As Argentina & Belgium face-off in the quarter-final of the World Cup, we have compiled an XI of the best players from each team based on their performances solely in this tournament, with positional strength a criteria.
Serving as the last line of defence in an impressive Costa Rican backline, Keylor Navas has had a terrific World Cup. The keeper has received a lot of attention for some of the excellent saves he’s made, propelling his side to an entirely unexpected quarter final place. In this round as well, he will be important if his team are to cause yet another upset and beat the Dutch.
This wing back has been an important part of the stunning run that Costa Rica have made to get this far in the tournament. Playing their system with just 3 at the back, the wing backs have been crucial in adding attacking width as well as defensive solidity. It is with the latter that they have been particularly effective. Costa Rica need another such performance to make it past the Dutch.
A player who has flourished at the back of a very organised defence, Oscar Duarte has had a great World Cup, averaging 2 tackles a game. His partnership with his colleagues has helped them form one of the toughest defensive combinations on show. It’s this teamwork that has been key to them springing the kind of surprise they’ve sprung.
The final part of a defence dominated by players from Costa Rica, Giancarlo Gonzalez has arguably been the most important part as well. He’s been the player that keeps the opposition forwards at bay, with his performance against Mario Balotelli being one that will be remembered with great fondness when we do look back at this World Cup.
This Ajax player is one who had a great season coming into this tournament, and he has only enhanced his burgeoning reputation here. The versatile player has filled in at centre back, left wing back, and in central midfield this World Cup, setting himself apart. His pass for one of the moments of the World Cup, THAT van Persie goal, will also remain etched in memory for a long time.
Nigel De Jong
A player who grew infamous after his performance in the last World Cup final, De Jong has done a great job of not being bothered by that reputation, and going about his business in a very professional manner. The no nonsense midfield monster has done a great job breaking up opposition play, and passing the ball in an efficient, and effective manner. Another whose efforts will go a long way in deciding the fate of his side.
It’s already been mentioned how well organised the Costa Rican defence has been, but the protection offered to them has been far from shoddy. Tejeda has been a vital part of the line up that’s kept so many strong teams quiet. His partnership with the next man in this team has been a joy to watch, and made him a hero in his home country.
The player who spent the last season playing for Fulham, has far exceeded all expectations with incredible performances and crucial goals. He scored the winner against Italy, and also got the goal against Greece in the round of 16. Goals aside, his energy, running, and passion for the cause have been second to none, and he get full credit for this.
The Arsenal man, one of the most talented players in this side, really has lit the big stage on fire with his performances. His pace troubled Uruguay to no end, winning 3 crucial points for his side, while his performance against the other 2 teams in the group weren’t too bad either. The game against Greece saw an awesome performance from him, as he ran and ran for the 120 minutes, despite clearly being very tired.
No real justification is needed for his place in this side. The man has been given the license to run at defenders, and play with freedom. His pace, power, and dribbling ability have left a lot of defences in tatters. Some of his goals have been exhibits, especially the one against Spain, where he brutally outpaced Sergio Ramos. Any neutral will be hoping that this man can channel his passion and put in another great performance.
Robin van Persie
The striker seems to have rediscovered his touch this tournament, with captaincy and Louis van Gaal seemingly bringing out the best in him. His goal to begin the rout against Spain is one that will be replayed many times over the years, and really is montage material. van Persie had an off day in the round of 16 against Mexico, but it only takes a moment of brilliance from his left foot to turn any game around.