World Cup 2014: Winners and Losers from 2nd-Round Stage
The round of 16 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup provided us with plenty of excitement, memorable moments and fantastic goals, and with five of the eight games going to extra time, fans were rewarded with even more minutes to watch.
As ever in knockout football, there had to be winners and losers by the end of each tie—but positives and negatives, trends and mistakes go far deeper in the game than the pure result.
Here we take a look at all the main talking points which dictated the outcomes of the ties in our winners and losers of the round of 16.
Loser: Chile vs. the Woodwork
Chile were so close to seeing off Brazil before the penalty shootout ever arrived, but Mauricio Pinilla's rifled shot at goal only cracked back off the crossbar, rather than hitting the back of the net.
A mere 10cm lower, perhaps even less, and Brazil were out and Chile would have been through.
The woodwork-induced misfortune wasn't over there, though, as Gonzalo Jara put Chile's fifth and final spot-kick in the shootout hard and high past Julio Cesar—but against the right-hand post, only able to watch on as it bounced across goal and out.
It sent Chile out instead and Brazil into the quarter-finals. Such are the margins between progress and elimination.
Winner: The Unlikely Hero, Julio Cesar
With Brazil's forward line not really producing the goods, goalkeeper Julio Cesar was called upon more than once during the game to make big saves, though he couldn't do much about Alexis Sanchez's goal or Pinilla's strike off the crossbar.
Come penalties, though, the goalkeeper often gets the chance to play the hero.
Thus it was this time, and Queens Park Rangers' reserve goalkeeper, on loan for 2013-14 at Toronto, made two penalty saves to make him a national hero.
As per Daniel Taylor at The Guardian, Cesar feels his penalty saves won him the backing of the nation.
After what happened in 2010 I see now how many people are cheering for me and wanting the best for me... After the last World Cup to be labelled as the villain was very hard for me.
I got the support of my family but this win allows me have the necessary strength to go forward. Now, I just hope I can celebrate with the people of Brazil by kissing the World Cup.
Loser: Uruguay's Lack of Attack
Brazil weren't the only South American side without much punch up front; Argentina also lacked much impact in the final third and Uruguay were downright poor.
Diego Forlan was ineffective, as was his replacement Christian Struani, while Edinson Cavani rarely received support or service as he tried to make way to goal.
The biggest loss, of course, was suspended forward Luis Suarez—his absence denied the team so much, with his work rate and ingenuity as important as his goalscoring.
Uruguay exited with something of a whimper after coming through a very tough group.
Winner: Great Goalkeeping Performances
Julio Cesar might have made the headlines, but a whole host of last 16 goalkeepers put in even better all-round performances.
In fact, it was probably the position with the greatest number of excelling individuals in this particular round at the World Cup.
From Manuel Neuer's superb sweeper-keeping for Germany to the all-round cool and collected perfectionism of France's Hugo Lloris, the men at the back have been noted for some great displays over the past few days.
Rais M'Bohli of Algeria, Keylor Navas of Costa Rica, Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria—though he made an error for a goal, admittedly—and Guillermo Ochoa of Mexico all put in outstanding displays with some terrific reaction stops involved.
Finally, United States goalkeeper Tim Howard trumped them all with his immense performance against Belgium.
Loser: Too Many 'Deserving' Teams Going Out?
Though each of the group winners managed eventually to negotiate their round-of-16 ties, there was definitely a feeling of undeserved defeat for a host of their rivals.
Germany were pushed all the way by Algeria before squeezing through in extra time, with Belgium doing the same to United States.
Few could have complained had Switzerland knocked out Argentina, while with 10 minutes to play Mexico looked as though they would seal another impressive display with progress over Netherlands.
Chile vs. Brazil was one of the games of the World Cup so far, and many neutrals would have been cheering on every attack, such was the atmosphere, the pace and the excitement of the game.
Each one of them has gone out though, undeserving or not, with their work rate and effort the only lingering effects of their nation on the World Cup stage.
Winner: The Great Underdog Story
Costa Rica, though, continue to defy all footballing logic by making their way to the last eight.
The small CONCACAF nation had only ever once made the last 16 but had never gone beyond that stage and were hugely unfancied even to get out of their initial group.
Four games through the World Cup, though, and they remain entirely unbeaten, with Greece now joining Uruguay, Italy and England in failing to see them off.
It's been a record campaign for them already, with plenty of stories of heroes being created, and there is no telling when it might stop.
Winner: The Big-Name Players Who Keep Producing
As much as some of those aforementioned unlucky sides might have deserved to stay in the tournament, their undoing has in some cases been a moment of genius or inspiration from a key opponent.
Lionel Messi and his Argentina team haven't been anywhere near their peak, yet Messi continues to drag the South American side through the tournament, inching his way toward a final the masses tell him he must win to be truly considered one of the greats.
Swiss boss Ottmar Hitzfeld acknowledged Messi's innate ability, as per Marca:
Switzerland's coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, commented that Messi has the ability to "decide a game in a second", but went on to say that the Swiss side "made life difficult" for Argentina.
"It was a tough game, but we made their life difficult. They managed to stay calm. Argentina has a good team", he told the press after the match played in Sao Paulo.
Although Switzerland marked the Barcelona striker closely, Hitzfeld stressed that Argentina "is not just Messi", and acknowledged the efforts of Lavezzi, Mascherano and Di María.
So far, he's doing it all alone for Argentina.
Alexis Sanchez, James Rodriguez and Arjen Robben are others who simply keep doing what they do for their nations, scoring goals and keeping them in games. Three of those four remain in the World Cup.
Loser: Greece and Their Inability to Shift Emphasis
For every nation who steps it up, there is invariably one who fails to raise their expectations or abilities. This time around it has been Greece: a side that revels in destroying the work of others and smothering their game plan before striking themselves with a well-timed riposte.
It worked against "bigger" sides in the group stage and took them to the last 16, but asked to raise their attacking impetus against Costa Rica side—with 10 men no less—they proved unable to do so.
A last-minute equaliser forced extra time, but they couldn't find the creativity, incisiveness and clinical edge required in their play to find a second goal, even when counter-attacking in incredible overloads.
Unlike with United States, Chile or Algeria, not too many neutrals were disheartened by Greece's exit.
Winner: Scoring Substitutes
Belgium boss Marc Wilmots has won plaudits for his game-changing subs in the World Cup, but the round of 16 proved he was far from the only one capable of doing so.
France sub Antoine Griezmann didn't score but forced an own goal from Joseph Yobo and helped change the flow of the game for his side, before Germany's Andre Schurrle and Algeria's Abdel Djabou both netted off the bench in the match between those two sides.
Netherlands sub Klaas-Jan Huntelaar came off the bench to net a last-minute penalty winner against Mexico, before Wilmots did it again with Romelu Lukaku scoring as sub.
United States replied with their own, Julian Green hitting a consolation in extra time, but USA were out of subs and out of scoring chances soon after.
Winner: Every Player Who Gave Their All for Their Nation
Whether exiting or continuing, playing good football or otherwise, one thing which can be said for almost every nation in the round of 16 is that their players left little on the pitch.
Plenty of matches went to extra time as both sides fought and worked and battled to prevent the other progressing, and slumped figures at the end of 120 minutes, distraught beyond words, were a common sight.
Defeat is never easy to take and, on the world stage, shouldn't be, but if the players on the pitch gave every ounce of effort to help their nations take one more step toward World Cup glory, nothing more could be asked of them.