It’s hard to believe that Argentina hasn’t been to a World Cup semi-final since 1990. It feels like they’re always there or thereabouts. Watching them see off Belgium in a mostly boring quarter, I felt for the first time this tournament that the Argies are probably favourites to win this thing. They’ve looked defensively kinda weak, yet they’ve hardly conceded a goal. Their performances have been just as unconvincing against Belgium as they were against Iran and that consistency of unconvincingness suggests they can do the same against the Dutch and the Brazilians or Germans. Argentina have learned a lesson: It’s not how you win, it’s just that you win. Keep things solid enough and let Lionel Messi (or apparently Gonzo Higuain) grab that single goal that’ll seal the deal. It also helps that Javier Mascherano had his best game of the Cup against Belgium too, marauding the midfield like a terrier, doing the work of two players. This is probably the kiss of death, so expect the Dutch to beat them next game. If anyone can figure out the Lionel Messi dilemma, it’s Supercoach Louis Van Gaal. The idea of that man coaching Manchester United after the sterile, uninspired Moyes era of tactics is a beautiful thing.
Unfortunately the goals dried up in the quarters, so we probably aren’t gonna see Brazil 2014 beat France 1998 as the highest scoring tournament of all time. Ah, well. Instead we have four teams all capable of winning the trophy, all traditional powerhouses though with vastly differing historical success, and all ready to treat us to some cracking footy. I mean, one of these four teams will be World Champions in a week’s time. Imagine what that does for these legacies. Lionel Messi would be on par with Diego Maradona. The Brazilians would finally avenge their 1950 homefield choke and win their sixth (!!!!!!) World Cup. Louis Van Gaal would be hailed as an all-time genius, RVP, Robben and Sneijder would take the step from great generational players to all timers. The Germans, after making their fourth successive World Cup semi-final, would make a good case as being one of the great international teams. It looks like an Argentina-Germany final to me, but any combination is going to be great.
Mystery Doc’s Word
Football fans rejoice, if you haven't already. There are days when you will sit through some terrible, terrible games of footy whether it be a Sunday evening A-League fixture or even an English Premier League match in which neither team looks like they wanna be there. All those days build toward a World Cup and while we've been graced with some pretty decent football already, geez these Semi Finals are just super. Even if my Frenchies are flying back home.
There's just too much drama and intrigue for me to not get excited, let alone the skills and tactics. Had Neymar not gone and broken a bone in his back or whatever, the Brazil vs Germany match would be different. It would have been more about how Germany would stop Brazil and nullify Neymar's influence ... there's always a way/scheme/plan with the Germans. But we've had a few curve balls thrown with Neymar's injury and Thiago Silva's suspension (pending appeal). Now, Brazil must rally. They must rally with their home fans and produce something worthy of World Cup folklore. How they're going to manage the likes of Muller, Ozil, Gotze, Kroos, Klose rolling forward, I have no idea. I mean David Luiz isn't exactly a brick wall. Then they have to somehow get through a German team with Khedira and Schweinsteiger anchoring the midfield.
In a game full of big names, the most important will be Oscar. The stage is set for him to become a worldwide star. Brazil need the ball at his feet going forward and they need him to be at his wizard like best. Good luck Oscar Pistorious, I mean Oscar.
How about the Dutch vs Argentina aye? Well given that Messi is playing, you'd have to imagine that this is a great opportunity for him to go to some beyond super human level. He could rise out of his body should he lead Argentina to glory ... in Brazil!? But the Dutch are interesting. The Dutch despite having the attacking prowess of Robin Van Persie, Wes (Wes is better than Wesley) Sneijder and Arjen Robben, the Dutch will depend on Dirk. Yes, Dirk Kuyt. Some wonder what exactly Kuyt provides, but he provides everything. Maybe we'll see Kuyt man mark Messi? Maybe we'll see him at right back? Maybe he'll feature heavily on attack supporting the flying V up top? Who knows. His work rate and effort will be unmatched though.
The Best of Social Media
Luis Suarez Bottle Openers Now On Sale!
All of Tim Howard's Saves vs Belgium in a Single GIF
Tim Krul & Louis Van Gaal (Netherlands) – It was certainly brave, holding back a sub for a specialist keeper change for the shootout, but it also certainly worked. Once again a Van Gaal gamble comes up good. Tim Krul has apparently only saved 2 EPL penalties. Well, he’s only saved 2 World Cup penalty shootout kicks too.
David Luiz (Brazil) – Oohwee what a goal! Probably not enough to justify a £50m price tag for a defender but then again you look at his standing among his teammates and there’s a fair argument that he’s the heart of this Brazil team. With Neymar and Thiago Silva out vs Germany, he’ll need to be all that and more.
Mats Hummels (Germany) – You can’t play a whole lot better than Hummels did against France. Indomitable at the back and a powerful header for the winning goal, plus it all came after he missed the last game with flu.
Neymar (Brazil) – Ah, ya poor little fella. The man who carried the hopes and dreams of 200 million Brazilians is out of the rest of the tournament with a fractured vertebrae. Ouch. Neymar was literally in tears as he was stretchered off, but he’s put out a heartfelt message of support for his teammates, reassuring the world that they can do it without him. Ok, Fred. It’s all up to you now…
Jasper Cillessen (Netherlands) – 120 minutes of clean sheet keeping, including a crucial save right near the end, and Tim Krul comes in for the penalty shootout glory. Jasper was a good sport about it all, the first on the field to celebrate the winning save in fact. The least he could have gotten is some deserved recognition…
Karim Benzema (France) – 7 chances against Germany, none looked like going in. For a world class forward who dominated the group stage, he shoulda done better. He didn’t always get a lot of help from his buddies, though.
Brazilian Wildlife – Ahhhh, don’t move, James. Just stay perfectly still… maybe it’ll fly away…
And no, this isn’t photoshopped. It actually happened. That cricket looks like it could swallow a baby. Or a French winger.
Golden Boot Watch
6 – James Rodriguez (Colombia)
4 – Thomas Müller (Germany)
4 – Lionel Messi (Argentina)
4 – Neymar (Brazil)