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Tim Howard features in list of top five World Cup second-round stars

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The World Cup knockout stages are well and truly under-way now, with only eight teams left in the competition.

It is the first World Cup since the tournament was re-organised to feature all group winners at the quarter-final stage, but that does not mean that the games were predictable.

This tournament has been the best major international competition in recent memory and the high standard of entertaining football has continued.

We now look at the five players who have played the best in all of the second-round matches.

Alexis Sanchez

If ever a player didn't deserve to be on a losing side it was Sanchez. The Chilean was superb throughout his nation's second-round tie and it is a shame to lose him from the competition so early.

Deceptively strong for a small man, he did a good job holding possession whilst he was also a major threat when running in behind the Brazil defence.

In the end he could not stop his country exiting the competition on penalties, but he was a major reason Chile impressed so much at this World Cup. His goal to level the game was reward for his non-stop energy.

James Rodriguez

The Monaco man has established himself as a household name at this World Cup after a series of excellent performances.

Rodriguez has five goals, putting him at the top of the competition’s scoring-charts and his showing to knock out Uruguay was one of the best of the tournament so far.

He netted both Colombia’s goals in their victory - the first being a wonderfully crafted volley from distance – and could have had added even more to his already impressive tally.

Keylor Navas

The Levante 'stopper has been highly-regarded in Spain for some time now after his excellent performances in La Liga, but he is announcing himself on the world stage now.

Costa Rica’s progress in the tournament has been one of the most heart-warming stories of the World Cup so far, but they may not have been able to do it without their goalkeeper.

Navas has stood strong and faced up to every challenge thrown at him, pulling off brilliant saves and commanding his box expertly.

He was the hero of the last round, too, as his saves in the penalty shoot-out meant his nation advanced to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

Mathieu Valbuena

The diminutive Frenchman may have not received much acclaim or hit many headlines during this World Cup, but his importance for France cannot be understated.

Valbuena is the creative fulcrum for his nation, linking up the play between their powerful midfielders and their ruthless attackers and he was at his best in their 2-0 win against Nigeria.

His corner provided the assist for the first and his overall performance was a joy to watch, with his technical ability shining through.

The Marseille man is reportedly available for under £10 million this summer and, at that price, he looks to be a real bargain.

Tim Howard

No goalkeeper has made more saves in one match in World Cup history than Howard did against Belgium.

The experienced American had to be at his very best to fend off an impressive Belgium side, who peppered his goal with constant shots all night.

The Everton man pulled off 16 stops over the course of the night, and could do little with either of the goals that did go past him.

Indeed, if it wasn’t for Howard, then the match would not have been so competitive and the pulsating finish to extra-time that we were able to witness may never have occurred.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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