After the ferocious pace at which this World Cup began, the Round of 16 clashes were always going to be a little bit tighter. But what we’ve lacked in goals, we’ve been compensated with some extremely tense and dramatic clashes.
And, in truth, it’s no surprise. Teams can play with a little more freedom in the group stages knowing they will have chances to make up points, but, one error in the knockout phases, and you could be going home. We’ve seen some stunning late drama in the Round of 16 though, and that looks set to continue as the tournament moves into the quarter-final stages.
Here’s a look back at the best the Round of 16 had to offer, and the very latest fixtures to look forward to in the quarter-final stages.
Netherlands 2-1 Mexico
The Dutch were on the brink of an astonishing exit as their round-of-16 clash with Mexico moved toward stoppage time. They’d toiled against a vibrant El Tri team for long spells and were struggling to make an impression in the punishing Brazilian heat.
But the Netherlands’ key players stepped up when it mattered. In the 89th minute, Wesley Sneijder thundered home a wonderful strike from the edge of the box to level things up. From that point onward, there was only going to be one winner as a rampant Oranje tore into the Mexicans.
Arjen Robben won a penalty deep into injury time, and it was duly converted by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. A win in such dramatic circumstances will give the Netherlands a massive boost ahead of their quarter-final tie, and there seems to be a burgeoning belief among Louis van Gaal and his players that they have enough quality to go all the way in Brazil.
Bleacher Report’s Elko Born insists that the Netherlands have the spirit needed to lift the trophy:
A bit of luck and fighting spirit are needed to win the WC. Simply playing well is not always sufficient. That's just not how it works.— Elko Born (@Elko_B) June 29, 2014
They’ll certainly fancy their chances in the next round, where they take on Costa Rica. Los Ticos have been outstanding in this tournament so far, but they are the weakest team remaining in the competition, and a side the Oranje should have far too much for.
Germany 2-1 Algeria (After Extra Time)
Algeria will consider themselves exceptionally unlucky to be going home after they put in a wonderful performance against Germany. The Fennec Foxes counter-attacked with gusto throughout the contest, and, if it wasn’t for some superb goalkeeping from Manuel Neuer, they could have notched a famous victory.
Who will win the quarter-final?
But, as the game moved into extra time and Algerian legs tired, the likes of Thomas Mueller and Toni Kroos began to find a little more space, and they were eventually undone by a piece of genius from Andre Schurrle.
Mesut Ozil made it 2-0, but Abdelmoumene Djabou notched late to reduce the deficit, setting up a frenetic final minute. But, unfortunately for the Africans, they didn’t have enough time to push for an equaliser and eventually lost out.
While the Algerians sampled the applause of the entire stadium following the final whistle, the performance from the German team will have raised plenty of concerns ahead of their quarter-final clash with France. Didier Deschamps’ team will look to attack with comparable intent, and Joachim Loew will have to find away to prevent his side being picked off so easily on the break.