World Cup quarter finals preview. We have reached the Quarter Final stage of a World Cup that has undoubtedly spoilt its audience thus far.
Despite all the last-16 ties being extremely tight and hard-fought, all eight sides that remain in the competition were winners of their group. But there have been plenty of shocks. Four-time winners Italy and former champions England were dumped out in the group stage, along with holders Spain and their Iberian neighbours Portugal. These surprises have given opportunities to the inexperienced trio of Colombia, Belgium and Costa Rica to pit their wits against some of the heavyweights of international football.
This week’s £10,000,000 Colossus does include each tie along with the semi-finals and the final. If you can guess every score correct from here on in, that huge jackpot is yours but judging by this World Cup so far, it will be no easy task. Here is my preview of each quarter final match-up.
France v Germany
These two European powerhouses both overcame African opposition to set up this mouth-watering clash. Free-scoring France have arguably been the more impressive so far, but as we know, the Germans always know how to make it through to the next round.
Didier Deschamps’ men have put the troubles of the 2010 World Cup behind them and are more united than ever. Even without the injured Franck Ribery and the out-of-favour Samir Nasri, they have dazzled at times this tournament, particularly in the 5-2 thrashing of Switzerland. In Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba, they have players that can win any game single-handedly.
Meanwhile, the Germans’ destroyed Portugal by four goals to nil in their opener but since then, they have not been as efficient. After scraping a draw with Ghana and overcoming USA, they were taken to extra time by a pacey Algerian side, who exploited the German backline that consists of four centre-backs. You get the feeling that if they are going to win this World Cup, Phillip Lahm will have to move to a more orthodox full-back position to give the side more balance.
Prediction: France to win in 90 minutes
Brazil v Colombia
The sub-plot to this all-South American encounter is the battle between two of the players of the tournament so far, Neymar and James Rodriguez. Both hosts Brazil and the exciting Colombians have been reliant on their attacking talisman to both score and create goals.
Brazil were given a real scare in the last round, scraping past Chile on penalties having been dominated for large parts of their last-16 clash. They will be praying that Neymar is 100% fit, after he picked up a knock in that game, and that they won’t have to rely on the lottery of a penalty shootout again here.
Meanwhile, Colombia have been the team to watch this tournament. Despite the absence of Radamel Falcao, they have breezed into the quarter finals for the first time in their history. Inspired by James, the Colombian class of 2014 have the potential to cause an almighty upset but you get the feeling Brazil will find a way to get through.
Prediction: Brazil to win in extra time
Argentina v Belgium
Argentina and Belgium’s path to the last eight has been remarkably similar. Neither have taken people’s breath away so far but both have won each one of their games by a single goal and were taken to extra time by less talented opponents in the last round.
If the Argentines didn’t have Lionel Messi, they would probably already be out of the tournament. The diminutive Barcelona attacker has been so important to his nation, scoring four goals in four games, picking up four man of the match awards in the process. But his teammates will have to step up here as the Belgians are on another level to any of their previous opponents.
Belgium seem to love leaving it late to win games at this World Cup. Each of their winners in the group stage came in the last 20 minutes and they had to rely on extra time to scrape past the USA. That 30-minute period was arguably the most entertaining time of the entire tournament and expect this one to go all the way too.
Prediction: Argentina to win on penalties
Netherlands v Costa Rica
The least glamorous tie of the quarter finals sees the in-form Dutch take on the tournaments surprise package and only remaining CONCACAF nation left in the competition, Costa Rica.
After destroying holders Spain in their opening game and overcoming Chile in an extremely tough group, the Netherlands left it late against the Mexicans in the last round to make it through. The draw seems to have opened up for them after Costa Rica’s heroics; they would have expected to be facing Italy, England or Uruguay at this stage. The almost unstoppable Arjen Robben will be their key man once again.
If anyone tells you they predicted Costa Rica to have made it this far, they are lying. Stuck in a group with three former World Champions, they went through top of the group, unbeaten and beat plucky Greece on penalties after going down to ten men to set up this tie. They will set up to counter attack the Netherlands and in Bryan Ruiz, Christian Bolanos and Joel Campbell, they have the tools to hurt the Dutch.
Prediction: Netherlands to win in 90 minutes
By Tim Simon