World Cup Quarterfinals, Semi-Finals and Final Predictions From World Soccer Talk Writers
We polled several of our top writers to get their predictions and analysis on who they think will win the World Cup quarterfinal games, as well as who will advance through the semi-finals and all the way to the World Cup Final at Maracana.
Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of difference in opinion regarding who will progress. Read through our predictions and analysis, and be sure to add your own analysis in the comments section below!
Christopher Harris, Editor & Publisher
We’re due for another upset. I can’t see all four favorites making in into the semi-finals.
France vs Germany: This one is a toss-up, but I’m favoring Germany by a slight margin. While France have been flying, they’ve faced weaker opposition on their path to the quarter-final. They haven’t faced adversity yet, and Germany will bounce back after a weak performance against Algeria.
Brazil vs Colombia: As much as my heart says that I want Colombia to win (Brazil footballers and players are too cocky, in my opinion), my mind says that Brazil will find a way to win this one with the home advantage swinging in their favor.
Argentina vs Belgium: While neither team has looked strong, this may end up being the upset. Argentina look weak defensively, and we saw against the US how Belgium can break quickly and precisely on the counter especially if Romelu Lukaku is playing. My prediction is that Argentina will suffer a shock defeat to Belgium.
Netherlands vs Costa Rica: Netherlands win every day of the week.
Brazil vs Germany: Brazil will be victorious.
Belgium vs Netherlands: Talk about a derby of sorts.
Brazil vs Netherlands: Will the Dutch fail to win for the second World Cup in a row? We’ve seen the cracks in the Brazil team, and I believe that Louis Van Gaal will zero in on Brazil’s vulnerabilities. I’m predicting a tense, dour final, but the Netherlands will win against the odds.
Kartik Krishnaiyer, Senior Managing Editor
I really believe the strength of France’s central midfield trio as well as the backline make them the most complete side in this World Cup. They lack the flair players of so many other top sides. So the big question is whether a superstar like Messi or Neymar carries their nation to victory or whether the better rounded sides which are France or Belgium win the World Cup. The other possibility is that Germany or Holland, two nations with a mixture of players can prevail.
I believe France defeats Germany thanks to a strong performance in the wide areas particularly from Mathieu Valbuena. Germany’s defense which was breached several times against Algeria completely gives way. Brazil beats Colombia simply because they are the hosts and neutrals throughout the globe lament the demise of the best side from style perspective in this World Cup. I believe Belgium’s strong back four can contend with Messi and Argentina, while the Eden Hazard finally has the type of performance we have been waiting for this World Cup. The Dutch break all our hearts by beating Costa Rica in a 2-1 thriller that goes to extra time.
Every eight years, Brazil faces France in a World Cup knockout stage match and every eight years France wins. This time should be no different. France’s squad, which is deep and lacks any real weakness, can contend with the creativity of Neymar and the emotion of the home standing support. The steady midfield play of Paul Pogba, rapidly emerging as a world superstar carries the French forward.
In the other semifinal, a regional rivalry between neighbors favors on paper the Belgians. But the Netherlands seem to be on a mission in this World Cup. If you think of the classic Dutch sides, this is one of the weakest Netherlands teams we’ve seen at a major tournament since the 1960s. Yet Louis Van Gaal’s pragmatic management of the side in a weakened World Cup where no great sides are present have the Oranje really believing. The dream lives on and the Netherlands go to the finals.
The runners-up of the last two World Cups face off in what could be a classic final. Logic tells me that France wins with a superior midfield and great attacking wide play. But something about the Dutch in this tournament says destiny. Three World Cup final defeats cannot become four, can it? It won’t because in Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben, Holland has two match winners who have done it at every level and won’t let this opportunity slip again. The Netherlands finally wins the World Cup.
Robert Hay Jr., Writer
For the first time ever, we can say this World Cup quarterfinal features the best of the best as for the first time in the modern tournament all top seeds from the group have made it to this round. The four match-up have numerous storylines present incredibly entertaining potential match-ups to decide who wins the entire thing.
There are enough favorites to make the rest of this World Cup predictable but enough underdogs as well to throw everything into a loop. So who will be hoisting the trophy next Sunday? Here are our predictions for how the rest of this World Cup will shake-out
Brazil 1 – Colombia 0
Key storyline: Brazil’s backline will assert itself as the host nation’s attack continues to struggle. While Neymar may be healthy (and thus dominant) and Hulk goes through stretches of excellence, Brazil will need more than that to win the rest of its matches. However, in this match, their defense contains James Rodriguez and company to advance.
