Uruguay’s rising star Jose Gimenez was a sturdy and powerful bastion against Italy in Natal. The Atletico Madrid player kept a succession of Azzurri attacks at bay, neutralising Mario Balotelli throughout the entire first-half.
Gimenez was crucial in helping his Charruas through to the Round of 16 from Group D. His performance on the day will do his chances of winning the Hyundai Young Player award at the 214 FIFA World Cup™ Brazil no harm at all.
England’s much-hyped young guns, for their part, said goodbye to the tournament. Up-and-coming stars Ross Barley and Luke Shaw both started the game, a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica that was arguably their best performance of a difficult campaign. They were joined in the second half by Liverpool’s livewire winger Raheem Sterling. All three represent a bright future for the English in the midst of yet another disheartening World Cup campaign.
Colombia’s centre-half Eder Balanta was in good form against Japan, but he might have been a little sharper when Shinji Okazaki struck just before the half to draw level at 1-1. Even so, the Colombians went on to win easily and move on to the Round of 16 as Group C winners.
Nigeria’s Kenneth Omeruo will be keen to keep up the good work when Nigeria take on Argentina tomorrow. The full-back had a sparkling game against Bosnia last time out, but Lionel Messi and Co represent a sterner test of his defensive mettle.
Iran’s striker Alireza Jahan Bakhsh might well be involved in tomorrow’s contest against the Bosnians, as the Asian side are still searching for their first goal of the tournament with two games played. On the other side of the pitch, Sead Kolasinac is eager to get back into the line-up after spending the last game against Nigeria on the bench. The own-goal he scored against Argentina in the opener is something he’d like to atone for if given the chance.
Honduras’ tricky winger Andy Najar could see action against the Swiss. In the fourth and final game of the day, Ecuador’s Carlos Gruezo will likely be called on again to help keep at bay the impressive French, whose starting line-up - as confirmed by Didier Deschamps - will include Paul Pogba and Lucas Digne.