Thursday, 1 July 2010

World Cup 2010: The Last 8

56 games gone, 8 to go.  We are down to the last 8 of this World Cup, which lets be honest has not been a vintage World Cup.  Let’s hope the final 8 games provide enough drama and jaw dropping action to compensate for the dull, sterile, over tactical matches that have gone previously.

Brazil V Netherlands; Port Elizabeth: Friday 4pm (3pm BST)

First up is the fourth World Cup meeting between these two sides, the Dutch winning the first meeting in 1974, Brazil won the next 20 years later while both sides played out a 1-1 draw in the Marseilles semi final of 1998, with Brazil going into the final on penalties.

Brazil have been solid during this tournament, but they have shown very little flair.  North Korea were successful in keeping Brazil at bay for 52 minutes of their tie, Portugal managed to keep them out for the full game.  They have scored 3 goals twice, against below par Cote d’Ivoire and a very open Chile.  The Dutch will be a tougher test.  Like Brazil, the Netherlands have been solid but unspectacular this tournament.  However with Van Persie and Robben just back from injury, there are causes for this solid start.  Both teams play a 4-2-3-1 formation, with the key being how the creative midfielders play/handle the attention, especially as Kaka replaced Schneider at Real Madrid.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the Netherlands will get through this one.

Uruguay V Ghana; Soccer City, Johannesburg: Friday 8:30pm (7:30pm BST)

Waiting for the winner of the first quarter final will be one of these two sides, meeting for the first time in World Cup finals.  Uruguay have been something of a revelation this tournament, with Forlan and Suarez floating up front, both were joined by Caviani for the 2nd round win over South Korea.  Uruguay will be hoping that they keep their form for their first Quarter final in 40 years.  Remarkably Ghana will be only the third African side to reach a World Cup quarter final (after Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002), and the first African semi finalist should they make it.  I think that Uruguay’s diamond midfield might be too strong for Ghana and their flat midfield.

Argentina V Germany; Cape Town: Saturday 4pm (3pm BST)

Arguably the tie of the round.  These two have contested 2 World Cup finals between them, with Argentina’s coach Maradona taking part in both contests.  Their last meeting, at this stage 4 years ago, ended in a penalty shoot-out after Argentina inexplicably surrendered the initiative.  The loss, according to the book “Inverting the Pyramid” even sparked a nationwide debate in Argentina over the enganche (or playmaker position) in the Argentinean team.  In particular the debate was over Juan Roman Riquelme, who’s substitution after 72 minutes was seen as something of a turning point.

Both sides play variations of 4-3-3, with Argentina adopting a classical 4-3-1-2 formation with everyone’s favourite footballer Lionel Messi occupying the floating forward/trequartista position.  Germany have fallen into a 4-2-1-3 formation with Ozil exploiting the space behind a front 3 of Muller, Podolski and Klose.  I think Argentina’s experience will tell and see them through.  Hopefuly this one will be a classic.
See no mention of England…  Doooh!

Paraguay V Spain: Ellis Park, Johannesburg: Saturday 8:30pm (7:30pm BST)

The winners of the Argentina/Germany clash will play the winners of this match on Wednesday in Durban.  These two have met twice in the World Cup, in the group stages on both occasions (0-0 in 1998, 3-1 to Spain in 2002).  On paper the European Champions should go through.  Spain found some form and some momentum during their win against Portugal.  However Paraguay have been excellent this tournament, with Cardozo spearheading the attack.  If Paraguay neutralise Spain’s tiki-taki style of football, and score early, we will see how good Spain really is.  I think Spain will get through in extra time.

As I said at the top of this piece, lets hope the tournament really starts here…

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