France 1 – Germany 2
Key storyline: France scores first by using Algeria’s playbook and exploiting the lack of speed in the German back four. However, a late equalizer by Thomas Muller sends the match into extra time, where the German midfield dominates and Andre Schurrle becomes a German hero… again.
Netherlands 1 (4) – Costa Rica 1 (2)
Key storyline: Costa Rica continues to shock as a late second half Bryan Ruiz goal equalizes the match and sends it into extra time. Again, the CONCACAF team survives an offensive onslaught but this time tired legs catch up to them and another European team advances.
Argentina 1 – Belgium 0
Key storyline: In a match-up featuring two underachieving teams in this World Cup, one finally plays as well as it should. Argentina strikes early in the match and contains Belgium to advance. If not for Thibaut Courtois, the scoreline would be much higher.
Brazil 2 – Germany 1
Key storyline: Brazil’s golden boy Neymar Jr. flashes his inner-Messi and scores an amazing brace. Germany ‘s midfield is thrown by Brazil’s ball skills and Manuel Neuer kept the Germans in this match throughout. However, a tough Brazil defense – which bottled up a poor Germany attack – and constant thrusts by Brazil’s attackers means Brazil advances to the championship game. In the closing minutes, Miroslav Klose scores to take sole possession atop the all-time World Cup goals scored list.
Netherlands 0 (3) – Argentina 0 (4)
Key storyline: Karma comes around as Arjen Robben is sent off in the second half with two yellow cards. The first is for simulation on a goal scoring opportunity, while the second is a more violent elbow to the head of an Argentine defender. A man down, the Netherlands successfully kill off the game but Argentina are able to win on penalties as the Dutch miss their final two chances, one of which likely would have been taken by Robben.
Brazil 2 – Argentina 1
Key storyline: It’s the “old Messi” who scores in the first half to stake Argentina to a 1-0 lead and raise the specter of a repeat of 1950. However, the “new Messi” Neymar records a second brace in as many matches with his last goal coming in the 88th minute. The host nation celebrates another World Cup victory for days until it again turns inward to focus on its internal debates while the rest of the world begins to prepare for Russia 2018.
Abe Asher, Writer
We’re down to the business end of the 2014 World Cup. Although there are only seven competitive games left, plus the third place match, these seven games will be more indelible in our memories than the 56 games that came before them.
Eight teams are left. We have the Netherlands, staggeringly impressive and surprisingly shaky in turns. There’s Argentina, whose title challenge is one man named Messi. Brazil, who haven’t hit their stride and came within an inch of being eliminated at the hands of Chile.
Costa Rica is still in it, the surprise package from CONCACAF, looking to aid another scalp to their burgeoning collection. Belgium is here too, having won all four games they’ve played despite leading for less than 50 minutes collectively. Colombia have been the best side, playing up-tempo football led by a new superstar in James Rodriguez.
Then there’s the two old European heavyweights who clash in the first quarterfinal on Friday – Germany, regressive since smashing Portugal and feeling the heat, and a reborn France side that now dreams of the Maracana.
The field is set. Memories are about to be made, dreams fulfilled and shattered, and the World Cup is just seven games away from being lifted.
Brazil v. Colombia – This is the glamour quarterfinal, from the Castelao in Fortaleza. It pits the team that should be king – Brazil – against the team that might be king – Colombia.
Before the tournament, Brazil was the consensus pick, but it’s hard to say now that any side has looked more impressive than Jose Pekerman’s.
What has been Brazil’s problem, exactly? There have been a few factors that have prevented the Selecao from hitting their peak. Here’s one: Their team is a nervous wreck.
One sight of half of Brazil’s team sobbing on the pitch after ultimate success against Chile conveyed the full measure of the pressure and weight of expectation on the hosts.
Desperate not to let their countrymen and the reputation down in front of the world, these Brazilian players who played with nothing to lose in the Confederations Cup are now playing with everything to lose – and it’s showing. Brazil now longer have the hop in their step they did in 2013. Nerves and a natural conservatism have played a part in that.
Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has said he wants his side to be more aggressive going forward, and forget about giving their opponents proper respect. It could help.
