2014 World Cup Recap: Round of 16 and Quarterfinals...
It feels like an eternity has passed since the end of the group stage. I have completely forgotten about the likes of Japan and Russia. Was Spain even in the World Cup? The knockout rounds always turn the intensity up significantly compared to the group stage, and 2014 has been no different. Let’s revisit the key moments from the knockout stage so far.
Round of 16:
This was probably the most entertaining round of a World Cup I have ever followed. Granted, I have only followed three World Cups closely, but even experienced World Cup fans have spoken highly of the merits of this tournament, with the Round of 16 being the focal point.
If the round of 16 was the peak of the Cup thus far, then the goalkeepers were the shining stars in the middle of it all.
Mexico’s folk hero Guillermo Ochoa, Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama and the United States’ Tim Howard all displayed goalkeeping heroics in losing efforts, Brazilian Julio Caesar shouldered the weight of a soccer-obsessed nation while saving consecutive penalty kicks against Alexis Sanchez and Chile, and Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas somehow topped them all in leading the Cup’s Cinderella to the quarterfinals.
The United States failed to defeat the Red Devils of Belgium, a team that exudes cool and is full of stars from the top European leagues, ending their enthralling World Cup run excruciatingly close to the quarterfinals.
Although the loss was a tough one, there is plenty to celebrate with the USA’s run. The longtime thorn in the side of the US squad, Ghana, was vanquished. Christiano Ronaldo was shut down for 93 minutes. Names became known to the world (John Brooks, Omar Gonzalez). Yes, Michael Bradley did not live up to expectations (his struggles were exaggerated), but Howard, Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones all played outstanding. And, of course, there was Kyle Beckerman and his hair.
After the chaos that was the round of 16, the quarterfinals were a definite letdown. It came down to the biggest names (and Costa Rica) playing not to lose in the Amazonian heat instead of playing to win.
Germany and its high-powered, machine-like approach smothered Karim Benzema and France with relative ease. Brazil escaped with a win against Colombia and the Cup’s leading goal-scorer James Rodriguez, but not without losing star Neymar for the rest of the tournament.
Angel Di Maria scored an early goal that was enough to propel Argentina to a victory over Belgium before suffering an injury himself. Los Ticos went down fighting against the Netherlands. Navas earned the respect of millions, and millions of dollars, with his goalkeeping feats in the loss and in the Cup as a whole.
The semifinals are Tuesday and Wednesday, with the World Cup Final following on Sunday.