Eight nations will be cut to four over the weekend as the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil take place. The hosts are involved with the only pre-tournament favourites eliminated being Spain. The eight group winners all progressed from their second round ties with two needing penalty shootouts and three getting the job done in extra-time.
Here is a look at the four quarter-final matches:
France vs Germany
Germany looked unimpressive in their extra-time victory over Algeria in the last round, off the back of a 1-0 win over the USA and a 2-2 draw with Ghana. Manuel Neuer’s awareness in playing the sweeper role prevented the Bayern Munich goalkeeper really being forced into any difficult saves.
Thomas Müller still had the energy in extra-time although failed to fire many shots on goal after scoring 4 goals in the group stage. He did set up André Schürrle’s opener in extra-time though. Whoever is asked to mark the Bayern Munich forward has a tiring and tough job on their hands.
France were a little fortunate not to fall behind Nigeria in their second round match before the opposition goalkeeper made a howler to set up Paul Pogba’s open goal opener in the final ten minutes. They too haven’t looked so fluid in attack in their last two games, being held 0-0 by Ecuador and then being gifted two goals by Nigeria.
Karim Benzema has not found his shooting boots in his last two matches and few players beat Manuel Neuer from long range. If the German defence plays a high-line again, France could expose them with a bit of pace in behind. Didier Deschamps’ side doesn’t have that with Benzema or Olivier Giroud so look for a wide man to get involved.
I think we can expect a tight opening first half. Both these teams were 0-0 at half-time in the last round and I can see that being the case again.
Half-time draw is 1.95
Brazil vs Colombia
The hosts struggled to get through Chile and were saved by the crossbar in the last-minute of extra-time before winning their penalty shootout. Colombia were 2-0 winners over a Uruguay side that have failed to impress in two matches without Luis Suárez in this tournament.
Colombia have looked very impressive in all four of their matches, with only Japan pulling them back after falling behind. José Pékerman’s side have opened the scoring in each of their matches to this point and only the Netherlands (12) have scored more goals than Colombia’s 11 heading into the quarter-finals.
Brazil’s defence looks a bit shaky and vulnerable on the counter-attack too. The skill of James Rodríguez matches with the pace of both Juan Cuadrado and Jackson Martínez has great potential to score goals in this match.
Neymar is fully fit apparently after not looking so good at the end of extra-time in the last round. Hulk put in his best performance of the tournament so far but Luiz Felipe Scolari really needs to think about dropping Fred for this match.
It comes as a surprise that Brazil are odds-on favourites in 90 minutes – Colombia have a great chance of progressing if the occasion and fear factor doesn’t get to them.
Double chance: Colombia win or draw is 1.91
Argentina vs Belgium
Both of these sides have won all four of their matches to get to the quarter-finals, although both needed extra-time in the second round.
Argentina have been heavily reliant on Lionel Messi with both Gonzalo Higuaín and Ezequiel Lavezzi not being very effective against Switzerland. Sergio Agüero remains injured. Ángel di María showed his quality towards the end of the match and in extra-time on Tuesday, scoring the winner against Switzerland.
Belgium’s defence did look a bit shaky against the USA but Julian Green’s strike in the second half of extra-time is the only goal they’ve conceded in open play at the 2014 World Cup so far. They also created a number of chances but were denied by the heroic Tim Howard in goal for the USA. A but more clinical with their finishing and they can cause an upset against the South Americans here whose defence itself has look weak.
Keep Lionel Messi quiet and hit them on the counter has to be Belgium’s gameplan. If no one else steps up for Argentina they could be on for another quarter-final elimination here.
Double chance: Belgium or draw is 1.70
Netherlands vs Costa Rica
Costa Rica have no doubt been the surprise of the 2014 World Cup so far, but how often does one go past the quarter-final stages? And against the tournaments third favourites.
The Netherlands left it late to beat Mexico but with the class of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie in attack you’d expect them to break down this Costa Rica side, albeit one that have only conceded two goals to this point.
Louis van Gaal’s side are the tournaments top scorers heading into the quarter-finals. Nigel de Jong is a big blow for them in the centre of midfield, ruled out for the rest of the tournament. That should not affect the Dutch greatly in this game with Costa Rica’s biggest threats coming from set pieces and down the wings.
Costa Rica have been underdogs in three of their four matches at this World Cup, upsetting both Uruguay and Italy before drawing with England and beating Greece on penalties. This is the hurdle they fall at though.
Netherlands to beat Costa Rica is 1.50
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