At the beginning of the tournament we tipped Lionel Messi for top scorer and Argentina to win it. At the time of writing, we are still looking positive on both those counts, however as the World Cup now reaches the Quarter Finals stage, there’s some intriguing encounters in store.
In this article, we’ll take a look at each of the four big clashes, picking our winner, whether extra time or penalties will be required and lastly, we’ll put together our four-match quarter final accumulator which we hope will land a few punters a tasty few extra pounds.
Quarter Final 1: Friday 5pm: France v Germany
What a clash at the Maracana on Friday night as the action gets under way with a huge game between two of European football’s giants. France and Germany have a rich World Cup history, with the Germans traditionally having the better of the clashes.
Can France change that on Friday? Certainly Didier Deschamps men have looked strong at times in this World Cup. United and playing with purpose, the French came through their group stage with relative ease and although they struggled to impose themselves against Nigeria, their class told in the end with two late goals from Pogba and an Joseph Yobo own goal, put them into the quarter finals.However there is no doubt that they’ll have to raise their game if they are to finally get the better of Germany at a World Cup finals.
The French may never have a better chance to do so though given Germany’s lacklustre showing against Algeria in the quarter finals. Forget the stats, before the Algerians tired in extra time, they often had a fallible-looking German defence on the rack at times and could and perhaps should have won the game in normal time.
However, Jochen Low’s men showed characteristic grit and determination to grind out a result, though the extra time will have sapped energy from their legs ahead of Friday’s game with the French. The German’s were hardly at their best against Algeria but still managed to win the game, something that the French will be acutely aware of. However, another poor performance against France and Germany could be on their way home.
Prediction: This is a game that really could go any way and it is very much going to be a case of which team finds their form on the day as to who emerges victorious. Both sides have been brilliant at times during this World Cup, but also looked very rocky at times too.
France certainly have the firepower to cause Germany problems and while I can see this game being level at the end of 90 minutes, I think the French may just edge this one in extra time. However if it goes to penalties, then there is only likely to be one winner.
Draw (after 90 minutes – France to win in extra time)
Quarter Final 2: Friday 9pm: Brazil v Colombia
It is fair to say that Brazil have both delighted and confused in their first four games at this World Cup. After a slow start, they shone against Croatia, but were lifeless against a well-organised Mexico. Cameroon provided little in the way of a stern test, but Brazil were certainly fortunate in the last 16, when Chile gave them a real run for their money and but for better penalty taking skills, could have knocked out the hosts.
Neymar is certainly the key man for Brazil but it is fair to say that the hosts have only shone against the weaker sides in the tournament. Luis Felipe Scolari’s team reliant on Neymar’s brilliance as their only sustainable attacking threat. Is that enough to win a World Cup on home soil? They may need more against a rapidly improving Colombia side who are fast turning into many neutral’s favourite team in the tournament.
Four wins from four games, the most goals scored of any team in the tournament and in James Rodriguez one of the tournaments finest talents, Colombia seem even better equipped than Chile were to give the host nation a stern test. That said, Colombia do lack experience at this level of competition and with a young squad who have benefitted from great Colombian support in four games previously, it will be interesting to see how they handle playing in a wholly hostile environment.
They certainly have the talent and ability to surprise the world and cause an upset, but do they have the mental strength to cope in what will be a cauldron in Fortaleza on Friday?
Prediction: Colombia have the talent to shock Brazil and the host nation will be emotionally drained following their nerve-shredding penalty victory over Chile. I expect Colombia to put up a real fight here especially early on. However, I think experience will be key and Brazil have that edge. I can see Colombia perhaps grabbing the early lead, but Brazil coming back in the second half to send the game into extra time, where I feel they may snatch victory.