There are other problems. In 2013, Fred and Paulinho were key to the Brazil machine. Paulinho, to be quite exact, was the machine – the central midfield engine room that directed the team around him.
But Paulinho’s horrid year at Tottenham has carried over to the national team, giving Scolari little choice but to bench him in favor of Fernandinho before the Round of 16 game against Chile. Neither the Manchester City player or his midfield partner Luiz Gustavo have the effect Paulinho did when he was at his best.
Brazil is missing that dynamic two-way presence. They’re also missing goals from their striker. Fred, who inexplicably couldn’t stop scoring last summer, has only one goal this summer, courtesy of an offside play.
Fred simply isn’t impacting games in any tangible way. Not a physical presence who can hold the ball up to begin with, Fred isn’t getting in good areas and is hardly seeing the ball.
Problem is, the options to replace Fred are limited at best. Jo might be even worse, so much so that he was booed when he came on for Fred against Chile. Scolari doesn’t seem interested in playing a false nine formation, so it’s Fred or bust for now.
As a whole, Brazil needs to rediscover their swagger. Scolari’s teams have always played better when doubted, and doubt has crept in now. Neymar has shown up, while Hulk was much better against Chile. Now, everyone has to pitch in.
Colombia, meanwhile, have been fantastic. They smashed plucky Greece 3-0 on opening day, and trotted out a B-squad to crush desperate Japan 4-1. They walked over Uruguay in the Round of 16, and have the best form of any team left.
James Rodriguez has scored in all four games and has the Golden Boot lead with five goals, while players around him – notably assists leader Juan Cuadrado – have hit peak performance as well.
The only question is, have Colombia been tested yet? They ran roughshod over a very soft group that saw Greece take second place, and we saw against Costa Rica how poor Uruguay are without Luis Suarez.
Against Brazil, Colombia will face their first real adversity. Their fans won’t be packing the stadium, and the margin for error will be incredibly thin.
Pekerman – who resigned as coach of his native Argentina after losing a 2006 quarterfinal to host Germany – has to wonder if his defense, led by 38-year old captain Mario Yepes will hold up.
Colombia hasn’t trailed in the entire tournament. They’re in uncharted World Cup territory. On the form of the last three weeks, Colombia wins this game. Pull back a little further, and you can’t bet against the hosts.
The Pick: Brazil
France v. Germany – It’s always one extreme or the other for France. Either Les Blues will play seven games, or they’ll play three. In 1998, the won the tournament on home soil. They crashed out without a win in 2002, then went to the final in 2006, then got their collective panties in a wad in the debacle of 2010.
This, then, looks like a seven-game year for France. It’s not their most talented team by any stretch of the imagination, but something about this iteration of football’s most enigmatic team works. They don’t have a big star, or really any big leaders – to the point that Didier Deschamps talked openly of dropping goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from the captaincy.
There are role players who are heavily involved, from clubs like Newcastle to PSG. There are stars being discovered, sure, like Paul Pogba – and Karim Benzema is having a good tournament as well – but France’s sum is greater than their individual parts.
It’s hard to say what the effect of losing star Franck Ribery was exactly, but it’s easy to say that this French team has finally pulled together shorn of the likes of Zidane, Thuram, and Barthez.
France has scored goals early in the tournament, but defense is their strongest point. Les Blues has only conceded two goals in the entirety of the tournament, and both those scores came when they were 5-0 up on Switzerland.
It seems like Laurent Koscielny is the choice to partner Raphael Varane over Mahamdou Sahko going forward, providing more experience and a steadier hand in central defense.
Deschamps has tactical flexibility, especially in midfield and on the frontline, where the question is whether to start Oliver Giroud and push Karim Benzema to the wing, or start Benzema up top along the line with Mathieu Valbueana and Antonio Griezmann.
France’s trump card is Pogba. Not since Patrice Vieira have France had a player as ferocious and precocious in the midfield. The quarterfinals were the target for France in this tournament. At this point, Deschamps’ team is playing with house money.
Meanwhile, the quarterfinals are about the stage where Germany starts trying in most tournaments. Here, the pressure is really on.
Germany hasn’t won silverware since Euro ’96 despite being in the semifinals in each of the last four major tournament, and the final in the 2002 World Cup before that.
