The flurry of goals that greeted the start of the start of the World Cup, seem to have dried up and the four Quarter-Finals saw only 5 goals being scored at an avg of 1.25 goals per match.
Now that there are no second opportunities, the teams are naturally more cautious, and this has led to more cautious play from the teams involved.
However as a downside, the teams that have let in a goal first, not wanting to concede a second too early chasing the game, sat back further, as a second goal would be disastrous and ultimately started chasing the game too late, to have any real impact.
Both France and Belgium were guilty of this and eventually made the match too easy for the opponents. Hopefully teams will learn from them and in the case of conceding early, will start chasing the game sooner and that would make for more goals.
So far of the 12 Pre-Quarter Final and Quarter – Final games, I have got the team to advance to the next round correct, 11 times. Given the unpredictable nature of the World Cup, 11 out of 12 is fairly good going.
So now lets take a look ahead to the next round – the Semi Finals.
BRAZIL vs GERMANY
Brazil got their win over Colombia but it came at a rather big cost to them. They will be without two of their pillars for the match against Germany. Thiago Silva has been a defensive rock for Brazil, and one of the best defenders of the tournament, but will miss the Semi-Final match due to suspension, and against the German attack this could be crucial.
Brazil’s attack has been led, and led extremely well by Neymar, but he too will miss the Semi-Final, due to an injury suffered during the Quarter-Finals. No doubt Thiago Silva will be a big miss, but Neymar will be an even bigger miss. In the absence of Neymar the Brazil attack looks harmless to put it mildly and its hard to picture Jo or Fred leading the Brazil attack with any kind of effectiveness, especially against the German defence.
Together the absence of both Silva and Neymar makes Brazil huge underdogs going into the match. It’s hard to see where the goals for Brazil will come from and even set pieces, which have bailed Brazil out in the last two rounds, will be hard to score from against the German defence.
No side quite has the same consistency as the German team does and this is their fourth consecutive appearance in a World Cup Semi-Final, and given that Brazil are missing two of their best players at this world cup, its hard to see the German run being halted at the semi-final stages.
Germany have a few problems of their own and one of the biggest of these is that their creative midfield as a whole has failed to perform. Ozil, has taken much flack for his performances, but the fact is that no one from the German attacking midfield, has stood out at all. Be it Ozil or Gotze, or anyone else, they have all struggled.
Having said this, the German team has way too much talent for this to be a stumbling block. In the absence of Neymar the German defence seems more than able to stop whatever the Brazillian attack throws at them, and in the absence of Silva its hard to see the overall German quality in attack failing to power through and find a way past the Brazillian defence.
Key Factor – It’s hard to not point out Neymar and Thiago Silva as the most important factor in this match that really tilts the balance in favor of the Germans.
Bastian Schwiensteiger will be key to drive home this advantage for Germany with is work in the midfield and if he helps Germany dominate the midfield than Brazil will have to face wave after wave of German attacks.
RESULT – Germany to go through to the Finals.
HOLLAND vs ARGENTINA
Holland have been very unconvincing off late and have struggled to break down stubborn defences. They left if late against Mexico and won off a rather questionable penalty and went all the way to penalties against Costa Rica.
This highlights a fundamental point of focus for anyone facing Holland. Tighten things at the back and Holland will struggle to score, and no doubt Argentina will keep this in mind for their preparations for the match.
The attacking fluidity that Holland displayed at the start of the tournament seems to have deserted them, and one would argue not at the best of times.
They face an Argentine defence that has let in just 3 goals all tournament and none in the 2 knockout matches they have played so far. The Dutch must focus on finding the route to goal again.
Argentina have improved as the tournament has gone on and while it was Messi who carried them over the line in group stages, but gradually more and more of their attackers are also coming into their own, and the most recent addition to this list was Higuain who looked very dangerous against Belgium, scoring the winner with a goal that showed clinical finishing worthy of the best of strikers and was unlucky not to add to his tally.
Messi has led the line from the front as captain and has been the man of the match in 4 of the 5 matches, and will look to continue his run in the semi-finals.
Key Factor – Lionel Messi has risen to the challenge and responsibility and as more and more of his teammates find form, the opposition will have more and more Argentina players to worry about and consequently the attention he will get from the opposition defence will also be reduced.
Messi will quite enjoy the freedom and could hurt Holland.
RESULT – Argentina to advance to the finals.