Arjen Robben: player of the tournament?
In a tournament that has seen nearly three goals a game, endless upsets and comebacks and some entertainingly incompetent defences, not many individual players have stood out. There has been too much inconsistency for that, with teams barely able to string two performances together. However, Arjen Robben was superb once again for the Netherlands, fresh from tearing Spain asunder and scoring the winner against Australia, the Bayern Munich winger was the driving force behind the Netherlands' win over Chile. At 30, Robben still essentially has one trick, specifically to run at the defence at great pace before shifting onto his left foot, but it seems the trick is just good enough to be the best player at the World Cup so far.
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Anyone who has ever played football will know the frustration of a skilful but selfish team-mate. They will use their tricks to get into a good position for a cross, but try an outrageous shot from an impossible angle rather than pass to a colleague in a better position.
Generally speaking, of course, you're not allowed to get annoyed when your ball-hog colleague manages to pop the ball in the back of the net - but that didn't stop Fernando Torres. The striker was still imploring former Chelsea team-mate Juan Mata to square the ball to him long after the Manchester United man had slotted the ball between Australia keeper Matt Ryan's legs. We've all be there, Fernando.
Torres quickly remembered that millions of pairs of eyes around the world were watching (okay, so only in Australia and Spain, since everyone else was watching Netherlands v Chile) and congratulated Mata on his goal. But not before we clocked exactly what went on first.
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Louis van Gaal: Master tactician
Manchester United fans must be suffering from slightly mixed emotions watching this World Cup. On the one hand, their new manager is guiding his country superbly, carefully choosing the correct system to combat different opponents, organising a frankly quite limited Dutch side to great success so far. On the other, the longer the Netherlands are in the tournament, the less time Van Gaal has to prepare for one of the most important seasons in their recent history. Still, if any of them were in doubt about Van Gaal's managerial abilities before, then they shouldn't be now, after he guided a team minus their best player to a relatively comfortable win over one of the most dangerous sides in the competition. Few were talking about the Dutch as potential winners before the tournament, but you can be sure they are now.
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Farewell to David Villa
And so, David Villa's international career is over with something of a whimper and with a tear. The striker began weeping after he was withdrawn from Spain's ultimately meaningless victory over Australia, but at least he went out with a goal, scored via a magnificently cheeky backheel. This was of course not the way he or the other members of Spain's magical generation wanted to go out, but he at least departs into international retirement with 59 goals, a European Championship and a World Cup to his name. Which, all in all, isn't a bad old haul.
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Neymar: Really quite good
To say he's the poster boy for perhaps the most emotional World Cup hosts of all time, Neymar seems to be wearing the pressure like cap at a jaunty angle. There's a lightness to Neymar's play that belies the sort of expectation placed on this kid's shoulders, as exemplified by the casually brilliant way he took his first goal. The goal that came after that was Neymar's 35th for Brazil, putting him ahead of Rivaldo and behind only Bebeto, Romario, Ronaldo, Zico and Pele in the list of all-time goal scorers for the Selecao. It's important to note at this stage that Neymar is still just 22. Already brilliant, this young boy could turn into a legend.
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Miguel Herrera is good value
There have been so many elements to this World Cup that have been entertaining it's almost impossible to pick out just one, but the touchline antics of Mexico boss Miguel Herrera are certainly up there with the best of them. Herrera, a man whose build does call to mind the ever-popular Steve Evans, does not exactly do things by halves in the celebration department, going wild when Mexico took the lead over Croatia and was at one point dragged to the floor by an equally enthusiastic Mexican player. While the brilliant football is of course quite enough to hold our attention in this World Cup, moments like that are almost as important, because they stick in the mind so much.
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Cameroon: The worst team in Brazil?
Cameroon were of course out before Monday's games, but they will depart the scene to the grief of nobody really. While they did provide a certain degree of schadenfreude and made you wonder what exactly they might do next, because of Benoit Assou-Ekotto's maverick decision to head-butt a team-mate and Alex Song's gloriously pointless red card in the defeat to Croatia, this Cameroon side were desperately poor. Indeed, Cameroon have been desperately poor at the World Cup for a little while now – since that glorious campaign in 1990 they have won just one game in five World Cups, and now depart the scene having lost three games, shipping nine goals in the process and scoring just one. While the tournament might have just got a little less crazy, few will mourn Cameroon's departure.
- Sports & Recreation
- Arjen Robben
- Fernando Torres
- Juan Mata