The feeling across the nation is, now is the time to put it all together. The German FA have stated that long-time manager Joachim Low’s job is safe whatever happens from here on in Brazil, but Low has had his worst major tournament in his career.
Tactically, Low’s shocking stubbornness has cost his team. Despite having only one true fullback on his roster in Phillip Lahm, Low insists on playing him out of position in midfield.
The repercussions are that Germany has to play four center-backs to make for an incredibly slow and brittle backline, and Lahm in midfield pushes either Bastian Schweinsteiger or Sami Khedira out of the team altogether.
Low, who may want to guide Germany as if they are Spain, also refuses to play an out and out striker, opting for Thomas Muller as a false nine. The only striker he brought to the tournament, Miroslav Klose, is tied with Ronaldo for the all-time World Cup goal-scoring record, and has already tallied a big goal against Ghana is his limited minutes off the bench.
Against Algeria, Germany struggled mightily until injury forced Lahm to fullback and Khedira with Schweinsteiger in midfield, at which point Germany scored twice in extra time and won.
The answers are obvious. If Low doesn’t find them and his team loses to France, it will be time for him to go.
Germany are talented and tough, but they can be hand on the wings. If you take care of set-pieces and counter-attack with pace like Ghana did earlier in the tournament, you have every chance in the world.
For once, the Germans are the more fragile team mentally.
The Pick: France
Belgium v. Argentina – Logic says that you can’t play as badly as Argentina has in the first four games of the World Cup and get to the semifinals. But in terms of bad play, Belgium aren’t far behind.
This matchup pits two of the top five favorites for the trophy in what should be a highly anticipated quarterfinal, and is instead a matchup of the two most underwhelming teams in the tournament in a quarterfinal you pray will live up to its billing.
Belgium, in their defense, played well against the United States and would have had a convincing victory if Tim Howard didn’t turn in one of the best World Cup goalkeeping performances of all-time.
Despite a nervy finish, Belgium won in the way they most wanted to: With Romelu Lukaku coming on and making the difference. Lukaku set up Kevin De Bruyne’s goal and ending up getting the decider himself with a bullet of a finish. Within 15 minutes of being on the pitch, Lukaku won the game.
Vincent Kompany – who had been struggling with injury – also had an encouraging performance. If we really did see Belgium break through in extra time against the States, they should beat Argentina.
They Belgians have more talent, and they certainly are better coached.
Argentina has serious problems. Teams like Iran and Bosnia and Switzerland couldn’t capitalize on their pronounced struggles, but at the business end of the tournament, they won’t survive playing the football we’ve seen from them in their first four games.
It’s Lionel Messi or bust. Either he wins three more games single-handily, or Argentina go home. For all this talk about Angel Di Maria, he was flat out terrible against the Swiss until his game-winning goal, set up by Leo.
Argentina’s defense has been scantly tested, but they conceded twice to the mostly impotent Nigerians, and Belgium has the ability to turn up the heat. Sergio Aguero isn’t fit, and even if he were, he might not have played.
Same goes for Gonzalo Higuain – Argentina just seem like they have no idea how to play with each other. Maybe that’s why we saw Javier Mascherano as an auxiliary #10 in extra time on Tuesday.
One man can’t win the World Cup by himself in this day in age. There is too much talent in the game. What we’d like to see is one of these teams get a statement win in a statement performance that sets that team up as a credible threat to win the trophy. That team is most likely going to be Belgium.
The Pick: Belgium
Netherlands v. Costa Rica: Who had a closer call in the Round of 16? Holland struggled and wilted in the astonishing heat against Mexico, needing a late flurry to stave off El Tri – who were five minutes away from advancing and knocking Luis Van Gaal’s side out.
There was an air of charm about how Holland came back – it took a pseudo time-out known as the FIFA cooling break for Van Gaal to make the necessary tactical changes, and a moment of lunacy from Rafa Marquez that set up – of all people – Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Holland’s forgotten man, for the winner.
As far as Arjen Robben goes, he didn’t dive. He was fouled. His reaction to being fouled was slightly ridiculous, but it was a penalty every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Holland have looked incredible – against Spain and Chile – and poor – against Australia and Mexico. In other words, the Dutch seem to play down to their opposition.
That gives Costa Rica a chance.
The Central American side is slightly lucky to be at this juncture at all. It looked like a typical Greek day when, after going a man up, Greece scrambled in an incomprehensible 90+ minute equalizer to take the game to extra time and probably, knowing the Greeks, win.
