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Can minnows Costa Rica cause a shock?

Can minnows Costa Rica cause a shock?
Over the next two days eight teams will battle it out for a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup. The hectic group stages – which all of the teams left won – were replaced by more tactical, low- scoring last sixteen games which in many cases required extra- time and in Brazil and Costa Rica’s, penalties.

For the first time in World Cup history the eight group winners progressed into the final eight. We’re now guaranteed at least one European and one South American side in the semi- finals next week. There were no upsets in the last round, so all eyes will be on the final game between Holland and Costa Rica on Saturday to see if the minnows from Central America can do the impossible once more.

France vs Germany

The French have emerged as a huge dark horse this summer when everyone had written them off before the tournament started. Didier Deschamps controversially left Samir Nasri at home, but that may have been a stroke of team management genius as the side look happy and enjoying their football, a completely different feeling to the mutiny in South Africa.

They face Germany who faced a stout test against Algeria in the last round. Joachim Loew faces some tactical questions going into this one, particularly should Philip Lahm move to a full back role in place of Sami Khedira in midfield.

Each side had a fantastic start to the World Cup but each of their last two performances have been more subdued. Germany will need Thomas Muller to be on form as he appears to be their only goal threat; however the same goes to France and Karim Benzema.

The French left it late against Nigeria in the last 16 but ran out easy 2-0 winners in the end. The fitter legs will considerably help as Germany were kept pushing to the final group game and all the way to extra time against Algeria. Deschamps has key experience in this sort of occasion and will guide France into the final four.

Brazil vs Colombia

Probably the most exciting game of the semi- final as it pits the favourites and hosts Brazil against the exciting underdogs Colombia, who have been absolutely exceptional in the tournament thus far.

There are plenty of question marks over Brazil and their chances of going all the way. Chile was a very stern test and took the hosts all the way to penalties, with the crossbar saving them in injury time and the post in the shootout.

Colombia have looked fearsome so far and have won all their games at a canter. James Rodriguez has been the absolute star of the World Cup so far and if he can perform again, along the pacey Juan Cuadrado and creative Fredy Guarin, Colombia have a real chance. This will be Brazil’s strongest test yet defensively, as even Chile didn’t possess the speed and counter-attacking prowess of this Colombia team.

For Brazil, Neymar will again have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to play well. The players around him haven’t been that impressive from an attacking standpoint, the likes of Fred and Oscar will have to step up and alleviate some of that pressure because Brazil will need to score goals to progress.

As much as I’d like to see an upset here, the home crowd behind Brazil will see them through once again – after the Chile game it appears nothing can stop Brazil going all the way here.

Argentina v Belgium

Lionel Messi. That’s what this Argentina side is all about, because without him they most certainly wouldn’t have gotten this far. He’s been the goal-scorer and provider in every game and if you take away his late winner against Iran, his double against Nigeria or his piece of magic to set up Angel Di Maria against Switzerland then they’d be long gone home.

Belgium had an awfully tough task beating the USA in the last sixteen. They were kept going all the way till the 120thminute in one of the craziest extra- times in living memory. They’ve gone about their business quietly but have the individual attacking talent to cause an upset, as well as the powerful defence to keep Messi and co. at bay.

Vincent Kompany is arguably the best central defender in the world and along with the likes of Jan Vertonghen, who has taken to his attacking left back role, and Toby Alderweireld they’ll have to be at their very best because as we’ve seen – Messi can strike at any second.

The Belgians may just lack the attacking power to overcome Argentina though. A fresh Romelu Lukaku came on in extra time and dismantled a tired USA defence, while Eden Hazard hasn’t put his stamp on the World Cup and Marouane Fellaini has been very poor.

There’s no stopping Lionel Messi, not even this stout Belgian defence.

Netherlands v Costa Rica

Another team that defied pre- World Cup predictions, the Netherlands face a tricky encounter with Central American heroes Costa Rica.

An Arjen Robben-inspired comeback saved Holland against Mexico in the last round, while Costa Rica needed penalties to overcome the Greece bus. There were some very tired legs at the end of that game which will play into the Dutch’s favour.

Costa Rica shocked everyone with their group stage performances, beating Italy in stunning fashion and dismantling Uruguay with ease. A draw with England topped it all off, seeing them finish top and handing them an ‘easy’ tie with Greece in the last sixteen. Who would’ve thought a month ago that Costa Rica would be favourites in a knockout World Cup game?

Holland won’t take Costa Rica too lightly and they have too much quality to sadly bring this memorable run to an abrupt end.

Article By:

Kevin Coleman: www.back pagefootball.com

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