germany got their World Cup off to a flying start, even if it was against a Portugal side that was forced to play with 10 men for much of the game. In their final game against the USA, they were worthy winners without ever being spectacular. 

    But the game in between, a 2-2 draw with Ghana, there was evidence that Germany can sometimes get caught out.

    Faced with players breaking with pace and intent, Germany's defence was, at times, all over the placePer Mertesacker included.

    Defending balls flung into the box, there aren't many better than the Arsenal centre-back. But he doesn't do well when he's dragged out of his comfort zone against quick, skilful players.

    That is something Algeria will look to target as they plot a way past the Germans and into the quarter-finals.

Thomas Mueller, Germany

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    Thomas Mueller's participation at this summer's World Cup has been a lesson in finishing.

    Germany's progress in Brazil depends on Mueller's ability to keep putting the ball in the net. But his coach, Joachim Loew, told The Guardian's Paul Wilson that the 24-year-old can handle the pressure:

    He is mentally strong, a very smart player who always seems able to find space, but physically he is in great shape as well. He is the one who runs the most kilometres but he makes it look easy, even the heat doesn’t seem to affect him.

    He might not have scored stunning volleys like Tim Cahill or James Rodriguez, but they all count the same.

    His hat-trick—a penalty and two from close range—helped demolish Portugal in Germany's first game. And a gentle stroke of his right boot earned a 1-0 win over the United States.

Nabil Bentaleb, Algeria

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    It's been quite a season for Nabil Bentaleb.

    He started the campaign as a member of Tottenham's under-21 side. It's ending with a World Cup in Brazil, and it's not over yet.

    It wasn't until December and Tim Sherwood's appointment as manager that Bentaleb broke into the Tottenham team. And he didn't decide to pledge his international future to Algeria until February.

    Up against Germany in the last 16, the 19-year-old will face a midfield that could include Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira.

    It's a fearsome task for a teenager with only a handful of senior games under his belt.