Instead, Costa Rica held steady and then held their nerve in the penalty shootout, converting all five spot-kicks. Kaylor Nevas’ save on Thomas Gekas was enough to see them through.
It wasn’t as convincing as their triumphs over Uruguay and Italy, but it ensured that Fernando Santos wouldn’t be in the awkward position of working without a contract in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Can Costa Rica keep it going against Holland? Both sides may be exhausted after their last excursions, and neither side will be at full strength – the Netherlands losing a player to injury, and Costa Rica to suspension.
If Holland play to their full capabilities, they’ll blow by Costa Rica. But it may be closer than you think.
Costa Rica’s ability to keep things close and stay in games – something Spain couldn’t do against this very opposition – will mean they’ll be in with a shout until the very end.
But the pick is still the Netherlands in a close one, because Van Gaal can be trusted to push the right buttons late, as he did to out coach Miguel Herrera and send Mexico crashing out.
The Pick: Netherlands
Jackson Culley, Writer
Semi-Final – Final Predictions
France v Colombia: In the first semi-final I believe we will see one of the games of the tournament between two of the most dynamic midfields on show in France v Colombia.
After sending Brazil packing the Colombians will be on fire, probably the most in form side at the tournament. The French will be gleeful at the banishing of demons against European rivals Germany.
With the type of talent in both teams I wouldn’t be surprised if this kicked off like the France v Nigeria game, lighting quick and end to end. The French boast the better all-round athleticism but the Colombian front line have keen eyes for exploiting space, the excellent passing of Cuadrado finding James Rodriguez like a magnet.
Games this open will of course come down to the defenses and here is where I suspect France will find their edge. With Hugo Lloris captaining a young (Evra excepted) and motivated backline, though they will likely concede I expect France to pull through.
Prediction – France 2 – Colombia 1
Netherlands v Argentina: The semi-final with an ax to grind. In the 2103 Champions League final Arjen Robben played like a man with a point to prove, the jeers of missed chances past pushing him on. It appears that Arjen Robben is also the player who showed up to Brazil. For a Dutch side short on creativity, Robben has played his one-note riff and dragged the Oranje across the line more than once this summer.
Leo Messi is up against a mythos, a living legend, and a nation of skeptics. In his slump shouldered way he too has arrived and done the business, turned losses into draws, draws into wins. He should have all the help he needs in this blessed Argentina side but some how a squad packed with elite stars has been playing some of the most timid soccer of the Cup.
I expect a cagey affair for the first half before the need to win takes hold of this game, likely won narrowly at the death.
Prediction Netherlands 3 – Argentina 2
Final-France v Netherlands: Again the French will be pinching themselves that Deschamps’ men have made it this far, the Dutch will feel the nag of finals past. Again we’ll have two teams that match well in two parts of the field but not the crucial defensive one. Both boast thrilling front lines and aggressive, athletic midfields but I expect the superior French defense to remain resolute.
Prediction France 2 – Netherlands 1
Aram Gyan, Writer and Designer
The year 2006 was truly Europe’s World Cup. Held in Germany for the first time since reunification, six of the quarterfinalists and all four semifinalists were UEFA countries. Despite Europe’s relatively poor performance at this year’s edition, four of its nations still remain. And all four are good bets to become the first European nation to win a Western Hemisphere-hosted World Cup.
This is the first World Cup ever where England, Italy, and Spain all qualified yet failed to escape the first round – and the first since 1974 when none escaped period. 2006 4th place finisher Portugal and 1998 3rd place winner Croatia also failed to get out of the first round. Meanwhile Costa Rica and Colombia, countries with relatively meager World Cup histories, stand on the precipice of the semi-finals.
Still, for all the surprises, many familiar names remain. This is my take on how it all goes down.
Quarters: Colombia upsets Brazil: Brazil needed a dubious penalty to get by Croatia and was stonewalled by Mexico. Chile came within a millimeter of beating Brazil in extra time and were ultimately denied by the post again during PKs, much like St. Etienne’s 1976 European Cup Final loss to Bayern Munich due to Hampden Park’s square goalposts. Brazil looks vulnerable, especially at the back, and the dynamic underdogs of Colombia will be the ones to take advantage where Chile couldn’t.
Germany beats France: The Valbuena-Pogba combination can be lethal, but Germany wealth of options upfront will be France’s undoing.
