World Cup 2014: Best XI of the Quarter-Finals with Messi, Hummels and Navas
The quarter-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup were mostly cautious and occasionally violent affairs, each punctuated by moments of individual brilliance.
In Rio de Janeiro, Mats Hummels was the star man as Germany triumphed over France in Friday’s first quarter-final, and a few hours later David Luiz proved the hero for Brazil against Colombia.
On Saturday it was Lionel Messi once again running the show for Argentina against Belgium, and in the final match of the round Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas kept the Netherlands at bay until the penalty shoot-out.
There were other key performances during the quarter-final round of the tournament, and over the next few slides we’ll have a look at the last eight’s Best XI.
Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas, Costa Rica
Keylor Navas won’t contest a semi-final, but over the course of his time at the World Cup he was, without question, the standout goalkeeper of the competition.
Over the 120 minutes of normal and extra time against the Netherlands, the 27-year-old made seven saves, including three on Robin van Persie. He also successfully claimed 100 percent of the crosses and corners he attacked (all statistics courtesy WhoScored.com).
“I think Navas has been the best goalkeeper in this World Cup,” remarked Costa Rica manager Jorge Luis Pinto on Saturday, per Goal.com.
Right-Back: Philipp Lahm, Germany
A playmaking midfielder through his first four matches at the 2014 World Cup, Germany captain Philipp Lahm was switched to right-back against France as several of his teammates succumbed to a virus.
The result was an immediate improvement in what had been a problem position.
Not only were France unable to exploit Germany’s previously vulnerable flanks, but Germany actually dominated the wide areas during their 1-0 win at the Maracana.
Centre-Back: Mats Hummels, Germany
Sidelined for Germany’s round of 16 win over Algeria, Mats Hummels returned to the starting line-up to face France and proved to be the key man as his side progressed to the final four with a 1-0 win.
Early in the first half, Hummels dug out a dangerous Antoine Griezmann cross intended for Karim Benzema. Then, literally seconds later, he headed Toni Kroos' free kick into goal for what would be the match winner.
Centre-Back: David Luiz, Brazil
One of the more memorable sights of this World Cup will surely be David Luiz bombing downfield, locks of curly hair flowing behind him.
The newly-acquired Paris Saint-Germain defender was an inspired performer for Brazil on Friday. Not only did he pass for high efficiency and win all of his aerial battles, but he also scored what proved to be the winner against Colombia.
Moments after James Rodriguez had fouled Hulk, David Luiz released a dipping free kick that beat goalkeeper David Ospina to the near corner.
Left-Back: Benedikt Hoewedes, Germany
Considered a weak point in the German defense ahead of Friday’s quarter-final against France, Benedikt Hoewedes proved his detractors wrong by putting in a fine display in his side’s 1-0 win at the Maracana.
Although he once again struggled in the air, he engaged in an eye-popping nine tackles and forced Mathieu Valbuena to try Philipp Lahm’s flank in order to get any sort of joy.
Midfielder: Yeltsin Tejeda, Costa Rica
Yeltsin Tejeda was the unsung man in an unsung squad, but over the course of Costa Rica’s World Cup adventure he became a vital player in a team that surpassed all expectations.
Against the Netherlands in Saturday’s late quarter-final, the defensive midfielder ran himself ragged mopping up his teammates’ mistakes, and he also made a vital goal-line clearance to prevent a Dutch winner in the second half.
Given his showing in Brazil, it’s no wonder the likes of Everton and Fulham are keen to sign the 22-year-old Saprissa midfielder, as per Sky Sports.
Midfielder: Javier Mascherano, Argentina
Javier Mascherano was Argentina captain at the 2010 World Cup, and while it’s Lionel Messi who now wears the armband, the Barcelona midfielder continues to provide important leadership in 2014.
It was Mascherano who called for improvement ahead of Argentina’s quarter-final showdown with Belgium, saying, per the Daily Mail, “The moment of truth has arrived. Now we have to maintain the level and get rid of the mistakes.”
Then, in Brasilia, the 30-year-old smothered the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard out of the contest while efficiently moving the ball upfield.
Midfielder: Oscar, Brazil
Oscar has not been able to create as many goalscoring opportunities as he would like at this World Cup.
With both Neymar and Hulk supporting lone striker Fred in creative roles, it has fallen to the responsible 22-year-old to play a conscientious role and mop up his teammates’ mistakes.
In that respect he has almost been Brazil’s janitor, but with Neymar out injured and set to miss the remainder of the competition, Oscar will almost certainly revert to the number 10 role he so frequently takes on at club side Chelsea.
Forward: Arjen Robben, Netherlands
Arjen Robben didn’t find the back of the net against Costa Rica. But he didn’t lose the slightest bit of pace or energy over the 120 minutes of normal and extra time, either.
The 30-year-old, who has already developed a reputation for big-game performances, drove the Ticos defense crazy in Salvador—cutting this way and that and finding teammates with accurate passes, and doing it all at top speed.
Forward: Lionel Messi, Argentina
Lionel Messi doesn’t have to score goals to make an impact.
“Messi played a wonderful match,” Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella remarked following the 1-0 win over Belgium (per Goal.com). “Every move he makes is a sign of hope for us. What he does is always decisive; it’s beyond scoring goals.”
It was the 27-year-old’s delightful pirouette in the centre of the park that released Angel Di Maria to set up Gonzalo Higuain for the only match of the quarter-final.
Forward: Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina
If Argentina are to go all the way in Brazil, it goes without saying they’ll require help from several attacking players.
Against Belgium it was Gonzalo Higuain who stepped up—the Napoli striker latching onto Angel Di Maria’s pass and beating Thibaut Courtois with the single, accurate swing of his right foot.
Incidentally, the goal ended a 528-minute goalscoring drought for the 26-year-old, who will now look to hit a purple patch for his country.
“I was calm and relaxed,” the Napoli striker said after the match (per Goal.com). “I knew the goal would come and I was just doing my best for the team.”