And we are done with the round of 16! 8 teams remaining. 8 matches to go in 10 days. 1 World Champion awaiting its coronation.
It’ll be unfair to term this edition of the World Cup as something that’s happening on expected lines. The reigning champions (Spain) were knocked out in the 1st round itself. Spain’s exit is by far the most shocking till date. They were expected to qualify with possibly Netherlands to the round of 16. But a rather small team (by the name Chile) had the final say. Italy and England’s exit were not much of a surprise considering they were placed in the proverbial group of death. From the clutches of (the group of) death, emerged an unlikely hero – Costa Rica. Not only were not expected to qualify for the knockouts, they were in fact considered as a comparative weak link in the group. Costa Rica’s journey has not ended yet. They went on to defeat Greece in the round of 16 (via penalties) and are now in the business end of the tournament. Another surprise was Portugal’s exit. Ronaldo was expected to weave his magic which didn’t happen and USA took complete advantage to qualify along with Germany in that group. The other usual suspects qualified in varying degree of flair – Brazil, Argentina, France, Belgium (still dark horses to win in my opinion).
This is how the quarter-final lineup looks like –
|Image courtesy Google’s preview of FIFA World Cup|
Germany vs France – Undoubtedly, this will be the most awaited match of the Quarterfinal. Two European heavyweights will collide for a place in the semifinals. And the winner probably will take on the home side. Now we are talking business! France and Germany have been dominant in the World Cup so far. None have lost a single match and one loss here will eliminate them from the event. France have scored 10 as against Germany’s 9. France have conceded 2 as against Germany’s 3. We are talking about two high scoring yet meagerly conceding teams. Many feel Germany are the favorites to win. I, for one, feel France are the favorites. My allegiance is towards Germany and that’s my prediction for this match.
Brazil vs Columbia – The home side playing a team in top form. Brazil have not had a Brazil-esque World Cup so far. They have scraped through. Their round of 16 match against Chile gave them a real scare until a certain Cesar turned the match in their favor. I have no idea why Fred is playing. He is worse than Jo only because Jo did not get enough playing time to prove his worth. Brazil heavily depends on Neymar to produce the goods and will be praying Neymar is fit to play. Columbia (along with Netherlands) are the team to beat this World Cup. Beware of James Rodriguez. He is the highest goal scorer this World Cup with 5 goals, one of which was a wonder goal! Like it or not, this is Columbia’s game to lose. My Prediction – Brazil, feel they will scrape through again.
Argentina vs Belgium – Argentina are another team who are scraping through. They have had all close games till Messi messed up the opponents. Honestly, Messi is the only reason why Argentina are where they are at this time. They face a challenging opponent in Belgium. With all the potential that Belgium have, they were almost derailed by US in the round of 16. Handling Messi (and Di Maria to a certain extent) will be part of their strategy. Alienate Messi from the rest of his team and Belgium can qualify for the Semi-finals. Switzerland managed to do it till the 90th minute. My Prediction – Argentina to falter and Belgium will qualify.
Netherlands vs Costa Rica – This is a David vs Goliath fight. No one expected Costa Rica to reach this far. And quite honestly, no one will expect Costa Rica to win this encounter. Netherlands demolished Spain 5-1. And since that day, they are unstoppable. But they will be shy away from underestimating Costa Rica. Costa Rica topped a group which had former World Champions in Italy, Uruguay and England. They defeated Greece with 10 men. And they are awaiting their next bait in Netherlands. Interestingly, every football crazy fan who doesn’t support Netherlands will be backing Costa Rica to create a massive upset. I am one of them. My heart says Costa Rica, my mind shouts Netherlands.
10 days is all its left. One of these eight teams will etch their destiny on one of the most unpredictable World Cups so far. There’s not a single team who has taken this World Cup by storm. All have struggled in bits-and-pieces. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is standing there on the podium and lifting the all-important trophy any football player craves for!