These two sides have met in World Cup finals before. Diego Maradona led Argentina to victory at home in 1986, but couldn’t overcome a dubious red card and penalty in Italy 1990. It might be telling that each of those two matches was won by the country playing on its home continent. European and South American sides have met in the final on nine previous occasions; European teams are 0-7 outside Europe and 2-1 on the old continent (Pele’s Brazil beat Sweden at Sweden 1958). Still, the Germans have knocked Argentina out of the last two World Cups, and they can certainly have no fear of hostile crowds after their last match. This one will be decided by the players, plain and simple.
We witnessed soccer history yesterday in Germany’s 7-1 destruction of Brazil. The Germans were worth every bit of that scoreline – in fact, Mesut Özil’s late miss and Oscar’s even later consolation goal mean 7-1 might have flattered Brazil – and the specter of a final against Joachim Löw’s new Wunderteam hangs over today’s match.
But both nations competing this evening have their own place in the sport’s history: Holland is home to totaalvoetbal and Johan Cruyff, while Argentina can point to a pedigree of two World Cup victories and two of the game’s greats in Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. Messi has been a player-of-the-tournament candidate in his first five matches, but so has Holland’s Arjen Robben (pictured above), the unstoppable dribbler and incorrigible diver. Which superstar will inspire his team to progression to the final against Germany?
And then there were four. And arguably the best four in the competition: Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and the Netherlands, although Colombia and Chile could argue for their inclusion in the top tier.
The first match features five-time champions and hosts Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) against three-time champions Germany (1954, 1974, 1990). They’ve only met in the World Cup once, in 2002, when Brazil beat Germany 2-0 in the final on the strength of two Ronaldo goals. Germany have been one of the strongest sides in the world for years and are currently ranked second by FIFA; Brazil are ranked third, but they’ll carry onto the field with them the hopes, dreams, and energy of the world’s greatest soccer nation.
The second quarterfinal features hosts Brazil and surprising Colombia. Despite failing to impress so far, the Brazilians will still be favorites in front of their home crowd. Their South American neighbors, meanwhile, have been the best side in the Cup, with the best player in young James (“HA-mace”) Rodriguez. The world will be watching the matchup between James (pictured above) and Brazil’s own young star Neymar.
Happy Fourth of July! Appropriately, today’s two World Cup matches should bring the pyrotechnics; the world is expecting Football Fireworks of the highest luminosity. The second match features Neymar’s Brazil, the hosts and most successful team ever, against James Rodriguez’s Colombia, the best side in the tournament so far. But first, it’s France and Germany, the old neighbors and rivals, who have scored a combined seventeen goals in three previous World Cup meetings. Can the technical class of the French overcome the speed and power of the Germans?
In the warmup match to today’s USA vs. Belgium encounter, Argentina and four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi (pictured above) meet inconsistent Switzerland, against whom they’ve never lost in seven matches (4-0-2). The Swiss nicked a late victory against Ecuador, were blown off the pitch against France, and then blanked Honduras 3-0. Argentina have had their own problems, having beaten Bosnia, Iran, and Nigeria so far by only a goal apiece – and conceding three goals along the way. Who shows up today for each country?
The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) will play Belgium today in their first match of the knockout rounds. We’ve seen this Belgian side before; they beat us 4-2 last year and we beat them 3-0 way back in our first ever World Cup match (Uruguay 1930). Belgium won Group H with a perfect 3-0-0 record ahead of Algeria, Russia, and South Korea, but they’re only ranked two spots above us by FIFA. This is a match we can win, if we improve on our weak offensive performances in the first three matches, where – in an admittedly tough group – the Yanks managed just 39% average possession (second-worse after Iran) and nine shots on target.