June 30, 2010

On to the quarters

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

While I may not have been around to comment on the World Cup recently, that doesn’t mean I’ve been skimping on watching the action whenever I can. So, with the round of 16 wrapped up, what better time than now to look at who is all here in the quarterfinals and what may lie ahead.

Uruguay was the first team through to the quarters – by virtue of schedule of course. Thus far, they’ve displayed not only fantastic attacking from Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan, but have also been solid on the back end. The South American side has a favourable draw against Ghana next and could very well sneak into the final with some luck.

Ghana ended the USA’s World Cup run in one of two games to go into extra time. The lone African team to make the round of 16 showed what speed all over the field can do for you, but now has the weight of an entire continent on its shoulders. Even though both Uruguay and Ghana have played well enough to be here, this match has to be considered the weakest of the four.

Friday’s other match is a true instant-classic-in-the-making. The Dutch, who haven’t lost a meaningful game in who knows how long, face a Brazilian side that has embraced defence to go with the still astonishing playmaking on offence. This has the recipe to be a great match and will not disappoint.

The Netherlands – surprise – have had some turmoil with players’ egos. After forward Robin van Persie didn’t appreciate being substituted for in the last game, the nation’s coach is now calling for team unity, something that you would figure a contender should have at this point of the tournament. Whether the team can function together will go a long way towards telling if they can take down Brazil.

In spite of not being able to break down the Portuguese in their third group match, the Brazilians still look like one of the most complete teams around. It’s a shame that Elano is doubtful for the next match, he’s been stunning off of set pieces and his presence on the wing will be missed. But with Luis Fabiano and Robinho up front, this team won’t have trouble scoring.

Argentina might be the finest offensive team on the planet, even though Lionel Messi is yet to score a goal. With Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez leading the way, it will take a lot to stop the Argentine strike force. It’s just a shame that their back end looks a little shaky. As Germany has showed thus far, they’re deadly on the counter.

Ze Germans took part in one the games from this tournament that will be long talked about in the sports universe, but for the wrong reason. Sure the Germans looked great, winning 4-1 and scoring some stunning goals on counters after defending top-notch, but we’ll always remember Frank Lampard’s non-goal. There will be plenty of time to discuss that egregious call later, but the best part of it is that instant replay – at the international tournament level of play at least – is all but a certainty. Also, Thomas Mueller is making a good run at being the young player of the tournament. He has played incredibly thus far.

So, is Fernando Torres holding back Spain? The supremely talented striker has potted a goal yet, and facing Portugal, the Spaniards only took the lead after Torres had been subbed out. I wouldn’t jump the gun and take out the talented forward, but he is clearly not at 100% and is merely a shadow of the player he should be. Sort of like how Cristiano Ronaldo performed during this World Cup. Unless Torres can turn things around when the heat’s really one, he’ll be up for biggest disappointment in the player category at tournament’s end.

Finally, there is the Paraguayan side that needed penalties to oust Japan. They’re playing with house money, is just happy to be here and that never ends well. I wouldn’t be counting on a big upset in Saturday afternoon’s game.

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