World Cup 2014: Best XI of 2nd Round Stage with Tim Howard and James Rodriguez

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2014

World Cup 2014: Best XI of 2nd Round Stage with Tim Howard and James Rodriguez

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    The 2014 FIFA World Cup is moving steadily toward the latter stages now, with 16 teams having fought it out in the first of the knock-out rounds over the past week.

    We now have our eight quarter-finalists, worthy nations all of them, but the nature of football is such that there were several other nations equally as impressive who perhaps deserved to get through, but were knocked out.

    The best players aren't always the ones who progress, though. Here is our best XI from the round of 16; leave your comments and suggestions below as always!

GK: Tim Howard, USA

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    Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

    United States goalkeeper Tim Howard was in record-breaking form against Belgium, but even his heroics couldn't keep his nation in the World Cup.

    The stopper pulled off save after save to deny the European nation throughout the 90 minutes, before being breached twice in extra time en-route to a 2-1 defeat. Howard's immense performance was saluted by all afterwards, but as he told New York Times after, it mattered little in the end.

    It’s really awesome getting through the group, but it means nothing. The sting of failure is the same if you lose in this round as if you didn’t get out of the group.

DR: DeAndre Yedlin, USA

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    DeAndre Yedlin didn't even start the game in the USA team, but he came on as substitute barely half an hour in for injured Fabian Johnson.

    Over the next 90 minutes or so, Yedlin was one of the stars of United States' team, showing a brilliant aggressive attitude to getting forward at pace, looking to support every attack possible, while also having the tenacity and physicality to get back and defend against Eden Hazard and co.

    He put in a real shift throughout and it was no surprise to see him cramping up at the end.

DC: Rafik Halliche, ALG

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    Rafik Halliche was the rock at the back of the Algerian team as they went out to Germany in extra time.

    Wave after wave of German attacks were repelled throughout the game by the Algerian captain, who was powerful in the air, quick to step out of his line to make challenges and always looking to be on the front foot with his defensive work.

    He was replaced late on after suffering an injury but more than played his part in his team's impressive showing.

DC: Thiago Silva, BRA

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    Pool/Getty Images

    Brazilian captain Thiago Silva was imperious against Chile, showing all his usual aggressive traits and ability to read the game.

    The one time Chile managed to evade him to score was when he was left alone to mop up the errors of others—and even then he almost got a telling block in. Silva remains a determined, robust and committed figure and leads the team out in search of their victory on home soil.

    Even with Brazil not playing as well as they might, with Silva in command of the defence they have plenty of chance to achieve their goals.

DL: Faouzi Ghoulam, ALG

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Left-back was a tough spot to choose from: Jose Holebas, Ricardo Rodriguez and our own choice, Faouzi Ghoulam, were all superb, with Jan Vertonghen not far behind.

    All were influential with breaking forward to support attacks at pace, putting in some superb crosses—particularly the first three—and creating plenty of danger for their respective sides.

    Ghoulam just about gets the nod as he was just as impressive defensively, a big part of Algeria's resistance to Germany's domination at times and good at maintaining a compact defensive line.

CM: Gokhan Inler, SUI

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Switzerland put up a terrific fight against an uninspired Argentina, with midfield protector Gokhan Inler key to their approach.

    Not only did he cover more ground than most with his constant pressing, tackling and closing down, but he dropped into the central defensive line when needed, covered for his wide midfielders and stuck tight to Messi as soon as the forward picked up possession.

    His passing was tidy, and between he and Valon Behrami, they shut down the midfield supply line entirely.

CM: Charles Aranguiz: CHI

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    Pool/Getty Images

    Chile went so close to eliminating the hosts Brazil, but in the end the woodwork saw them out—once at the end of the game and once in penalties.

    Charles Aranguiz hammered in a memorable spot-kick of his own, but that merely followed what was already a stunning performance of athleticism, skill on the ball and determination.

    His box-to-box ability for Chile's midfield set the tempo of their play, he supported their attacks with gusto and helped to protect the defence throughout the 120 minutes.

AM: Mathieu Valbuena, FRA

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    David Vincent/Associated Press

    France's most impressive attacking play throughout the World Cup has all passed through the talented boots of Mathieu Valbuena.

    From a nominal but entirely unrestricted right-sided starting position, he roams the width of the pitch and happily links up with midfielders and forwards alike, dribbling past opponents and looking to slot clever passes between defenders.

    His work and movement off the ball has been equally impressive and he was arguably France's best performer overall as they saw off Nigeria in the round of 16.

AM: James Rodriguez, COL

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    Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images

    James Rodriguez has perhaps been the biggest star of the 2014 World Cup so far, with his round of 16 performance against Uruguay serving to underline the fact.

    The Colombian attacking midfielder scored the goal of the tournament so far, a fantastic chest and volleyed effort, before rolling home another from close range after showing terrific movement inside the penalty area.

    His all-round game continues to impress, with his pace, passing and dribbling all causing problems for national team defences.

FW: Alexis Sanchez, CHI

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    Chile's Alexis Sanchez put in another monstrous performance against Brazil, but it wasn't enough to see his team through to the last eight.

    His pace and opportunism granted the chance to score his side's equaliser in the game, which he duly netted, but his work-rate and indefatigable approach to the game meant he contributed just as much off the ball as on it.

    Alexis missed a penalty in the shoot-out, but that shouldn't detract from a great game and tournament as a whole.

FW: Islam Slimani, ALG

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    We finish up with another eliminated striker, Algeria's Islam Slimani.

    The powerful forward was so close to putting his side ahead against Germany on a number of occasions, denied only by an offside flag and the power and prowess of Manuel Neuer, as he led the line with ferocity, determination and no shortage of intelligent movement.

    Slimani's running of the channels enabled Algeria's game-plan to function to good effect and he never gave the German defence a second's respite from his closing down and willingness to help out his side.