France v Germany
In a continent where European teams often fail in World Cup’s, with this quarter final tie, a European side is guaranteed a place in the semi-finals, and the form the two have shown, the final wouldn’t be unjust. Many questioned Didier Deschamps squad selection prior to the tournament, with Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri being the biggest name left out of the 23-man squad. Despite this, the French have clicked so far this tournament, and look like one of very few teams playing at the top of their game this time around. Coasting through a fairly easy group, gaining confidence and scoring goals, the French looked like a force to be reckoned with, and having brushed past Nigeria in the last round, a match up with pre-tournament hopefuls Germany is mouth-watering. Onto their opponents, Germany have also started this tournament brightly, but their round of 16 match against Algeria showed their more vulnerable than people think. Going forward they look strong, with an array of central midfielders to choose from. Playing Thomas Muller up front has worked, but not a recognised striker, and playing four centre backs as a back four looks like a team with strong wingers could have a field day. The way Mathieu Valbuena has started this World Cup playing out wide, the small man could exploit some of the holes the defence leaves, and for me, France are the favourites going into this encounter. If the Germans switch it on like they did against Portugal they could easily come out of this with a win, but if Benzema starts as a striker for the French, I think they’ll have enough strength and form to get into the semi-finals.
Brazil v Colombia
Another exciting tie in the quarter finals puts two South American sides up against eachother. Brazil, the hosts, have been average so far, scraping through their round of 16 match with Chile on penalties. So far, the strikers in Fred and Jo have been abysmal, and their wins have come from the crowd backing in all four of their games. Another doubt for the game is their new leader, Neymar. Carried the side through the group stage, being the only Brazilian to offer a major contribution in the group. One of the brightest sparks in world football picked up a knock against Chile, and is a doubt for the game, and if he is playing, he won’t be fully fit and his impact won’t be on the same scale it has been. For me, Oscar is the man who will step up and perform if Neymar isn’t contributing, and he’s hardly a bad player to have! The energetic midfielder could run for days and with the skill to put on the end of it, he can be lethal on his day. Along with France, Colombia have been the other side who have played really well so far, and it’s a surprise considering the fact key man Radamel Falcao was ruled out of the tournament weeks before it started. With the absence of Falcao, it’s his Monaco teammate James Rodriguez who has stepped up and taken this World Cup by storm. There’s always one player who plays so well at World Cup’s, and this year is Rodriguez’s. The 22 year old has 5 goals and 2 assists so far this tournament, and I think he can continue this form into the Brazil game. Brazil were challenged by Chile, who bar Sanchez weren’t fantastic, but a Colombia side who are playing at the top of the game, with pace and attacking flair, I think they could win this one and knock the hosts out. I think Colombia will win this one.
Argentina v Belgium
Another tricky tie to predict, with two sides that were hotly tipped before the World Cup two games away from lifting the trophy. Argentina haven’t been great so far, carried arguable by Lionel Messi, with 4 goals in the first four games, Messi has answered a lot of his critics saying “he’d never performed for his country” and without him, they could’ve quite easily crashed out of the group. With him, they’re a different force. Going backwards, Argentina aren’t as strong. Di Maria has played well so far, but the central midfield area has been exploited, with a distinct lack of pace and attacking threat in Mascherano and Gago. Defensively Argentina have always been questioned, and they don’t look the best, with Fernandez being below par, yet still being their second choice centre back by far. Overall, the Argentines rely heavily on the Barcelona forward, but will he have enough to get past what is a very strong Belgian defence? I don’t think so. I think Belgium will win this one, with quality in their side from front to back, being very many peoples dark horses to win this tournament. In goal, one of the best goalkeepers in the world already in Courtois, behind a defence of four centre backs which has clicked so far. In midfield, again, they have bundles of energy and quality, with my stand out Belgian midfielder being Moussa Dembele, a player I love to watch when he burst forward from midfield. Eden Hazard has had a relatively poor tournament, but it’s shown their quality in depth that even with him playing poorly they’ve done so well so far. Up top, Lukaku had a poor group stage, with Lille’s Origi being the man main, but Lukaku came off the bench against USA in the round of 16 with devastating effect. Although Messi is the best player in the world, I don’t think he’ll be able to carry Argentina past a very tricky Belgium side. If others turn up then it’s a maybe, but for me, it’s a Belgium win.
Netherlands v Costa Rica
If someone told me Costa Rica would win a game, let alone make the quarter finals, I would’ve laughed in their face and questioned any football knowledge they might have. Now, it’s a reality. Costa Rica, the epitome of teamwork, are in the quarter finals of the world cup for the second time ever. Again, if I saw this game on paper two weeks ago, it would be 100% Netherlands, but now, I just don’t know. Netherlands have been very, very strong so far, smashing Spain in their opening game, and looking like many peoples favourites this time around. Costa Rica on the other hand, with a population of under 5 million, have surprised absolutely everyone this World Cup. Going unbeaten in a group with Italy, Uruguay and England is very impressive, and coming through a tough encounter with the Greeks shows strong character. Not a huge amount of quality, with only Campbell, Ruiz and Navas that anyone has ever heard of, but the teamwork and togetherness they’ve shown is remarkable, attacking teams from the off. This attacking trait though, could be their downfall. So far Netherlands have been so effective on the counter attack. When Mexico sat back and invited them on, they just couldn’t break them down. If Costa Rica attack the Dutch, gaps will appear in what is a weak defence, and Robben and Van Persie could have a field day. For me, this will be the end of the road for the Costa Rican’s. I think the Dutch will have too much quality for them, but, the way this World Cup has gone, you never know!