France vs. Germany
The brutal collision between West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher and France defender Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup only adds extra intrigue to this quarterfinal clash between the two European neighbors. West Germany would go on to win that semifinal in 1982 as they would the contest between the two teams at the same stage four years later. They have not met in a competitive international since. Both Germany and France had tougher than expected Round-of-16 matches, although Joachim Löw’s side certainly got the bigger fright having been pushed to extra time by Algeria. It should be a very different game for both this time around against an opponent who will be far more proactive. France and Germany began the World Cup strongly, but have been less spectacular in recent games and in Germany’s case their defensive vulnerabilities have been all-too easily exposed. Interestingly, both coaches appeared to find the right formula late on in their last games. If Germany discover their rhythm they should just come out on top in what should be a gripping encounter.
Prediction: Germany 2-1 France
Brazil vs. Colombia
Brazil have already survived one a matchup with a South American squad by the skin of their teeth and now face another that promises to be equally treacherous. The hosts played their best football of the competition early on against Chile, but their inability to control the flow of the game almost cost them the ultimate price. A similar display against Colombia and it may well be curtains. Colombia have arguably been the most impressive team at the World Cup and breezed through their Round of 16 match with Uruguay. With so much attacking talent, including star of the tournament James Rodriguez, the Coffeers certainly have it in their locker to upset their local rivals and continue what is already their deepest run at a World Cup. When lightning-quick winger Juan Cuadrado goes up against Marcelo it could get ugly from a Brazilian point of view. But having received a second life, and boosted again by home backing, Brazil could forge even greater mental toughness, which may be sufficient to again see them through.
Brazil 2-1 Colombia
Netherlands vs. Costa Rica
Can the World Cup’s Cinderella story keep their incredible run going? Having already eliminated Italy and England, Costa Rica certainly have no reason to be intimidated going up against the Netherlands. And the Dutch are opponents that they may be more comfortable facing than a Greece side which was equally happy to play on the counter. The pressure will be on the Netherlands to be the aggressor, something which they haven’t always looked at home doing in Brazil. Still, they got the breakthroughs when it really counted late on against Mexico, and the 4-3-3 shape the Dutch ended up with could serve Louis van Gaal well in this match. A key feature of Costa Rica’s game has been the ability of their high defensive line not to be caught in behind. However, the challenge of keeping out the incredibly quick Arjen Robben in the form of his life could prove a step too far.
Netherlands 2-0 Costa Rica
Argentina vs. Belgium
Both sides needed extra-time to secure their expected quarterfinal spots and both teams have struggled to reach the heights of which they are capable at this World Cup. The fluidity of Argentina’s attacking play that was present in qualifying has been curiously absent thus far. For much of the time, it has been a one-man Lionel Messi show, although Angel di Maria provided signs against Switzerland that he could be ready to step up and provide some much-needed support. Belgium battled more than cruised through their group and required extra time to edge past the United States. However, they gave their most encouraging performance yet in the Round of 16. Key to that improvement was Kevin de Bruyne being able to knit the team together. Certainly there is reason to think that Belgium will be more comfortable with the greater space that Argentina will afford them and that they can cause a shaky Argentina defense plenty of problems. Yet Belgium’s defense is also less than secure and Messi and Co. could once again do just enough.
Argentina 3-2 Belgium