Quarter Finals Preview
Brazil v Colombia: This will be the first meeting between these sides in the World Cup. Normally logic would dictate that the best team in World Cup history, at home, against a team that has never before made it to the quarter final, would win and with something in hand. But Brazil are not really firing and Colombia have, without question, been the best team in this World Cup so far. Can they take the pressure that the crowd, the Brazil team, and even FIFA will bring th bear? I hope they can. I am going for 2-1 to Colombia and a very feisty encounter.
France v Germany: There have been 3 previous meetings; firstly the 6-3 3rd place match win to France in 1958, and then two meaningful matches: the 1982 notorious semi-final, with GBH on the pitch from Schumacher, West Germany's goalkeeper, which the Germans outrageously won in the first ever World Cup penalty shoot out, and then a 2-0 semi-final win to West Germany in 1986, over a French side that were European champions and had just elimated favourites Brazil. And this, I think, is the point, that despite form, the Germans are the masters at getting the job done, especially against the French. Germany are definitely stuttering and France look smoother, especially with Griezman on for Giroud, but Benzema seems to have gone off the boil and this could mean the goals dry up. Germany surely cannot defend so badly again as they did against Algeria. Lahm has to play in his proper position at full back with Khedira coming into the midfield. It has to be Germany; I like 2-1 in this match too.
Netherlands v Costa Rica: It seems to be going for the Dutch. They really got out of jail against Mexico and ought to build on that. How much will they miss the injured Nigel De Jong? Probably not enough to fail to win this. These sides have never met in the World Cup before. I still don't trust the quality of Costa Rica, except for Joel Campbell's enterprising forward play, and see this as 2-0 to the Netherlands.
Argentina v Belgium: There have been 2 past meetings. Everyone remembers the 1986 semi-final and the 2-0 win for Argentina, with Maradona's wonder goal, but few remember Belgium's 1-0 win in the group in 1982, when Argentina were defending champions. So Belgium at least know they can beat Argentina. This seems a balanced match; both sides are underperforming but can break out of the shackles and make a real statement. I suspect Argentina are more likely to rise to the occasion and will get through in a tight match.
So for the semi-finals, I am going for Colombia v Germany, and Netherlands v Argentina. Bring it on.
1st Quarter of the Draw
Brazil v Chile: There have been 3 meetings in past World Cups and Brazil have won all 3 with a combined aggregate of 11-3; 3-0 in the Last 16 in 2010, 4-1 at the same stage in 1998, and 4-2 in the 1962 semi-final in Santiago, in which Garrincha was sent off towards the end for reacting to brutal tackling, and was pelted with bottles as he left the pitch. So history screams 'Brazil' in this encounter. Much that I admire this Chile side and believe they would match Brazil under most circumstances, I just cannot see it happening in Brazil, so I take Brazil to win by a couple of goals. I hope I am wrong.
Colombia v Uruguay: The only previous meeting was a 2-1 win for Uruguay in the group stage in 1962, but I would not put too much store on that. The key unknown is how Uruguay will react to the Suarez suspension. Will they go into their shell because the world is against them? Or will they rally and 'do it for Luis'? It is hard to say. However, Colombia are a good side and I believe they will win this, with only the margin of victory dependent on Uruguay's attitude.
2nd Quarter of the Draw
France v Nigeria: This will be a first World Cup meeting between these sides. It looks like France comfortably. Even though Nigeria have beaten expectations so far, I feel they are close to their ceiling and France have too much class to let this slip.
Germany v Algeria: Revenge is in the air, or is it? Algeria beat West Germany 2-1 in their first ever World Cup match before being cheated out of a place in the second round by the most blatant case of match fixing in World Cup history "Die Schande von Gijon". Read the detail in 'Years, 1982 Spain' on the site. Logic says Germany have too much for an enterprising Algeria, but I will not be tempting fate on this one.
3rd Quarter of the Draw
Netherlands v Mexico: A 1998 2-2 draw in the group is the only meeting between these two.This is traditionally where Mexico bow out of the World Cup and the Netherlands ought to be too strong. In Mexico's favour is the performance against Brazil which shows they have a classy defence and a top goalkeeper. If they can sneak a goal, who knows?
Greece v Costa Rica: There is no history to go on here. The bookies are for Costa Rica, but I am backing Greece. They are tough to break down and will be buoyed by their unexpected qualification for the Last 16, so I am expecting a modest upset here.
4th Quarter of the Draw
Argentina v Switzerland: Argentina beat Switzerland 2-0 in the group in 1966, but that was a different era and style of play. Surely Argentina must prevail here, but I have a feeling the Swiss will be far harder opposition than expected. Their 5-2 loss to France was, I think, a bit of a fluke with France on fire, whereas Argentina have not hit their straps…yet. And for the first time in years you can sense the believe in the Swiss attack. It would not be the most ridiculous outcome for Switzerland to win. However, I believe a tough win for Argentina to be more likely' surely Messi will rise to the occasion.
Belgium v USA: The only historical data here goes back to 1930 when the USA downed Belgium 3-0. Belgium have laboured so far in this tournament, and the USA will be super feisty on the wave of support from their fans. I smell an upset here unless Belgium can really raise their game.