Holland beats Costa Rica: Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz have helped Costa Rica bring #ConcacafThunder down upon their foes but they won’t unlock Holland’s 5-3-2 like Mexico did.
Belgium over Argentina: Argentina’s left it late in their last two matches and have yet to impress despite their weak group. Belgium looked majestic against the U.S. despite the final scoreline. Kompany will have the last laugh over his Man City mate Kun Aguero.
Semis: Germany over Colombia: Germany has reached the last two semi-finals. This time they go all the way. Germany has both the speed and the physicality needed to knock nascent Colombia off their game.
Holland over Belgium: A star-studded battle of the Low Countries. It will be a fascinating midfield matchup between Belgium’s Marouane Fellaini and Kevin De Bruyne against Georginio Wijnaldum and Wesley Sneijder.
World Cup Final: Germany over Holland: A rematch of the 1974 Final. Brazilian legend Rivelino told FourFourTwo magazine before the Cup that he fancies Germany, saying “…for football reasons it would be great to see Germany win. I love to watch Schweinsteiger, Muller, Ozi…I see Germany playing Brazilian football.” After their loss to Brazil in 2002’s final, Germany went about reinventing the way they play. After near-misses in ’06 and ’10, it all comes to fruition as the Maracana must once again witness a foreign nation lift the World Cup.
Chris Ryan, Writer
First things first. You may notice a few differences between my bracket and yours. I have Colombia vs France in one semi-final and Netherlands vs Belgium in the other (and believe me it was tempting to pick Costa Rica over the Dutch). Personally I think that Brazil is under too much pressure, in addition to being not quite that good. If Colombia had a healthy and in-form Radamel Falcao this would be a walkover. As it stands right now I’ve got an ambitious and creative Colombian team shocking a tight and overrated Brazil by a score of 2-0. I’ve got a France squad that finally looks like a cohesive unit defeating a German squad too reliant on its midfield. Without any sort of bite up front the Germans aren’t quite the threat they could be.
On the other side of the bracket I see a newly inspired Belgian team “shocking” a remarkably average looking Argentina. I think that Messi and Di Maria have looked really every bit the part of world superstars, but beside them the rest of the Argentine players have looked really ordinary and haven’t impressed me yet. They have yet to dominate anyone, and they should be dominating almost everyone. The Netherlands certainly could lose to Cost Rica but in my view the match versus Mexico was a bit of a wakeup call for the Dutch and I expect them to play much better. Van Persie should bag a goal or even two and one of the feel good stories of this tournament will end.
In the first semi-final, I see a Colombian squad playing a near home match in front of a sea of yellow and performing well in all phases of play. I see Jackson Martinez posing a problem for the center of France’s defense. James Rodriguez, arguably the tournament’s most in form player, will likely continue his hot streak. And Mario Yepes seems like the type of player that could render Olivier Giroud nearly invisible. A Colombian team riding the wave of emotion provided by a partisan crowd wins 2-0.
Semi-Final number two features a regional rivalry played out on a world stage. The team that lives up to potential will likely be the team that wins. If Arjen Robben is blazing up and down the sideline. If Wesley Sneijder is making magic in midfield. If Robin Van Persie is putting the ball in the net in the many ways in which he is capable, the Dutch will be tough to defeat. On the other hand Belgium will need Vincent Kompany to continue to play as one of the fastest moving brick walls on earth. Eden Hazard will need to do more than a couple fancy stepovers. And Romelu Lukaku, likely given another chance to start after scoring a good goal versus the United States, will have to bully his way through a Dutch central defense that has been tested surprisingly little during the tournament. A Belgian team that looks to be improving in every match wins this one with a lone (late) goal.
The Final that almost no one outside of northern South America and north central Europe picked, Colombia v Belgium, bucks the trend of cagey, defensive, boring World Cup finals. An early goal from Eden Hazard opens things up and keeps the match moving at a frenetic pace. Casual viewers are impressed by the speed of players off the ball. The passes that come from central midfield to player that are only open at the split second the ball reaches their feet. And the crunching tackles, that when played in super slow motion, will make even the most ardent “soccer is for sissies, all they do is flop around” blowhard at the bar admit that “well, actually, that one looked like it hurt”. A fantastic match finishes 3-2 to everyone’s dark horse pick, Belgium.