And Then There Were Four: World Cup 2014 Semifinals

First, the Soccer gods graced us with a tournament in which each group stage winner advanced past the Round of 16 to the Quarterfinals. Then, we saw the hosts end the run of a young star while losing their own young star. We saw a familiar face from Europe reach the semifinals for the fourth consecutive World Cup. We saw the young squad that many picked as a dark horse go down, meaning one of the best in the world would lead an enormous throng of visiting fans forward. Finally, we saw the hopes of an entire federation placed behind an unlikely squad who sought to be only the second team from CONCACAF to reach the semifinals. But alas, it was a masterful goalkeeper substitution and a sterling performance from a man who plies his trade in black and white stripes that led to a win in penalty kicks and a cruel ending for the Ticos. Now, for the semifinals of World Cup 2014.

 Brazil vs. Germany

With Neymar injured, can 30-year old Fred help lead the home squad to victory?

With Neymar injured, can 30-year old Fred help lead the home squad to victory?

When: Tuesday, 4 PM ET/1 PM PT
Where: Estadio Mineirao (Capacity – 62,547) in Belo Horizonte
TV: ESPN, CBUT, Univision
Commentators: Ian Darke & Steve McManaman (ESPN), Jorge Pérez-Navarro, Félix Fernández & Mauro Camoranesi (Univision)
Managers: Luiz Felipe “Big Phil” Scolari, Brazil (65 years old, 19-6-2 as head coach of Brazil); Joachim “Jogi” Low, Germany (54 years old, 75-20-15 as head coach of Germany).
How They Got Here:

Brazil – The hosts got the tournament started unceremoniously with an own goal by Marcelo before Neymar made a raucous entrance, scoring twice as Brazil defeated Croatia 3-1 in the opener. In their next match, the boys in gold ran into the brick wall that is Guillermo Ochoa and drew 0-0 with Mexico. They ended the group stage with a 4-1 defeat of Cameroon that saw Neymar secure another brace. Any notion of an easy journey to the Maracana would end with Brazil’s matchup against fellow CONMEBOL squad Chile, as Brazil required PKs to make it past Chile (3-2 on the spot kicks). On Independence Day here in MURRICA, the Brazilians faced another staunch opponent – and another South American rival – in Colombia, led by the phenom James “Don’t Call Me James” Rodriguez. By the end, Neymar had a broken vertebrae but the Selecao had advanced to the semifinal and Mr. Rodriguez was in tears.

Germany – Just like Brazil, the Germans have not been defeated so far, earning seven hard fought points to escape the Group of Death. Their Round of 16 opponent was Algeria who gave them all they could handle, holding the Germans goalless for all of regulation. Andre Schurrle scored 90 seconds into the first period of extra time, Mesut Ozil would score again in the 120th minute before Abdelmoumene Djabou would score in stoppage of the second extra time period to make the final result 2-1. Mats Hummels headed home a Toni Kroos cross in the 13th minute and Manuel Neuer and his backline would stop everything sent at them as Germany defeated France 1-0 on Friday.

What Else You Need To Know:

Brazil will be without two of its most important players in Thiago Silva (yellow card accumulation) and Neymar (fractured vertebrae) as they try to reach the World Cup Final for the first time since winning it all back in 2002. We all know how much of a loss Neymar will be to the Brazilians, as almost every offense movement that the Selecao make goes through Neymar, who has arguably been one of the best players in the tournament so far. However, they drop off between Neymar and his replacement will not be nearly as significant as the loss of captain Thiago Silva will be. Silva, arguably the best defender in the world at the moment, is the definition of a rock in the middle of the Brazilian defense and Dante, his probably replacement, is just not at that level. Brazil’s defense has looked stretched at times during this World Cup and it would be very interesting to see how they cope with the absence of their most consistent contributor.  On the other side of the pitch Germany has very little to worry about heading into their 4th consecutive World Cup semi-final match. Germany won a hard fought 1-0 game against France in the quarter-final and seemingly have a perfectly fit roster, which is very hard to come by at this stage of the tournament. The only real questions surround where Low will play Philip Lahm who, at the beginning of the tournament, was played in the middle of midfield but as the tournament went on was moved to his more familiar left back role and if, despite an underwhelming performance thus far, Miroslav Klose will get another start as he searches to take sole possession of 1st place on the all-time World Cup goalscorer list.

Predictions:

  • Dylan: I honestly have no idea, but Brazil somehow finds a way through. I’m going with my heart on this one, because my head says Germany. It goes to PKs tied at 1-1 and Julio Cesar and Brazil emerge victorious.
  • Joe: In another classic hard fought game Germany will come out on top with a 2-1 victory.