Draw (after 90 minutes – Brazil to win in extra time – 14/5 for the draw with Bet365)
Quarter Final 3: Saturday 5pm: Argentina v Belgium
Both these teams came through nerve-shredding extra time victories on Tuesday so neither will have gained any advantage from just 90 minutes of action. Indeed both can count themselves slightly fortunate that they were not taken to penalties by their respective opponents in the first knockout stage. Argentina were impressive in the group stage, but not unduly so.
Messi’s brilliance and four goals helped them win their group with ease but there is no doubt that Alex Sabella’s men do look suspect defensively. Switzerland’s negative approach caused them problems in the second round and only a last gasp extra time goal saw them avoid the lottery of a penalty shootout. However, Messi is back on form and that will send warning signals to every other team in the tournament.
Belgium were equally fortunate against the USA in what was an enthralling counter in Salvador. 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes, the Belgians roared into a 2-0 lead in the first half of extra time, before the USA rallied, grabbing one goal back and laying siege to Belgium’s goal before the European side held on for the win.
Marc Wilmot’s charges have not yet hit the heights at this World Cup but their progress has been steady if not spectacular and they will certainly pose the biggest threat Argentina have faced thus far in the tournament.
Prediction: These teams met at the 1982 World Cup (Belgium winning 1-0) and the 1986 World Cup when Diego Maradona’s brace saw Argentina record a 2-0 win in the semi final. This will be close once again and Belgium certainly have the players to trouble Argentina, however do they have the experience?
Messi is just starting to catch alight in the tournament now and after being shackled mercilessly by Switzerland, I think he’ll enjoy the space a more forward thinking Belgium will afford him.
Argentina to Win (11/10 with Bet365)
Quarter Final 4: Saturday 9pm: Holland v Costa Rica
Costa Rica have proven to be the surprise team of the tournament, not only qualifying from England’s group with ease, but also seeing off Greece on penalties in the first knockout round. Several players, including their goalkeeper Keylor Navas, strikers Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell and defender Giancarlo Gonzalez have really caught the eye with some outstanding performances, particularly against Uruguay and Italy.
Their win over Greece was on the back of a fine goalkeeping display from Navas and some wasteful Greek finishing which Costa Rica took full advantage of. Holland however have had relatively untroubled progress to this stage of the tournament. They began in emphatic fashion, thumping Spain but were forced onto the back foot against Australia before coming through somewhat fortunately 3-2.
However, they then played superbly to defeat Chile in their final group game, thus avoiding Brazil in the second round. There they struggled at times against Mexico but ground out a 2-1 win to get them into the knockout phase. On paper, the Dutch side should have far too much for Costa Rica.
Then again, so should have England, Italy and Uruguay, Holland however, may not be quite as accommodating as that trio of teams.
Prediction: Costa Rica were supposed to be the also-rans in England group, only nobody told the Central American side that. To reach the quarterfinals is beyond a dream for this tiny nation and there will be those who think the 13/2 on them beating Holland represents good value. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves however, Greece should have beaten them in the round of 16 and they will not have faced a team anywhere near as talented as Holland in the tournament.
The Dutch weren’t at their best against Mexico but inspired by Arjen Robben, they ground out a win. This Dutch team look battle hardened, packed with talent and I expect them to record a relatively comfortable victory in Salvador on Saturday night on their way to another semi final.
Holland to Win (1/2 with Bet365)
If you take the four selections shown above and fancy putting them into a four team accumulator at the odds shown above (which are all taken from the Bet365 website), then you’ll get combined odds of 38.5/1 on the bet. The bet would be:
- France v Germany: Draw (after 90 minutes) – 23/10
- Brazil v Colombia: Draw (after 90 minutes) – 14/5
- Argentina v Belgium : Argentina Win – 11/10
- Holland v Costa Rica: Holland Win – 1/2
This means a £5 bet on these four selections as an acca with Bet365 Sports will return £197.50 if our predictions are right. Of course we suggest Bet365 as an excellent and reputable place for UK punters to wager on sports. Sign up today, and you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of $100 in free Bet 365 Sports bets.