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World Cup 2014: Germany And Argentina Primed For Showdown

worldcup (easports)

We are entering the closing stages of World Cup 2014 now, with the quarter and semi finals having taken place in the past week. The action has been ferocious throughout, and that pain is really felt on days with no action scheduled. Let’s take a look back at this week’s action with our weekly review.

Quarter-finals

Friday:

The first quarter-final took place between France and Germany on Friday afternoon in the Maracana in Rio De Janeiro. The pre-match hype had made France favourites, particularly after the news of a virus rampaging through the German squad. The all-European affair was a tight battle throughout, with Germany taking the lead after thirteen minutes through a powerful header from centre back Mats Hummels. The Germans held the French off at arms length for the majority of the remaining time, with France having the odd half-chance here and there, but mostly failing to get conjure any meaningful penetration through the heart of the German defence. The Germans advanced, with Hummels’ header the only goal of the game.

Friday’s second clash saw two of the most talked about teams of the tournament duke it out, as the hosts Brazil squared off against their South American rivals Colombia. James Rodriguez has been the undoubted star of the tournament, helping the Colombians to a first ever quarter-final appearance. But it was the Brazillians who struck the first blow, with Thiago Silva tucking home an early corner. Brazil’s disruptive tactics from here on out were criticised, with seemingly a rotating squadron of players taking it in turns to dish out hard tackles to Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado, Colombia’s biggest attacking threats. They doubled their lead in the second half, through a wonderful free kick struck by David Luiz. Colombia got a goal back with ten minutes to play, as Rodriguez continued his record of scoring in every match, slotting home from the penalty spot. Brazil saw the game out, winning 2-1, but they were to lose key players Thiago Silva and Neymar for the upcoming semi-final against the Germans. The former was booked for a ludicrous tackle on the Colombian keeper, while Neymar suffered a broken vertebrate in his back after a hard tackle from behind late on.
Saturday:

Saturday’s first game saw the old guard taking on the new pretenders, as Argentina faced Belgium in Brasília. Gonzalo Higuain finished beautifully when an awkward bouncing ball fell his way on the edge of the box after eight minutes, swerving the ball delightfully past the helpless Thibaut Courtois. Rather disappointingly, the Belgians response was rather tame. There has been constant suggestion from media pundits that this Argentinian defence could be exposed by a good team, but Belgium created precious little against them, when they needed it most. The Belgians were mostly happy to throw crosses in towards the towering but ineffective Marouane Fellaini, with little guile in the middle of the field, despite the benefit of fielding the likes of Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel. Argentina ran the clock down comfortably enough, advancing 1-0 at the final whistle.

The final quarter-final match took was between the Netherlands and the surprise package of World Cup 2014, Costa Rica. The Dutch have been heavily fancied since hammering Spain in their opening game, so were expected to dispatch with the Central Americans with relative ease. Not quite the case, as the Costa Rican’s defended well (and desperately, on occasion), with goalkeeper Keylor Navas enhancing his reputation further with some fine saves. The ninety minutes came to a goalless end, despite Arjen Robben’s constant efforts, meaning another period of extra time for Costa Rica. As legs tired on both sides, the game opened up a little more. The Netherlands had a couple of opportunities where it is still difficult to tell how the ball failed to cross the line, while Costa Rica had a couple of great chances in the last five minutes. It came down to penalties again for Costa Rica, but this time Tim Krul, on as a last minute substitute for goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, was the difference-maker. While his antics before kicks were taken bordered on unsportsmanlike and in bad taste, he was able to save two penalties, which ultimately saw the Netherlands through to another World Cup semi-final, this time against Argentina.
Semi-finals

Tuesday:

Tuesday evening brought about the first chance for any team to put themselves in the World Cup final, as Germany lined up against the Brazillians. With a ferocious home support roaring them on, Brazil stormed out of the blocks, pressing hard towards the German penalty area. They sprayed long, diagonal balls from sideline to sideline, troubling Philip Lahm and Benedikt Howedes a lot in the early going. The Germans were able to weather the early storm, and it wasn’t long until they controlled the game. Thomas Muller tapped in a corner in the eleventh minute, having been left unmarked at the back post. The Brazilians were now rattled. The German midfield of Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira controlled the game. Kroos knocked the passes around with ease, while Khedira’s storming runs troubled the German backline time and again. The Germans were two up after twenty-three minutes, as Marcelo followed Thomas Muller deep into the box, playing him onside as he laid the ball off to Miroslav Klose, who lashed past Julio Cesar at the second attempt, becoming the top scorer in World Cup history with that goal. The Brazilians fell apart at this stage, conceding a staggering three more goals in the next five minutes, as they went on a mental walkabout. Toni Kroos scored the first two, knocking an edge of the box effort past Cesar first, before tapping in a Khedira pull-back into an empty net. Khedira himself got in on the act next, finishing another pull-back past the despairing yellow shirts on the line, leaving Germany 5-0 up after just twenty-nine minutes. With fans shellshocked, the home side in tatters and the Germans taking it easy, the game was long over at half-time.

There was an early second-half flurry from Brazil, but it was meanningless and ineffective, with Andre Schurrle netting the next two goals after coming on as a substitute. Brazil finally got one back through Oscar in injury time, but they were well and truly decimated by a ruthless German side, who now go on to play in the World Cup final, after a historic 7-1 victory over Brazil.
Wednesday:

Reality returned to football on Wednesday evening, as Argentina and the Netherlands faced off to determine who would earn the right to play Germany in the final. There was no eight-goal wonder to witness here, however. The two sides were tentative and a bit shrewd, never over-committing men to attack, always aware that the opposition attackers (Messi and Higuain for Argentina, Robben and Van Persie for the Netherlands) were lurking behind, just waiting for a game-changing mistake that they could capitalise on. Hence it was tight, tough-tackling and tense throughout. The first half was shaded by Argentina, the second edged by the Dutch. It looked as if Higuain had opened the scoring with ten minutes left, only for it to be revealed that we were deceived by the side-netting rippling. Robben had a great chance to end it a few minutes for time, dashing through the area but taking a touch too many, allowing Javier Mascherano to make a crucial, game-saving tackle. That Mascherano was the dominant midfield presence in the game spoke volumes, but the Barcelona man was magnificent in his wholehearted efforts, driving Argentina forward and protecting them defensively.

Extra-time came and went without too much fuss, other than Louis Van Gaal using his last substitution to bring on Klaas Jan Huntelaar for Van Persie, depriving him of Tim Krul for the penalty shootout. It was to prove ultimately decisive, as the tie went to penalties. Jasper Cillessen has never saved a penalty in his professional career, and he may well feel he could have done better with a few efforts here. The Dutch were instantly under pressure when Ron Vlaar missed the opening penalty. No Argentinian missed theirs, so when Wesley Sneijder had his effort pawed away by Sergio Romero, the writing was on the wall. The power of Maxi Rodriguez’s effort squeaked the ball over the line, sending Argentina through to the final against Germany. (A final that we here predicted in our pre-tournament predictions)

Image courtesy of EA Sports

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