Netherlands vs. Argentina

Lionel Messi has four goals so far in this tournament, tied for the most in the World Cup, and his assist to Angel Di Maria setup the winner over Switzerland. Can he lead Argentina to victory over the Netherlands?

Lionel Messi has four goals so far in this tournament, tied for the most in the World Cup, and his assist to Angel Di Maria setup the winner over Switzerland. Can he lead Argentina to victory over the Netherlands?

When: Wednesday, 4 PM ET/1 PM PT
Where: Arena de Sao Paolo (Capacity – 65,807) in Sao Paolo.
TV: ESPN, CBUT, Univision
Commentators: Jon Champion & Stewart Robson (ESPN), José Luis López Salido, Ramón Ramírez & Diego Balado (Univision)
Read more at http://worldsoccertalk.com/2014/07/07/world-cup-semifinals-tv-schedule-and-commentator-assignments/#VI03jQPvivUQ5Hee.99
Managers: Louis Van Gaal, Netherlands (62 years old, 16-8-2 as Netherlands manager); Alejandro Sabella, Argentina (59 years old, 26-9-4 as Argentina manager).
How They Got Here:

Netherlands – The Dutch swept their way through their group, including a 5-1 rout of the defending champions Spain, and emerged with nine points and a +7 goal differential. Their first match in the knockout round was a tough one, however, as Giovanni Dos Santos put Mexico up 1-0 in the 48th minute. It would stay that way until the 88th when Wesley Sneijder leveled it and Klaas Van Huntelaar finished a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage, awarded after Arjen Robben took a now infamous dive in the box. In the quarterfinals, they were pitted against a Costa Rica said that no one thought would reach this stage and who forced the match to penalties, still goalless, before Tim Krul came on and led the Oranje to a semifinals appearance (Netherlands won 4-3 on PKs).

Argentina – The Argentines were one of the favorites to win it all entering the tournament, with casual and diehard fans alike focusing their gaze on Lionel Messi. Though they weren’t always convincing wins, Argentina defeated all three of their group stage opponents, winning by one goal each time. Their two games in the knockout round would also result in 1-0 victories, with the first against Switzerland needing extra time and the second in Belgium being at least slightly easier.

What Else You Need To Know:

Netherlands head coach Louis Van Gaal did something against Costa Rica that we’ve all thought of doing while playing FIFA but rarely ever happens in real life, he substituted his goalkeeper in the 119th minute for a goalie who he believed was better in a penalty kick shootout situation. If the Netherlands would’ve lost that shootout Van Gaal would be a complete goat, but Tim Krul saved 2 penalties and the Dutch won making the soon to be Manchester United head coach look like a complete genius. It would be interesting to see how Van Gaal would handle that situation if it were to arise again. The one major question I see with the Dutch at this point is with their captain and goal scorer Robin Van Persie. RVP looked primed for an exceptional World Cup early on, but it is clear that the heat of Brazil has taken it’s toll and he looked completely out of gas against Costa Rica. If the Netherlands are to have any chance at winning their first World Cup, they need Van Persie at his absolute best. Another possible minor problem I see with the Netherlands lies in their inexperienced backline. In the past, the Netherlands always had 1 or 2 highly experienced players in their back 5 (4 defenders and a goalie) but in 2014 all 5 of these players are fairly inexperienced and, although they’ve performed well thus far, the semi-final is a completely different stage that can easily be too much to an inexperienced backline like the Dutch have. The young Dutch defense will have to find a way to stop Lionel Messi if they wish to play in the World Cup Final. Messi has had the breakout World Cup that everyone was hoping he would have. Even though, at times, Argentina as a whole has been underwhelming, Messi has been fantastic throughout scoring four goals and bailing Argentina out of numerous precarious situations already thus far. Argentina will have to deal with the loss of Angel Di Maria who will miss the remainder of the World Cup following a thigh injury suffered in Argentina’s quarter-final victory. Argentina will likely have to increase their quality of play as a whole if they hope to overcome the Dutch in Sao Paolo.

Predictions:

  • Dylan: We’re running out of stars in this tournament and I don’t think the soccer gods take Messi away from us.
  • Joe: This game will be close until the very end, quite possibly into overtime, but I think Messi powers Argentina again and they move on to the Maracana.

Alright folks, two more games and then the Final! This tournament has proven to be fantastically entertaining so far, so expect more of the same!

– Dylan and Joe

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About Dylan Jenkins

I'm a proud Seattlite currently living in Queens, NY. Outside of sports, I enjoy crime dramas - specifically police procedurals - as well as a wide range of music, everything from Top 40 to Iron & Wine, Bob Dylan & Rogue Wave. I am a cat person, which is to say I'm a human who enjoys felines. I have a tremendous sweet tooth that isn't very discerning, and I refuse to observe a number of unwritten social rules.
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