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Blog - World Cup Central

Duarte: Dunga's return is complicated

Brazil
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World Cup ups and downs - Part 2

With two rounds of games complete in the group stage, Iain Macintosh returns to deliver his verdict on the best and worst of the players on show in recent days.

Up

Guillermo Ochoa

You know a goalkeeper has played well when a social media rumour claiming he has six fingers on each hand is taken seriously by scores of people who really should know better. For the record, Ochoa has no extra digits on his hands, but he might have a few more than he previously expected on his next signing-on fee. The man who kept Brazil at bay with a series of barely believable stops is out of contract this summer, and there will be no shortage of suitors. Another performance like that against Croatia and Mexico will take their second-round place too.

Ivan Perisic

Sometime when things go wrong in life, you feel a primal urge to take it out on someone. Poor old Cameroon. They had the misfortune to meet Croatia at just one of those times and Perisic and his colleagues made sure they paid a heavy price. There were other heroes that night, notably Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic, but Perisic was on another level. He scored an extraordinary solo effort; he is quick, confident and powerful; he can play anywhere across the front line; and he has "difficult first season at Tottenham Hotspur" written all over him in big, bold letters.

Arjen Robben

Arjen Robben is the tournament's joint-leading scorer with three goals.

There seems to be something of a competition within a competition in the Dutch squad and it's Robin van Persie and Robben who lead the way. Both men are technicians of the highest order, and both are intent on making themselves the stars of this tournament. Van Persie stole the lead in the first week with his impetuous long-range diving header, but Robben has powered ahead now, in much the same way that he powered through the Australian defence on his way to his third goal of the World Cup. The only bad news for the 30-year-old is that his land speed record, claimed against Spain, has now been beaten by Darijo Srna.

James Rodriguez

Far from being broken by adversity, Colombia have shaken off the loss of Radamel Falcao like a light cold and look set to take their place in the last 16. One of the primary reasons for their success is Monaco's Rodriguez, whose devilish skill behind the striker has proved too much for Greece and the Ivory Coast. It's not just Rodriguez's sublime technique that stands out, it's his ability to see two or three moves ahead and react accordingly. There's something of the Paul Scholes about him in the way he makes all the difficult jobs look so easy.

Luis Suarez

For a man who was in a wheelchair a month ago, Suarez has made quite the recovery. Left out of Uruguay's stunning defeat to Costa Rica, he made all the difference in their next game against England, scoring both goals. The movement required to drift off Phil Jagielka for his first was sublime, and the deftness of his subsequent header was world-class. Meanwhile, for a man who had a knee operation so recently to be tearing through the England back line in the 85th minute of such a hard-fought game tells you everything you need to know about his desire. He is unstoppable.

- Iain Macintosh: World Cup diary

Down

Steven Gerrard

Perhaps this was one tournament too far for the veteran Liverpool and England midfielder. Perhaps Roy Hodgson's tactics, which saw just two men in the middle to counter Uruguay and Italy, exposed his ageing legs. Either way, this has not been a summer to remember for the 34-year-old. Gerrard has been less than impressive with the ball, and his awkward header in the closing moments of England's crucial make-or-break second game succeeded only in releasing his club teammate Suarez, who scampered through and smashed home the winner. International retirement now beckons for one of the last members of England's so-called "golden generation."

Fred

Fred has borne the brunt of much of the criticism surrounding Brazil's stuttering attacking output.

Brazil's clash with Mexico was another poor game for much-maligned Fred, and this time he couldn't even contribute a contentious penalty. There are those who believe the 30-year-old is the worst centre-forward ever to play for Brazil, and the man himself is doing little to counter those claims. In the Confederations Cup last summer, Fred excelled at creating space and providing knockdowns for Neymar and his swifter friends. But there's been none of that this year and his place must now be in jeopardy.

Diego Costa

How quickly opinions in football change. After his barnstorming La Liga season, it was easy to see why Spain had pushed so hard to recruit Costa to their cause. After Spain's defeat to Chile saw them eliminated in the first round, you wondered why they had bothered with all of the paperwork. As he was against the Netherlands, Costa was desperately disappointing against the South Americans. It's not entirely his fault: the Brazilian-born striker has given everything for his club and is still feeling the effects of injury. But this has been a miserable summer, not least because the host nation's fans have jeered his every touch.

Alex Song

It's hard to understand why Barcelona paid so much for Song -- an estimated 15 million pounds -- when they signed him from Arsenal. It's even harder to imagine a way they could get even half of that money back for him now. It wasn't just that Song was dismissed against Croatia, it was the manner of the dismissal. Red cards are a part of life in the midfield, but if you're going to get one, get one for something constructive. Song's snide and cowardly reverse elbow chop on Mario Mandzukic was, more than anything else, just blisteringly stupid. If Barcelona really want to get rid of him, they should try giving him away as a free gift and just hope no one complains.

Philippe Senderos

Aston Villa fans must be licking their lips in anticipation. From next season, their loose grip on Premier League football will be maintained by Switzerland's Philippe Senderos, who gave another reminder of his extraordinary ability to make at least one huge mistake every time he plays in the defeat to France. Long-suffering Arsenal fans will testify that the Swiss defender is, for the most part, an excellent centre-back. It's just that every now and then he'll simply hang a leg out at a dangerous ball instead of dealing with it and all hell will break loose. Good luck, Villa.

And finally…

Arturo Vidal is another from the Suarez school of swift recoveries. He's not supposed to be "fully fit" either, but try telling him that. The Chilean midfielder ran the show at the Maracana last week and is only going to get better as the tournament progresses.

You would hope that Honduran full-back Emilio Izaguirre would get better too, given his display against Ecuador. The Celtic man completed just four passes all night and gave the ball away 11 times, amassing a pass completion rate of 27 percent.

Iain Macintosh

Iain is a writer for ESPN FC and editor of @thesetpieces. He is also the author of the novel, "Johnny Cook: The Impossible Job," and the co-author of, "Football Manager Stole My Life".