Thursday, July 03, 2014

And then there were 8...1/4 finals of World Cup approach

Phew, 48 hours without any World Cup are we expected to survive this? It has actually been a good respite considering how tense some of the knock out games were. Starting tomorrow we are back in for 4 very different and fascinating matches. Since the Frog was 7-1 in the picks for the last round, we are feeling pretty confident in our prognostications! The one missed pick...The Frog had the US beating Belgium 2-1. Right score line...wrong teams. So here we go:

  • France v West Germany: I have been surprisingly calm about this match, maybe it is the heat that has descended on the New England area that is warping my mind. I will most likely have a dedicated post to this match but here is my snap shot. France and Germany have a long story of match ups - 1986, 1982, 1940, 1914, 1870...1806 okay okay I completely digress from the football field. When it comes to their national football teams, France has always been in the shadow of Germany. Les Bleus have always seemed to be the little brother to Die Mannschaft. France and Germany have not met on the footy field at a major tournament since 1986. But those match ups - 1982 and 1986 - carry a lot of weight on this rivalry. More on 1982 in another post. But we are now in 2014, most players on both sides were not born in 1986! So what to
    We meet again!
    make of this match up? Both sides struggled in their knock out openers. France did not look good against Nigeria until the last 15 minutes while Germany, at times, looked old and slow versus the Algerians. But this is Germany, this is the World Cup - they know how to win when they have to. It might not be pretty, and often it is not, but they do what it takes. While Les Bleus, for all the good will they are starting to harvest, is still an experienced side when it comes to these types of games. For this reason I have a hard time to pick against the RFA. Here is why - Muller is not going to miss sitters like he did against Algeria, Ozil and Gotze are going to cause some real issues for Evra and Debuchy. The midfielders will cancel each other out. Muller is more clinical than the French options up front. I have to make this pick with head...not my heart. West Germany 2 - France 0
  • Brazil v Colombia - Has there been a player with more hype than James Rodriguez? He deserves much of the praise, having scored in each of his nation's games at the World Cup, including a master stroke of a volley against Uruguay. Brazil also did not look very convincing against Chile. The Brazilians have the goal frame to thank for their victory. If I see Cesar weeping openly again, I might throw something at my television screen and Brazil played terribly and still made it to the 1/4 finals. They are still the home side if anyone forgot. They are facing another South American side who they are very accustomed to playing in Brazil. Colombia has never reached this stage, even the sides with Valderrama and Asprilla. Colombia have been clicking since the group stages, where they have scored 11 goals and only giving up 2 goals since this World Cup has started. Strong numbers to say the least. But they are now facing off against Brazil. I think this game will be closer than the home fans will want to see, but at the end I cannot see Brazil falling to their neighbors from the north. Brazil 2 - Colombia 1
  • Argentina v Belgium - France and West Germany are not the only nations that have footballing history from 1982 and 1986. Belgium defeated Argentina 1-0 in the 1982 group stage opener, at Camp Nou. The two sides met again 4 years later this time in the 1/2 finals where Maradona scored a brace to send Scifo and Pfaff to the third place match (where they lost 4-2 to France). So these two nations face off again on the world's biggest footballing stage. Argentina struggled against the Swiss last round.
    Messi to expect the same treatment?
    Once again it needed a run by Messi to get through on a 1-0 score line. Argentina's offense was better than it had been - especially Di Maria who seemed to step up his game. Becoming more active in carrying the game for the Argentines. The one troubling area, continues to be their back line. This is something of a concern for Les Albicelestes. Belgium showed against the United States that they have some lethal attacking options - Hazard, De Bruyen, Lukaku, Origi and even fullbacks like Vertonghen. Can the Argentine defense hold up against these attacking options? Or will Belgium be more cautious facing Messi and co as opposed to when they faced the powerful midfield of Bradley and Zusi...Argentina, similar to Brazil, have won unconvincing, even ugly. I think this continues, but it will be close. Argentina 1 - Belgium 1, Argentina wins 5-4 on kicks.
  • Holland v Costa Rica - Of all the CONCACAF teams, who would have wagered it would be the Ticos that got to the 1/4 finals? Oranje could be considered fortunate having beaten another CONCACAF side - Mexico. But this is a new day. I cannot see how Costa Rica can continue their magical run. They also had to play an extra 30 minutes and a man down. That is a lot of extra wear on those players' legs. I also do not think that Costa Rica has handled a player like Robben nor Van Persie in the past. Look for Robben to carve up the Ticos with either his pace or his diving. Either way he is world class. Look for Los Ticos' run to end. Holland 2 - Costa Rica 0 
Some exciting 1/4 finals game coming up. I think we are still on course for a Brazil v Argentina And Holland v Germany 3rd place game which might be one of the better 3rd place games ever!

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