Brazil 2014 is quickly starting to shape up as one of the best World Cup tournaments of all-time. As I predicted in my last post, all eight group winners advanced to the quarterfinals although Algeria, Mexico, and the United States gave me a run for my money. All three teams performed valiantly in games that many people gave them no chance in. Even with a loss, the United States has shown that they have made positive strides towards becoming a consistent contender in the knockout stage of World Cups to come. That being said, with all the group winners advancing, there are some very interesting quarterfinal match-ups.
France vs. Germany:
Two of Europe’s powerhouses will meet in the first of four quarterfinal games. Both countries are former world cup winners and have shown their skill in this tournament. Germany began the tournament ranked as the second best team in the world and while they have been solid, they have not looked like a top team. France on the other hand struggled mightily in the qualifications of the world cup. Having to beat Ukraine in playoff game for a spot in the tournament, many had ruled France out from contention; however, this French team looks to be peaking at just the right time. With some young stars coming into their own, France has looked very solid in this tournament. In a competition on this magnitude, momentum means everything and look for France to pull off the upset.
Prediction: 2-1 France
Brazil vs. Colombia:
This is by far the best matchup of the quarterfinals. Unfortunately due to the draw of the knockout round, Colombia will meet Brazil in Fortaleza in what could have been a world cup final. Colombia has been the best team in the tournament to date but there is no doubt that the hosts will be at their best. Both James Rodriguez and Neymar have shown up big in their first time on the world’s biggest stage. Both teams have stellar attacking players and have scored a lot of goals so far, but it has been Brazil’s attack that has drawn criticism in recent weeks. One can only imagine what this Colombia team could be with Falcao healthy, but you can argue that his injury has allowed Rodriguez and other to thrive. Without question, this game will be filled with drama with neither of the teams going down without a fight. Look for a late goal to seal the fate for one of these South American teams into the semi-finals and shatter the dreams of millions.The pressure for Brazil to win at home will ultimately inspire the Selecao to victory. Regardless of the actual outcome of this game, I am predicting the winner will go on to win the finals.
Prediction: 3-2 Brazil
Argentina vs. Belgium:
Both Argentina and Belgium are coming off hard fought wins to reach the quarterfinals. Argentina has heavily relied on Messi’s magic to stay alive in this tournament. Belgium also has not lost yet, but they have only spent a small amount of time in the lead. Both have struggled to show their full potential, but have found a way to win in the end. The extra time versus the United States will make a huge difference in helping Belgium’s confidence; especially Lukaku’s, who found his scoring touch and showed he can completely change a game with his presence. With each game, Belgium’s golden generation will gain more confidence for the future, but the road will end here this summer. I see Belgium becoming one of the favorites for Russia 2018, but Argentina’s team is too deep to lose at this point.
Prediction: 1-0 Argentina
Netherlands vs. Costa Rica:
Costa Rica has been the Cinderella team of the tournament. No one gave them a chance in one of the groups of death and against all odds they managed to win a very challenging group. Because of this, they received a favorable match up against an average Greece team and were able to pull off a win in a thrilling game. Bryan Ruiz has come up big time and time again in the clutch for the only remaining CONCACAF team left. The Dutch on the other hand, were minutes away from being sent home by an inspired Mexican squad. Arjen Robben has been outstanding in this competition with the help of his excellent supporting cast, the Dutch will go through to the semi-final.
Prediction: 2-0 Netherlands