World Cup Quarterfinals Preview
The 2014 World Cup has been nothing short of incredible, but now we are getting down to the business stages of the tournament, and the best teams have separated themselves from the rest. Some of the best soccer is yet to come, and we are all in for a heck of a ride over the next few days. Here is a preview for each of the quarterfinal matchups:
France vs Germany
A match up that most expected at this point, these two European powers both have what it takes to win the whole thing, but one of the two sides will bow out here. Both teams were nearly upset by lesser opponents in the round of 16, but at this stage, it is simply “survive and advance”. France has been scoring at will most of the tournament, but will face a very tough test in the German defense, arguably the best defense in the world. France’s attack, led by Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema has been one of the most impressive and will need to continue to be at their best. Algeria stunningly exposed the German defense in the round of 16, something that the French took notes on and will likely imply the same type of attack. Germany will be looking to improve on their defense and get on the counter attack with Mesut Ozil and Tomas Muller leading the way. These are two even teams, but I feel that Germany will learn from their mistakes against Algeria and tighten up on defense. Goals by Muller and Andre Schurrle in the 2nd half send the Germans to the semifinals.
Brazil vs Colombia
This has to be the most intriguing match up of the four quarterfinal fixtures, a match that I can’t wait to watch. Both teams came from relatively easy groups, but Colombia looked far more impressive in the round of 16 against Uruguay. Brazil escaped Chile by the skin of their teeth in a penalty shootout, a game they probably should have lost in extra time. Brazil, the favorites to win it all, have looked shaky at times, but otherwise have dominated the majority of their games. Neymar has performed as advertised, scoring four goals in four games and scored the winning penalty kick against Chile. A big game will be needed out of Oscar and Hulk, and will also need Paulinho to step up big in place of Luiz Gustavo. Colombia has been led by James Rodriguez, who scored both of Colombia’s goals against Uruguay in the round of 16, and is rumored to be headed to Real Madrid after the World Cup. Colombia will also be needing a big game out of Juan Guillermo Cuadrado to take the weight of Rodriguez a bit. This is new territory for Colombia, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure. Brazil will have the home field advantage here, and I feel they are just too much when they are firing on all cylinders. Brazil goes through on a late goal by Hulk to set up a match up with Germany.
Argentina vs Belgium
Both teams made it through in extra time in games that both teams probably should have won much earlier. Argentina is led by the world’s best player in Lionel Messi, who has been fantastic in the World Cup thus far, scoring four goals and assisting on the winning goal against the Swiss. Sergio Aguero is looking more and more fit by the day and could see time in this game, which would be a massive boost for Argentina with how impressive the Belgian defense has been. Argentina will have to keep the ball as much as possible considering how dominant Belgium has been with possessing the ball. Belgium was absolutely dominant in their victory over the United States and would have won the game much earlier if it wasn’t for a heroic effort by American keeper Tim Howard. The Belgians will try to dominate possession like they have in each game so far, but when Argentina and Messi are on the counter, it will be up to Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellani to stop Messi, a task that is easier said than done. I fully expect to see Romelo Lukaku in the starting XI this time around with his impressive performance against the USA. But the Belgians go as Eden Hazard goes, so it will be interesting to see how the Argentine defense can slow him down. This game will surely come down to the wire, and extra time will likely be needed, but I feel Argentina comes through in penalty kicks to send the young Belgian team home. This one will be a thriller.
Costa Rica vs Netherlands
The Cinderella story of the World Cup, no one had Costa Rica even making it out of the group stage, let alone reaching the quarterfinals. They may have lucked out against Greece, who were playing with 10 men for a long period of time, but nonetheless, the Costa Ricans are here and must be taken seriously. They will likely be parking the bus the majority of the game against a Dutch attack that is one of the worlds best, but will look to take advantage on the counter attack, which is led by Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz. Don’t look for Costa Rica to really possess the ball much in this game, but focus more on shutting down the Dutch playmakers. The Netherlands are lucky to be here after scoring two late goals, including a controversial penalty kick against Mexico. Holland will be looking to push early and often against a lesser Costa Rica squad and avoid what happened last game. Netherlands will be missing key midfielder Nigel De Jong due to injury, but have plenty of firepower, led by Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, and Arjen Robben, who has been amazing so far in the World Cup. This looks like a mismatch on paper, but anything can happen at this point in the tournament. I like the Netherlands to win this one on goals by Van Persie and Robben, but Costa Rica will impress many and give the Dutch a game to the very end.