In terms of excitement, drama and tension, the last eight of a World Cup is where the tournament really starts. The weak and the feeble — in other words, England — have gone home and the real heavyweights remain.
DIEGO FORLAN (URUGUAY)
Minutes played: 360.
Attack stats: Both his goals have come against African sides.
Like Klose, he loves the World Cup. Even back in 2002 when he was a laughing stock in England because of his troubles in front of goal with Manchester United, Forlan found that this tournament suited him. Forlan remains the talisman, taking the penalties, the free-kicks and even the corners.
A thoroughly nice guy, too. It’s hard not to feel pleased for him.
He’s a rock star: Forlan helped to end 40 years of hurt for Uruguay as they reached the last eight for the first time since 1970
ENRIQUE VERA (PARAGUAY)
Minutes played: 388.
Attack stats: Paraguay has won every time Vera scores for his country.
Having spent all of his 12-year professional career in Southern and Central America, Vera is not exactly a household name in Europe but at home in Paraguay the 31-year-old playmaker is being credited with being the brains behind his country’s surprising passage to the last eight.
As you may have noticed, Paraguay are not exactly the most exciting team in this World Cup. But watch Vera play and you will see the intelligence of his football and the way that he is going some way to compensating for the poor form of their usual talisman, Manchester City’s Roque Santa Cruz.
ARJEN ROBBEN (HOLLAND)
Minutes played: 88.
Attack stats: Holland have won 11 of the 12 matches in which Robben has scored, drawing with Germany in the other.
The man who took Bayern Munich to the Champions League final almost single-handedly came late to this tournament as he was once again struck down by injury.
Since his arrival as a substitute in Holland’s final group game against Cameroon, however, he has made a sublime and memorable impact. The amazing thing about the former Chelsea winger is that he seems to have one stock party trick… and nobody seems to be able to stop it. Receiving the ball wide — on either flank — he will cut inside on a diagonal course and strike vicious shots with his left foot.