Neymar Falls, Epic Semifinals Await

After the first two rounds of the knockout stage, I have predicted 11 out of 12 outcomes correctly. While there were a lot of upsets in the group stage, the knockout stage has seen the favorites advance to create two semifinal matches between the two most storied South American sides and two European titans. It will be interesting to see how these teams will fare as they have all gone through some struggle on their way to the semifinals. Will South America’s dominance at home continue or will Europe finally break through? I have already said that this may be the best World Cup of all-time and I am sure that the final three games will firmly cement Brazil 2014’s place in history.

 

Brazil vs. Germany

Brazil suffered some major setbacks in their quest for their sixth world cup title in their 2-1 victory over Colombia. Star man, Neymar, suffered a broken vertebra on a late challenge and will miss the remainder of the competition. To make things worse, Thiago Silva received a second yellow card for a stupid playground foul on the Colombian goalkeeper punting the ball out of his box. Silva will be missed just as much as Neymar against Germany and will leave the hosts with an uphill battle to win. An unsung hero will have to step up for the Selecao at a crucial moment in order to challenge either Argentina or Netherlands for the title. David Luiz came up big with the free kick of the tournament and it will take another play like that for Brazil to advance.  Germany, on the other hand, did just enough to beat France on a header from their center back Mats Hummels. France had a greater number of chances in the game, but did not possess the final touch in order to find the net. The win against France and setbacks suffered by Brazil will give the Germans a lot of confidence heading into the semifinal as they look to become the first European team to win in South America. The high line that the German defense plays will either make or break their game against a skilled Brazilian attack. While Neuer and the defense have been excellent so far, one slip up could end the Germans run. Germany will look to control the midfield and possession with Khedira, Kroos, and Schweinsteiger so it will be interesting to see who Scolari will select in the midfield. Ultimately, the pressure the host are under to win at home along with Neymar’s injury will inspire Brazil to a victory.

 

Prediction: Brazil 2-1

 

Argentina vs. Netherlands

Argentina finally played like title contenders in their 1-0 win over Belgium. Messi did not score for the second straight match, proving that the team can survive without his magic to win games. The defense was impressive for the first time in the tournament against a talented Belgium attack which doomed the United States in extra time. Like I said in my last post, this Belgian side did not have enough to contend this year; however, they certainly may be one of the top five teams at the next world cup once they have matured and gained experience. With the loss of Di Maria and Aguero just returning from injury, Lavezzi will need to step up to help both Messi and Higuain up top. With another quality performance from the entire team, Argentina will have enough to advance and with a potential final against Brazil, surely it would be one for the history books. The Dutch are coming off a dramatic penalty kick win against Cinderella, Costa Rica. Dutch coach Louis van Gaal substituted in a goalkeeper for the penalty shootout for the first time in history and looked genius when Tim Krul saved two kicks from the spot to send the Netherlands to their second straight semifinal appearance. The Dutch have relied heavily on Robben and Sneijder and have won their last games by the narrowest of margins. They will need to improve to beat a solid Argentina team and reach back to back World Cup finals on their quest for their first title. In the end, South America will prevail and Argentina will advance in a very close game to set up a Brazil-Argentina final that will either be celebrated or haunt the Brazilian forever.

 

Prediction: Argentina 2-1 (in extra time)

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