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The pick of the last eight

July 3, 2010

1990 World Cup Final: Germany 1 Argentina 0

After an action-packed round of 16 and yesterday’s entertaining quarter finals comes the highlight of an attractive knockout schedule so far.

This afternoon Germany and Argentina will vie for a place in the last four. Both sides are past winners (albeit Germany in their ununified guise) and both were less fancied than usual going into this tournament. Many pundits plumped for Spain (who face Paraguay later) or Brazil (rudely dumped out by the Netherlands yesterday), yet the two team contesting the third quarter final have produced the most exciting football thus far: Germany in the 4-0 thumping of Australia and counter-attacking (with a touch of route one) success over England, Argentina in a Messi and Higuain-inspired performance against South Korea.

The Germany game should be Maradona's biggest managerial test so far -

Only Uruguay’s superb display against the hosts has rivalled these showings over 90 minutes, and after yesterday the South Americans can also lay claim to winning one of the best games of this competition. But Germany and Argentina would both feel confident about meeting them, and have a much more difficult route to the final. Germany’s demolition of England was admittedly easier than expected (though not as easy as the scoreline suggested), but beating Argentina and then facing – probably – Spain and the Netherlands would be a superb way to win a World Cup. They also had one of the more difficult groups.

Maradona divides opinion. Some love his irascible comments and quirky approach; others think is a cheat, a chancer, and one who is lucky to be at the World Cup as a manager following a woeful qualifying campaign and a failure to pick Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti.
Tomorrow sees his biggest test yet – surly observers point to the less-than-brilliant opposition they’ve faced so far, but no-one can deny they’ve beaten most in some style.

El Diego’s counterpart Joachim Low is clearly a very cool man. His team are more than capable in the final third, though their defence is not entirely convincing. Argentina’s has yet to be properly exposed but one fears a defence featuring Di Michelis and Heinze will get its comeuppance at some point. Whether it will be today remains to be seen of course, and then even if it does there is a reasonable chance Messi, di Maria, Higuain and Tevez will score enough goals to render it irrelevant.

Cool man, cool clothes

A few words on yesterday’s action to conclude. Brazil were disappointing after the first half an hour and the Netherlands were not as impressive as they should have been to beat a team who have waltzed through to this stage. Netherlands have had a less than taxing route through too, but at the first sight of decent opposition, rode their luck then struck twice in the second half. This could be a winning formula if they can sustain it over two more games.

And then the best game of the tournament so far. ITV and, in particular, Clive Tyldesley’s unquestioning assumption that every human being on the planet was supporting Ghana made for an irritating soundtrack to a hugely entertaining clash between the African side and Uruguay. His irrational level of support was demonstrated with a rising fervour and uncontrolled bias usually reserved for the team one draws in an office sweepstake.

Thankfully the match was as vibrant as this man's dress sense -

Uruguay’s Luis Suarez was mildly condemned for ‘cheating’ in the last minute of extra time yet who, in similar circumstances, can say they would not instinctively have done the same and pushed the ball away on the goal line, volleyball-style? He was punished with a red card (and a semi-final ban), Gyan had the chance to win it from 12 yards and couldn’t hit the target. On such fine margins do competitions turn.
ITV then decided the first draft of history would include the fact that Ghana were much the better side in the opening half, when in reality they were dominated for the best part of thirty minutes and crafted chances only in the final ten. They were, however, undoubtedly good value for the draw after 120 minutes. Still, as they travel home they can no doubt take solace in the heartwarming cliché that they ‘played their part’ in a superb game of football.

Today’s predictions:
The Videprinter’s predictions have been poor to say the least thus far, and tomorrow’s is too difficult to call. Our only prediction is: it’s gonna be a cracker.


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