The long matches have come to an end and by that I mean the pre-quarter finals or round of 16 games. Never have so many games gone to extra-time or been won in the dying minutes in any tournament ever played. The stronger & more favoured teams won but they struggled to do and I guess the heat and humidity played a big factor in this. But we have a good lineup for the final 8 and things look very exciting. So after a 2 day break from matches, we will see on July 4th:
Brazil vs Columbia : Brazilian superstar Neymar & co will face a big hurdle in the form of Columbia with their own superstar in the making James Rodriguez, who has already scored 5 goals in this world cup. Brazil needed a penalty shoot-out to book their place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup after a 1-1 draw with Chile in Belo Horizonte. David Luiz claimed Brazil’s opener in the last-16 encounter after 18 minutes, but replays suggested that the final touch may have come from Gonzalo Jara after Thiago Silva flicked an inviting corner from Neymar towards the back post. Chile found themselves level shortly after the half-hour mark as Alexis Sanchez capitalised on a lack of communication in the Brazil defence, firing beyond Julio Cesar and into the bottom corner. It took a tense penalty shootout in which Brazilian goalie Cesar emerged as a hero to save a couple of shots for Brazil to win and advance to the next round. Columbia’s win over a toothless (ok I just had to do that) Uruguay side minus the suspended Luis Suarez was more straighforward with a James brace enough to shut down their South American rivals.
France vs Germany : Unfancied Algerians took the game to the Germans, who has started the tournament on fire but has gradually slowed down, and it needed two goals from André Schürrle and Mesut Özil broke the deadlock, if not Algerian spirits. The Algerians got a consolation goal from Djabou in the dying minutes of extra time but it wasn’t enough to stop the Germans. France too were finding the going tough against a spirited Nigerian side who seemed to play better each match and who seemed to threaten more than the fancied French side. It took a 79th minute goal from Pal Pogba to break the deadlock. For 78 minutes, Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama had been inspired in standing up to everything that France could throw at him. But then, just seconds after making a fingertip save to deny Karim Benzema, he rushed at a cross and gifted Paul Pogba what proved to be the decisive goal. A mix-up in added time with Joseph Yobo subsequently gave far more comfort to the scoreline than the French players had felt at any point of the match.
Netherlands vs Costa Rica : Netherlands played Mexico on a terribly hot & humid day that saw a sort of record being set – for the first time in the World Cup, FIFA declared that there be given a 3 minute break for the players to cool down and drink water due to fear of dehydration. The Dutch went behind in the 48th minutes ad Giovanni dos Santos scored and it looked liked the Mexicans would run away with a lone goal victory as the Dutch kept missing in the final 3rd of the field. But a superbly struck volley from Wesley Sneijder drew the match before Arjen Robben went down in injury time and the referee pointed to the penalty spot – Klaus Jan-Huntelaar converted to grant the win to the Dutch. Controversy struck when after the game Dutch winger admitted to diving to get a penalty in the 1st half but not for the penalty. Replays show that Mexican defender Marquez stuck his leg out and did catch Robben’s show toe and to me it looked like a penalty but Robben made the most of it and fell theatrically. Costa Rica faced off against Greece and lost a man in the 66th minute to a red cad. The game had to go to penalties after Greece equalized late in the game and the Costa Ricans came out winner.
Argentina vs Belgium : Argentina looked out of sorts against Switzerland and the game looked fairly open as the Swiss showed that they deserved to be there at that level of competition. They gave the Argentines a run for their money but couldn’t capitalize on the chances that they had in the match. Angel Di Maria scored deep in extra time to grant his nation a 1-0 win over the Europeans. And finally dark horses Belgium defeated the USA 2-1 in another game that went to extra time. Kevin De Bryun & Romelu Lukaku scored in the 93rd & 105th minute respectively to give the Belgians a deserved 2-0 win. Julian Green gave the fighting Americans a consolation goal in the 107th minute to give the Belgian players & fans a tense end of the game. But the Belgians would not be denied and saw their victory through.
Two days of rest and we will have the battle of the last 8 on July 4th & 5th.