Just eight teams remain in the World Cup, with the winner likely - though not certainly - providing the World Cup MVP. Several big stars have disappointed, most notably Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Franck Ribery. Another, Arjen Robben, is working on coming back from injury, and still has a chance to shine. I've also added my two favorite now-eliminated players to the bottom of the list. They probably won't win any awards or show up on the Team of the Tournament, but they deserve recognition.
Villa isn't just chasing the title of top scorer, he's also done so in magnificent style. His cutting runs from the left wing and aggressive, accurate shooting more than make up for his hair and "beard." My favorite player of the tournament so far.
One of the most interesting aspects of recent soccer tactical advances is that midfielders have become more specialized. One of the roles coming back into style is the deep-lying passer. This is the player whom everything goes through, who makes the right pass, either a simple short ball or an incisive long ball catching a striker on the run. At the international level especially, this role has been filled to great effect by Italy's Andrea Pirlo and Spain's Xavi.
Schweinsteiger, who began as a winger, has shifted into this role magnificently for Germany. He pulls all the strings, and is the most important cog in their attack, though others may show more flash.
I praised Heinze in my Power Rankings, and I'm repeating the praise here. Winning doesn't just involve scoring goals, it also involves stopping them. Argentina has only given up two in the tournament so far, and Heinze is a big reason why.
I mentioned the specialization of midfielders above. In some way, Michael Bradley is a throwback to the kind of end-to-end, do-everything midfielder that most of us think of when we hear the word. He says he's trying to model his game off of Manchester United legend Roy Keane, and his skills at tackling, passing, and picking up the important goal demonstrate that he's on that path. Expect to hear much more from Bradley in the years to come.