10 Players Whose Stock Fell During the 2014 Brazil World Cup Round of 16
In every World Cup, and in every round of every World Cup, new footballing stars are born: Witness the rise of Colombia’s James Rodriguez in the 2014 Brazil tournament and the resurgence of Andre Schurrle and Romelu Lukaku in the round of 16.
Yet for all of the key moments of magic that the protagonists delivered over the past few days, so too there are antagonists and fall guys who will have to face criticism for their disappointing performances.
As we look forward to the quarterfinals, let’s continue our review of the round of 16 and look back on 10 players whose stock fell in the last 16. Football’s an unforgiving game.
We’ve seen evidence of the pressure Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and his young squad are feeling from the home crowd at this year's World Cup (per the Associated Press), yet there is another reason for the Selecao’s continued struggles up front.
They simply don’t have a quality No. 9.
After being crowned the joint top scorer of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup with five goals, Fred has regressed to his toothless and lumbering self, looking labored and unable to make an impact at the World Cup so far.
Yes, he scored his first goal in Brazil’s final group match against Cameroon, but when Neymar needed someone to hold the play up for him up front against Chile, Fred was nowhere to be found.
A lack of quality strikers seems like a very un-Brazilian problem to have, given their astounding record of record-breaking forwards over the years, but it is a very real problem for Scolari and one that reflects just how uncharacteristically Brasil this team are.
That Jo was selected to be Fred’s replacement off the bench around the hour mark hardly inspired any onlookers in Belo Horizonte either.
But even worse, Fred’s substitution didn’t change anything: Jo simply provided more of the same abjectness up front.
It’s perhaps arguable that Jo didn’t have much stock to begin with, but this was one truly depressing striking performance, especially in the yellow and blue of the five-time winners.
Mauricio Pinilla (Chile)
Cruel as it may be, Mauricio Pinilla makes our list because of his crucial miss at the death when he could’ve won the game for Chile.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side were literally inches away from the quarterfinals as Pinilla hit the bar with a powerful strike that left Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar stranded.
Pinilla went on to also miss his penalty in the shootout, as the first of the Chileans to take on the dreaded death-match. Not the best of afternoons for the Cagliari striker.
Robin Van Persie (Netherlands)
No, Arjen Robben isn’t the Netherlands’ representative on this list; even though he did admit to diving in the first half against Mexico (per BBC Sport), he did earn Louis van Gaal’s side a winning penalty that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar put away.
Our Dutch pick this round is captain Robin van Persie, who struggled for fitness and looked to have been beaten by the Fortaleza heat before being withdrawn on 79 minutes by his manager.
Said Van Gaal, “So, this trainer wants to win. So he makes substitutions. It’s simple.” (per The Telegraph)
Van Persie will need to up his game and fitness for Costa Rica.
Kostas Mitroglou (Greece)
As much as Keylor Navas put on a goalkeeping clinic for Costa Rica, the Greece players must also take the blame for their round of 16 exit to Costa Rica.
Particularly wasteful was anonymous Fulham striker Kostas Mitroglou, who entered the fray around the hour mark and contrived to miss several good one-on-one chances to hand his country the win.
Like Jo, it’s not as if Mitroglou had much of a reputation leading into the tournament—such was his dire half-season in the Premier League after signing from Olympiakos—but it was still a very disappointing performance.
Mario Gotze (Germany)
Before the tournament, Joachim Low’s side had been hailed as one of the most technically gifted German teams to take part in a World Cup, and pundits like Ben Gladwell had tipped Mario Goetze to star as their own Lionel Messi (per the Daily Mail).
So when Goetze was selected to start against Algeria, surely many a fan and neutral would’ve been looking forward to a masterclass alongside Mesut Ozil?
He lasted just the first half, before coming off to be replaced by Andre Schurrle, who, of course, would go on to score an outrageous back-heeled goal before Ozil made sure of Germany’s progression into the quarterfinals.
Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina)
Much like Brazil, Argentina have struggled with their centre-forward options this World Cup campaign, though not for lack of star names: Alejandro Sabella has the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi at his disposal.
But without the injured Sergio Aguero and the snubbed Carlos Tevez, there seems to be a curious lack of drive, pace and useful movement up front.
Higuain has been the main culprit, putting in abject performances that have appeared a world apart from his impressive displays at club level for Napoli in Serie A.
He’s continued to play down rumors linking him to Barcelona to focus on the World Cup (per the Daily Mail); if he continues in this vein, he won’t need to worry about moving to Camp Nou.
Josip Drmic (Switzerland)
Josip Drmic came into the tournament as one of the hottest prospects in Switzerland's bright young squad. Indeed, he'd finished his first Bundesliga season with 17 league goals and had sealed a deal to sign for Bayer Leverkusen this summer.
He started the World Cup as Ottmar Hitzfeld's first choice and set up two of Xherdan Shaqiri's three goals in Switzerland's win over Honduras, but sadly couldn't sustain his form against Argentina.
Fluffing a big chance to win the game for the Swiss, he also turned in an anonymous performance that was quite a way away from his scoring exploits in the Bundesliga.
Blerim Dzemaili (Switzerland)
Just like Pinilla of Chile, Blerim Dzemaili is the second of Switzerland's two representatives on our list, simply because of his costly miss that would've changed the entire match.
Dzemaili was unmarked at the far post when a cross came in, but he contrived to head the ball against the post and lost his balance while moving to score from the rebound.
Two point-blank misses in a row in the final few minutes of the game that would've instantly equalized for Switzerland and likely taken the match to a penalty shootout.
Chris Wondolowski (United States)
Such is the cruel nature of football, that Belgium had been the technically superior side over the course of 90 minutes, but Chris Wondolowski will shoulder lots of the criticism for a costly miss that sent the United States on their way to crashing out of the World Cup.
A simple piece of route one football sent Wondolowski clear after Jermaine Jones headed on a Geoff Cameron long ball, but with the goal at his mercy, the American striker blazed over the bar.
Yes, the assistant referee had flagged for offside anyway, but who knows what could've happened if he'd done his job in front of goal?