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SWC: Quarter-Finals preview

2014-07-04 11:04
Brazil fans celebrate (AFP)
Cape Town - The Soccer World Cup enters the business end tonight as the Last 8 take to the field in a bid to secure a spot in the semi-finals.

An incredible 154 goals have been scored so far in Brazil but it is at this stage where just one goal may be enough to secure a spot in the final four.

The Round of 16 proved that the remaining teams have adopted a far more pragmatic approach when it comes to the knock-out phase of the competition.


France v Germany

Germany were sensational in the group stages as they destroyed Portugal and saw off Ghana and the USA. Playing without a recognised striker, the Germans relied heavily on Thomas Muller to find the back of the net and he delivered with aplomb. Surprisingly, Algeria pushed the Germans all the way as Joachim Low's side were forced into extra-time in order to book their quarter-final place.

France were equally outstanding in the group phase despite a goalless draw against Ecuador in their last group game. Their demolition of Switzerland as well as their team harmony has made many pundit sit up and take notice of this French side's revolution under Didier Deschamps. Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Karim Benzema have found the kind of form that will have Germany more than concerned.

I am predicting the first upset of the knock-out rounds of Brazil 2014.

My prediction is a 2-1 win to France.

Brazil v Colombia

Brazil are definitely the Jekyll and Hyde side of the 2014 Soccer World Cup as they bid to become the seventh host nation to win the trophy as a host. An over-reliance on Neymar for goals is certainly a problem face Luiz Felipe Scolari as he tries to plot a way past Colombia. Fred has been dreadful as the lone striker and Brazil may be tempted to start Willian in his place and play with a "false 9".

Colombia have been the surprise package so far. James Rodriguez (pronounced HAM-es) is the name of every panelists choice when quizzed for "the best player" at the SWC and rightly so, his wonder goal against Uruguay as well being the leader the Golden Boot race has increased his market value by 100%. Colombia have a shaky defence which has yet to be truly tested and this is where I think they will come unstuck.

Brazil may need extra time tonight but ultimately I see them progressing. A lone Neymar goal may do the trick.

My prediction is a hard-fought 1-0 win for the Brazilians.


Argentina v Belgium

Arguably the highlight of the quarter-finals as Lionel Messi plus 10 others face the golden generation of Belgian football.

Argentina have been less than convincing so far and none more so than in a scrappy 1-0 win over the Swiss in the Round of 16. That being said, their defence has stood up well to any challenge while the form of Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi is enough to ensure that Argentina head into this clash as favourites. After picking up a second yellow against the Swiss, Marcos Rojo will be watching this match from the sidelines and Argentina may be vulnerable at left back.  

Belgium have proven all the armchair critics correct so far in qualifying with ease as their star-studded side now enters unfamiliar territory. Divock Origi has replaced Romelu Lukaku in the starting XI while Vincent Kompany looks as impressive as ever in the heart of defence. Unfortunately, I think it is the end of the road for this talented bunch.

While measuring 8.5 on my "upset-o-meter", I still think Argentina will have enough to progress.

My prediction is another closely contested 1-0 win in favour of Messi plus 10 others.

Netherlands v Costa Rica

The Netherlands, who were 90 seconds away from elimination against Mexico, should stroll past Costa Rica in this quarter-final clash. Robin Van Persie returns to the starting lineup to provide the Dutch with the all the fire power that they should require to overcome Costa Rica. Nigel De Jong is out of the match through injury and Louis Van Gaal will need to decide which is his best option to protect his back four.

For Costa Rica, this match will surely be about sitting deep and trying to hit the Dutch on the counter attack. Joel Campbell is a dangerous player but will need support from midfield if he is going to cause the Netherlands. Keylor Navas, hero of the penalty shoot-out against Greece, could be in for a busy evening.

The Dutch will cruise to a comfortable 2-0 win.

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