Wednesday, 2 July 2014

World Cup 2014: The Quarter Finals

So, 56 games down and 8 to go before we find out who will succed Spain as World Champions. Most comments have been positive towards this World Cup. Personally, i want to see what happens next before passing judgement – USA ‘94 looked exciting before a drap pair of semi finals and a final that was only marginally better than the worst game of football ever that was the conclusion of Italia ‘90.

France V Germany; Rio Di Janerio: Friday 1pm (5pm BST) 

First up is the third meeting between these sides, though their two other meetings were World Cup semi finals and when it was only West Germany. Their first meeting in the World Cup finals was in that semi final in Seville in 1982 – the Schumacher “lunge” at Battiston (right), the West German fightback after France went 3-1 up in extra time - all of which culminated in the first World Cup finals match to be decided by a penalty shoot-out which the Germans, of course won. Four years later and in Guadalajara West Germany won a much more comfortable semi final 2-0 with an early Brehme goal and a late Voller goal. 

France have been a surprise package in this tournament. Shorn of Ribbery through injury and Nasri by choice, Deschamps side have been open and attacking, with Pogba maturing with every performance and Benzema the spearhead of France’s attack. Germany on the other hand have really to still hit the form they showed when they blew away Portugal 4-0 in the first game with their performance in the match against Algeria their worst yet. I think that France will win, but have a sneeking suspicion that the old Germany that people set their watches to with their arrival at the business end of tournaments is back. 

Brazil V Columbia; Fortaleza: Friday 5pm (9pm BST)
The winners of that first semi will face the winners here in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. Brazil have been ropey at best, firmly in the shadow of the glorious Brazil sides from 1970 or 1982. Brazil’s defence and their over reliance on Neymar da Silva Santos Jr has seen them to this stage of the tournament. In their way is a Columbia side that many thought would be good, but not this good. Shorn of their attacking spearhead – Radamel Falcao was injured in January playing for Monaco and just missed out on this tournament – Columbia have adapted admirably – with James Rodriguez arguably the player of the tournament thus far. It should also be noted that Columbia had followed Chile in appointing a former Argentina manager who promotes promising young players – though Pekerman isn’t as tactically innovative as Marcelo Bielsa.

This will be the first meeting between the two teams in the World Cup finals, though their last actual World Cup meeting came during the mammoth qualifying campaign for 2010 – 0-0 in Bogota (in October 2007) and 0-0 in Rio (in October 2008). I think that Brazil will somehow make the semis, logic dictates that Columbia have been the better side in this tournament but something’s telling me Brazil will sneek this somehow. 

Argentina V Belgium; Brasillia: Saturday 1pm (5pm BST)
Like the first Semi on Friday, the first semi on Saturday features two teams that met in the 80’s but haven’t seen much of each other since. Argentina’s first meeting with Belgium came when they opened the 1982 World Cup at the Nou Camp, and Belgium spoiled the party. Vandenbergh’s goal saw the holders make the worst possible start – an experience they would go through 8 years later. Their next meeting would be sooner than that, as they were the other semi finalists in 1986 (above) – a Maradona brace saw Argentina into a final meeting with West Germany. 

Like Brazil, Argentina have been too reliant on on individual – Messi. Yet there should be enough talent to be more than just Messi’s supporting cast – Higuain & Lavezzi in particular haven’t been particularly great. Belgium have been tipped as dark horses – so reaching this stage is sort of par. Yet Belgium, like Argentina, haven’t really clicked. There were stages in the tie with the USA where it looked like Belgium were clicking… I think an experienced Argentina side will sneek through, maybe after extra time. 

Netherlands V Costa Rica; Salvador: Saturday 5pm (9pm BST)
Bidding to face either Argentina or Belgium in Wednesday’s semi final in Sao Paolo will be another pair who have never met in a World Cup finals match. Like Columbia, this will be the furthest Costa Rica have gone in a World Cup – having reached the knock out stages once before in 1990. Thankfully there’s no sign of their tormentor in chief that night – Thomas Skuhravy. Instead there’s Robben, Van Persie and Schneider. 

On the face of it, the Netherlands should blow Costa Rica away. They have been in pretty good form this World Cup, only looking like coming unstuck against Mexico in the last round. Yet they did let down their guard against Australia, only winning 3-2 and Costa Rica did beat Uruguay and Italy in their group games. I think the tea-time slot will help the Netherlands but I think this one could well go to extra time again.
So far this World Cup has been bubbling along nicely, now we are at the meat and potatoes of this tournament –lets hope we are not disappointed.

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