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World Cup 2014: 10 Biggest Talking Points from 2nd-Round Games

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2014

World Cup 2014: 10 Biggest Talking Points from 2nd-Round Games

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    The 2014 FIFA World Cup is rapidly reaching the business end of the tournament.

    Just eight teams and eight games remain, with the round of 16 officially in the books.

    For the first time in World Cup history, all eight group winners have survived their first test and advanced through to the quarter-finals; all unbeaten and all just three wins away from hoisting the trophy.

    Here, we focus on the major talking points to emerge from the past eight fixtures.

     

    All statistics via WhoScored.com.

Slow Buildup to Several Dramatic Finishes

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    As mentioned, all eight group winners progressed; yet, for most sides, it was far from smooth sailing.

    The pace of these games was often slow at the start. We saw 18 goals, but just three arrived before half-time while five of the eight games were taken to extra time.

    The teams were tentative early on but, as we shall see, engaged in some dramatic crescendos during the closing exchanges.

    Eight goals were scored in the final three minutes of a half, as many games brought some explosive, action-packed finales.

Samba Beats Continue...Just

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    The first game saw tournament hosts, Brazil, face off against a nation they are accustomed to sending home.

    Chile had played their South American rivals 70 times in history, winning just eight times, and never on Brazilian soil in 26 attempts.

    However, after an entertaining, even spectacle, Brazil were perilously close to a stunning elimination.

    Deep in extra time, Mauricio Pinilla unleashed a last-minute shot that cannoned off the crossbar—a moment he's chosen to keep with him forever.

    World Cup diary: #Chi’s Mauricio Pinilla marks near-miss with tattoo http://t.co/3eL4BuHpaHpic.twitter.com/3NhECoOi7B

    — Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) July 1, 2014

    A centimetre lower, and it would have been all over for the hosts.

    As it was, they advanced 3-2 on penalties when Gonzalo Jara became the third Chilean to miss.

James Rodriguez on Track for Golden Boot and Golden Ball

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    In the least competitive contest, Colombia eased past a defensive Uruguay thanks to another star performance from James Rodriguez.

    The Monaco midfielder lashed in a goal-of-the-tournament contender on 28 minutes, firing in a blistering effort that went in off the crossbar.

    Moments after half-time, he slotted home Juan Cuadrado's clever knock-back to effectively seal the tie.

    Rodriguez's goals took his overall tally to five, the leading return of any player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

    Through four games, he is leading the race toward FIFA's individual accolades.

No 5th Game for Mexico

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Once again, Mexico failed to reach their coveted fifth game at a FIFA World Cup.

    Despite dominating long periods of their tie with the Netherlands, Miguel Herrera's side suffered the cruellest elimination after a double late salvo from Wesley Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

    Mexico were leading until the 88th minute but, once again, failed to advance in the knockout stages and reach their "Quinto Partido."

    Their only quarter-final visits remain on home soil in both 1970 and 1986.

Arjen Robben's Dive

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Arjen Robben made himself a talking point by admitting he dived during the Netherland's win over Mexico.

    Robben was the victim of Rafa Marquez's daft tackle in the game-deciding penalty. While the winger drew criticism for his flamboyant exaggeration, his comments referred to an earlier dive.

    The Daily Mail's Nik Simon records his post-match quotes: "I must apologise. The one [at the end] was a penalty, but the other one was a dive in the first half. I shouldn't be doing that."

    Naturally, this led to calls for a ban, although FIFA have since stated there will be no action around Robben's admission, via Mike Keegan of BBC Sport.

Costa Rica Fairytale Continues

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    Renato Spencer/Getty Images

    Costa Rica's remarkable journey in Brazil continued after another dramatic finish against Greece.

    After a slow start, Los Ticos took the lead on 52 minutes through Bryan Ruiz and should have been awarded a penalty two minutes later.

    They appeared comfortable until Oscar Duarte's second yellow card on 66 minutes. From then on, it became a desperate scrap as Greece threw everyone forward, determined to find an equaliser.

    Having repelled wave upon wave of attack, Sokratis Papastathopoulos finally beat the heroic Keylor Navas deep in injury time.

    With 30 minutes of extra time looming, Costa Rica appeared on the brink of an exit.

    Despite seeming dead on their feet, somehow Jorge Luis Pinto's side prevailed, executing five flawless penalties at the end of extra time.

    Aptly, it was Navas who was the hero, acrobatically parrying Theofanis Gekas' spot-kick before Michael Umana confirmed the win.

France and Germany Underwhelm, but Advance

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    In two similar games, heavy favourites France and Germany struggled to break down a spirited African opponent.

    Nigeria were compact and well-drilled, while Algeria were surprisingly attacking and adventurous.

    Both underdogs opened up their opponent and provided extended footage of how to frustrate a tournament heavyweight.

    Late substitutions proved key in both cases. Antoine Griezmann helped find a route through Nigeria, adding extra creativity and some smart link-up play, while Germany needed Andre Schurrle to eventually break the deadlock.

    Both nations must show dramatic improvement to prolong their stay in Brazil.

Angel Di Maria Finally Gets It Right

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    In the dullest of the eight ties, Switzerland set up to frustrate Argentina, hassling, harrying and scrapping for everything.

    For 117 minutes, they succeeded, until one final turnover presented Angel Di Maria with the chance to score.

    His late goal partially smoothed over what was a difficult afternoon for the Real Madrid man. He lost possession a whopping 51 times, 15 more than any player in any game at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

    As with many of the favourites for the trophy, Argentina must make dramatic improvements to be crowned champions.

Tim Howard Saves (Almost) Everything

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    Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

    In one of the best individual performances in World Cup history, Tim Howard continually denied Belgium a passage through to the quarter-finals.

    In total, 39 shots were fired in at the American, 17 of which were on target.

    Howard was finally beaten in extra time, but the 15 saves made go down as the most in any World Cup match since records began in 1966.

    27 - Tim Howard has made the most saves at this #WorldCup so far. Busy. #USA #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave

    — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 2, 2014

    In a simply inspired showing, he also managed more touches (72) than all but four of the Belgium side as he repeatedly repelled their attack.

    While the win for Belgium was deserved, the USA staged a rousing finish, fluffing several inviting opportunities that would have forced penalties.

Europe Versus the Americas

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    The final talking point centres around the eight teams remaining.

    We are left with the best of the Americas and the cream of Europe, but who is destined to lift the trophy?

    Each team is unbeaten, already crowned as a group winner, although many questions surround the tournament favourites.

    Colombia are the only side to progress to this stage in entirely convincing fashion, but can they maintain their form and shock the hosts? Or will another side find form at the perfect moment?

    There has never previously been a European winner in seven World Cups staged in the Americas. Will Brazil 2014 be the eighth?

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