The U.S. team might be heading home, but eight nations are still alive as the World Cup begins the quarterfinal round. If the U.S. loss to Belgium made you swear off soccer, you should rethink that decision right now because the holiday weekend ahead will feature four high-quality matches. Here’s who’s left in the Cup, how the matchups break down and who could go all the way.
France vs. Germany — Friday, July 4, Noon EDT: So…there’s no shortage of history between these two both on and off the field. The last time they played a competitive match was 1982 (yes, 1982, and technically that was West Germany) and the French suffered a heartbreaking defeat. Both teams come into the quarters this year on strong runs, but also with reasons for serious reservations. The French tore through their (easy) group with a perfect record but also a sense that they were not appropriately tested. A match against Nigeria in the round of 16 wasn’t particularly challenging either. Germany, on the other hand, came into the tournament as one of the favorites and advanced through the “Group of Death” at the expense of Portugal and Ghana. But it struggled to break down Ghana (and the U.S.), and couldn’t break a deadlock against Algeria until extra time.
So will the French fold at their first real test? Or will their swift and swashbuckling style be enough to counter the German efficiency?
Prediction: The Germans were stung by criticism that they didn’t perform in their win against Algeria. They’ll be looking to put the French to the sword, and I think they’ll be successful. Germany 3, France 1
Brazil vs. Colombia – Friday, July 4, 4 p.m. EDT: Despite being hosts and pre-tournament favorites, Brazil has come into the quarterfinals without really impressing. Neymar is clearly a talent for the world stage, but the team that has been built around him is less than inspiring. Colombia, in contrast, arrived without much hype and has since been the most consistent team in the Cup. This challenge may be too much for Brazil.
Prediction: Expect a sad night for the hosts. They have shown nothing to make anyone believe that they can take down this very good Colombian team. Colombia 2, Brazil 1
Argentina vs. Belgium – Saturday, July 5, Noon: For those thirsting for revenge, this is the match to watch. Belgium, despite the fearsome reputation of some of its players and its unblemished record so far, has yet to prove itself as team. It took the Belgians extra time and the physical power of a fresh-from-the-bench Romelu Lukaku to break down the U.S. Argentina has been completely uninspiring, other than the best player in the world. Pundits have been left wondering what will happen to Argentina if Messi fails to turn it on for a game…but will this be that game?
Prediction: Lil’ Lionel is hearing the call of destiny and he’s going to go to the final, even if he has to pull Argentina there by himself. Belgium won’t be the team to stop him. Argentina 2, Belgium 0
Netherlands vs. Costa Rica – Saturday, July 5, 4 p.m. EDT: With Team USA already home, the Costa Ricans carry the mantle of the underdog. Not only were they not expected to escape their group (which contained heavyweights England, Italy and Uruguay) but they are also the last non-European or South American team left in contention. The Dutch have been equal parts unstoppable and nefarious. Arjen Robben’s one-man crusade to be even more detestable than Cristian Ronaldo is going according to plan, but so has the Dutch scheme to score lots of goals. This one has the potential to be the best match of the weekend…or a one-sided spanking of epic proportions.
Prediction: The Costa Rican dream ends here. Netherlands 3, Costa Rica 1
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