Three-time World Cup loser Netherlands is the only outsider in a final four that features three of the most successful sides in history. Still, Argentina, Brazil, and Germany, despite having won more than half of all the World Cups played, have their own reasons for angst. Here then are each semi-finalists narrative along with the moneyline odds.
Brazil’s 1982 side embodied its talisman Socrates’ words that “Beauty comes first. Victory is secondary. What matters is joy.” Socrates, Zico, Falcao, and Eder won the world’s love, if not the World Cup, playing o jogo bonito. But Brazilians will not accept exquisite failure in this homecoming tournament. Thus they have begrudgingly accepted Luis Felipe “Gene Hackman” Scolari’s o jogo pragmatico as a small price to pay for raising the trophy aloft on the same ground where they infamously wept in 1950’s Maracana loss to Uruguay. Neymar’s catastrophic injury now puts them in the unusual role of underdogs.
On October 1990 Germans gathered in their stone-washed jeans in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate to sing the Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” in celebration of reunification. Such scenes of patriotic fervor wouldn’t be repeated until 2006’s World Cup, but Die Mannschaft failed to bring home its first-ever title as a unified nation. The fervor for a first post-reunification title is still there, as is the angst over whether Jogi Low’s men can finally follow through on the tactical and cultural revolution begun by Jurgen Klinsmann in the wake of 2002’s failure.
To some, Lionel Messi is more Spanish than Argentinian. He left for Barcelona at the age of 11 to receive HGH to treat his growth hormone deficiency. He’s been in Barcelona ever since and is more associated with their tika-taka system than La Albiceleste’s typical rugged style. It hasn’t helped that Argentina have failed to impress at either the World Cup or Copa America with him on the squad. Winning a first title since Maradona’s squad in 1986 would paper over any misgivings about their wayward son.
Not only can the Netherlands win their first World Cup ever, but they can beat the three nations that have denied them such glory on the way there. They already destroyed Spain 5-1 on the tournament’s 2nd day, next up is Argentina whom they lost to in 1978. Then they would face either Germany, who beat them in 1974, or Brazil, who downed them in 1998’s semi-final.
Odds of Winning World Cup
2. Argentina +240
3. Brazil +290
4. Netherlands +300
Germany at +150 favored in normal time over Brazil at +190 and a Draw at +230. Germany to advance at -80 over Brazil at +105
Argentina at +140 favored in normal time over Holland at +207 and a Draw at +225. Argentina to advance at -135 over Holland at +115.