Today kicks off the first two of four total quarter-final match-ups: France vs Germany & Brazil vs Colombia! The other two quarter-final match-ups will take place tomorrow (Saturday) with Argentina vs Belgium & the Netherlands vs Costa Rica. As you may have heard, all eight group winners beat all eight group runner-ups in the round of 16. I went six for eight in my round of 16 predictions calling for Switzerland to upset Argentina (which almost happned!) and the USA to upset Belgium (also almost happened!). Looking to better myself in the quarter-finals I hope the following predictions will prove true!
France vs Germany: Friday, July 4 (Noon, EST)
Of all the quarter-final match-ups I find this one the most difficult to predict. From the beginning of the tournament I thought France would surprise people and make a deep run. They have done so and proved that they are playing at a high level. Conversely, I picked Germany to have a poor tournament, and while they have underperformed, there is no doubting the fact that Germany is a threat to any team they play against and have the talent to beat anyone. I believe this game will be fairly evenly matched and I wouldn't be surprised if France kept up with Germany possession wise with their extremely talented midfield of Cabaye, Pogba, and Matuidi. Both teams will have their chances and solid goalkeeping could keep the score low late into the game. This game could end up being a deadlock that gets decided in PKs but I'm hoping for some late drama in regulation or overtime that decides a winner.
France Wins 2 – 1
I picked France to make it to the semi-finals at the beginning of the tournament and I'm sticking to my guns! I believe they have both the talent and goals scoring ability to put a couple goals past Germany's Nuer! I'm hoping that this game offers a lot of quality play, tension, and a late goal to win it for the French! Vive la France!
Brazil vs Colombia: Friday, July 4 (4PM, EST)
Again, I find this match up difficult to call. Brazil is certainly the more talented team (roster wise) yet they have shown signs of weakness, particularly when a team is not scared of them (and Colombia won't be!). Moreover, Colombia has looked to be one of the better teams in this tournament! They play with passion and fearlessness and will push the ball forward against Brazil to the surprise of many. This game could turn into a fine spectacle, particularly if Brazil open the scoring and force Colombia to play open soccer. If this happens we could have a free flowing, high scoring match on our hands. Let's hope so!
Brazil Wins 3 – 2
I originally predicted that Brazil would loose in the round of 16 to Spain but considering Spain was one of the first teams eliminated from the World Cup that obviously didn't happen! With that said I am tempted to pick Colombia for the upset, especially considering how much Spain struggled with Chile. However, Colombia and Chile are very similar teams I believe that Brazil will have learned a lot about themselves from their match with Chile and prove too much for James Rodriguez and the Colombians in the end! Jogo Bonito!
Argentina vs Belgium: Saturday, July 5 (Noon, EST)
This match-up presents (perhaps) the two most talented rosters in the World Cup while also presenting the two must underwhelming teams in the World Cup so far. Let me explain. With the amount of talent both of these teams possess, many are surprised by how much both teams have had to rely on late game heroics and how much each team has struggled against lesser opponents. This game will really come down to which team can rally together and bring their rich amounts of talent together. I believe that Belgium's midfield will actually control most of this game while Argentina will look to play through Angel Di Maria who will be deployed high and wide. Goalkeeping could play a fact in this game in diversely different ways. Belgium's keeper Courtois showed his brilliance with several key saves against the USA in the round of 16 while Argentina's keeper (Romero) has been considered a weakness in the Argentinian lineup. Courtois could keep the Belgians in the game against Messi & co. while Romero could possibly make a costly error.
Belgium Wins 1 – 0
That's right! I could be making another big mistake by calling for the defeat of the team I predicted would win it all (Argentina) but I believe the Belgians are beginning to show signs of cohesion after their victory over the USA in the rd. of 16. Romelu Lukaku came on late for Belium against the USA and looked incredible. Look for him to start against Argentina and find a breakthrough at some point against the Argentinian defense!
The Netherlands vs Costa Rica: Saturday, July 5 (4PM, EST)
Of all the quarter-final match-ups, this one is perhaps the easiest one to call. Costa Rica is the 2014 World Cup Cinderella story. So if you're looking for an underdog, look no further! Costa Rica made it to the Knockout stage of the tournament by successfully navigating through the other "Group of Death". They were drawn with Uruguay, Italy, & England in group D and let's be honest, no one (I MEAN NO ONE!) gave Costa Rica ANY chance of getting out of that group. Well, not only did Los Ticos get out of the group, they won the group securing a spot in the round of 16 with victories over Uruguay and Italy. The Cinderella story has continued for the Costa Ricans by defeating a rather tame round of 16 draw against the Greeks in PKs. Unfortunately, for the Costa Ricans, their run will most likely end here. The Netherlands are an incredibly skilled side that seem to be growing in confidence as the tournament continues to advance. Expect the Dutch to control most of the possession and attacking opportunities in this match while Costa Rica will look to hold off the Dutch onslaught and sneak in a goal on the counter attack!
The Netherlands Win 2 – 0
The Netherlands will ultimately prove too much for Costa Rica and while Los Ticos may be able to hold the Dutch attacking machine at bay for 60 minutes or so, do not expect it to hold much longer. One of the attacking threats for the Netherlands (Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Huntalaar, etc.) will eventually make the break through and the Dutch will find themselves in a tantalizing semi-final match-up with either the Argentinians or Belgians! Oranje Crush!
Big Name Semi-Final
If the both Brazil and the Netherlands make it through to the semi-finals then we are looking at a final four packed full of big names! Brazil would be playing either France or Germany and the Netherlands would be playing either Argentina or Belgium. Both of these scenarios make a fan of the beautiful game drool! A rematch of the 1998 World Cup Final (Brazil vs France) is what I'm pulling for!
Enjoy these quarter finals over the holiday weekend and be sure to eat plenty of hotdogs!