World Cup 2014

Best eleven before last eight

Zico, Brazilian football superstar/ maestro | Update:

These are the guys who deserve to be in my XI. Some of them might have gone home now but what they did remains special.


Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico) This guy arrived at the World Cup unemployed but I sincerely doubt that it will remain that way. Ochoa made wonderful saves, including some awesome stops against Brazil in the group game. He also had a very good game against the Dutch and it took a Wesley Sneijder belter to beat him in Fortaleza. A goalie like him gives the team and his centre-backs all the peace of mind in the world and I was really impressed with the cool way he handled whatever was directed at him.


Mauricio Isla (Chile): As a manager you want a full-back to close down spaces, track down the opposition and go forward efficiently. Isla ticks all the boxes and I believe he was one of the reasons for Chile’s memorable campaign in Brazil. In the system deployed by Jorge Sampaoli his role was crucial and Isla proved a handful for Brazil when the teams met in Belo Horizonte last Saturday.

Mario Yepes (Colombia): He is exhibit A in the argument that age doesn’t have to immediately disqualify a player. At 38, he is a wise guy who brings plenty to a Colombia side in which most outfield players are under 30. His leadership is also priceless in a competition as mentally tough as a World Cup, and his experience in Serie A is evident in the way he orientates the team. Colombia have conceded only twice and Yepes is one of the reasons for that success.

David Luiz (Brazil): I am quite impressed by the way he has stepped up to the challenge of playing a World Cup at home. He has shown immense confidence and has been a lion for Brazil. He is fearless and has kept his cool when many other players have shown signs of struggling with the expectations put on the team. David Luiz is classy on the ball and that can be noted when he goes forward – just watch the cross he put on Fred’s head for Brazil’s third goal against Cameroon in the group stage.


Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica): His team defied everyone’s expectations to survive the group of death and the 6ft 2in forward has been influential even when he is not scoring. Ruiz’s movement is pretty useful and he is a guy who thrives on getting into the box, which suits the way the Costa Ricans like to play. He is an aggressive player who also shows surprising speed with the ball for a guy so tall.

Luiz Gustavo (Brazil): One of the best Seleção players so far, I would love to see him being used for more than containment in the Brazil side. His passing is good and is as important as his ball-stealing proficiency (he has recovered 34 balls so far in the competition, behind only Chile’s Gary Medel). Brazil will certainly miss him against Colombia on Friday.

James Rodríguez (Colombia): To say Rodríguez is one of the most talented players in this competition is an understatement. At 22, this is a player ready to take the world by storm. His touch is exquisite and his passing has an impressive accuracy. It is remarkable how he stepped up to help Colombia absorb the blow that was Radamel Falcao’s pre-tournament injury. A curious thing about Rodríguez is that he seems a bit slow but he changes gear when the opposition are least expecting it.

Daley Blind (Holland): Many people will immediately think of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, but it was Blind’s touch that helped the Dutch mount an impressive comeback against Spain. He hit an amazing long ball for Van Persie’s acrobatic header but the beauty of the finish eclipsed how good a pass it was. I was really impressed by Blind’s technique and that kind of resource can be crucial in tight matches.


Arjen Robben (Holland): Age has done wonders for Robben. At 30 he is more experienced and has learned to be more decisive for Bayern Munich and Holland. He is also obviously very skilful and I am still in awe of the way he controlled the ball in that goal against the Spaniards. Everybody knows he likes to cut inside and use his left foot – try to stop Robben when he is inspired. A craque (an ace), as we say in Brazil.

Lionel Messi (Argentina): Argentina went into the second round with three wins. In all of them Messi scored. If he was Nigerian, they would have beaten Argentina. He made the difference for his team and has hit some amazing goals. There wasn’t much more this kid could have done.

Neymar (Brazil): Despite all the pressure, Neymar keeps wanting more. He looks for the ball and never hides. His fitness is also amazing and he has bailed out the Seleção a few times. Brazil shouldn’t be so dependent on him but the 22-year-old is not shying away from his huge responsibility. He has got plenty of guts and lots of skill.



Arthur Antunes Coimbra, better known as Zico, is a former Brazilian coach and footballer. Often called the "White Pelé", he is commonly considered one of the most skilled finishers and one of the best passers ever. With 48 goals in 71 official appearances for Brazil, Zico is the fourth highest goalscorer for his national team. He represented them in the 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

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