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So what were the actual results, and were these matches worthwhile to watch?
France- Germany 0-1
Germany, three-time World Cup winner, ranked 2nd on FIFA World Ranking and with a population of nearly 81 million the largest European country, was slightly favored over France (one-time World Cup winner, ranked 17 and a population of 67 million). However, the French had shown much promise and progress since their disastrous 2010 South African World Cup. How did this match go? The Germans beat the French matter-of-factually by scoring in the 13th minute and never looking back. The French were clearly disappointing as was this game. Surprising fact: Germany seems to be playing like it used in the 1980s and 1990s: cool, organized and effective even if not playing well.
Brazil, five-time World Cup winner, ranked 3rd on FIFA World Ranking, a population of 201 million and host of this World cup, is the tournament's favorite. Still, Colombia, (first-time quarter-finalist, ranked 8th, with a population of 47 million) was considered by many to have played some great football during this tournament with one of its new stars, James Rodriguez.) Brazil won this match after a first half in which it played quite well, almost Brazilian-like, for the first time during this competition. The second half was quite disappointing from both sides. Only the second Brazilian goal, a free kick from 35 yards by defender David Luiz, was a highlight. This was a tense game for the fans of both teams, but for the objective viewer it was not a pretty game and lacked the quality one would expect from
a future World cup winner. Surprising fact: Brazil's young star Neymar, who had been scoring goals and inspiring his team, was kicked out of the game with a fractured vertebrae. He is now out of the World Cup, and I think will be sorely missed in the next matches.
Argentina- Belgium 1-0
Argentina, two-time World Cup winner, ranked 5th, a population of 42 million and having the world's best player, Lionel Messi, on its squad, was the favorite. Belgium, once 4th - at the 1986 World Cup -, ranked 11th, and a population of 11 million, is called the golden generation, being both a talented team and the youngest present at this World Cup. Frankly both teams hadn't played very well in the first round or last 16, and this match was a reflection of those mediocre performances. Argentina had one good but lucky goal, their star player Messi was pretty much invisible especially in the second half, and Belgium was thoroughly disappointing. This World Cup might have come too soon for this young team. Surprising fact: Argentina will now contest a semi-final for the first time in 24 years.
The Netherlands - Costa Rica 0-0 (4-3 on penalties)
The Netherlands, three-time runner-up at the World Cup, including at the latest 2010 South Africa World Cup, ranked 15th, with a population of 17 million, was the overwhelming favorite against the tiny giant slayer, Costa Rica (first-time quarter-finalist, ranked 28th, and a population of just 4.5 million.) As mentioned earlier Costa Rica had beaten leading opponents such as Uruguay (3-1) and Italy (1-0), while drawing against England and beating Greece on penalties after playing with 10 players. This quarter final match started in a slow pace. During the first half, the Dutch were mostly in possession, were deliberate in their attacking, while creating a number of chances. Costa Rica limited itself to defending. In the second half the pace increased, again mostly from the Dutch side and although they created many opportunities with shots against the woodwork, Costa Rica defended well, especially thanks to their goalkeeper, Keylor Navas. Just before the end of extra time, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal came up with a surprising substitution: he brought in Tim Krul to replace Jasper Cillessen in the goal. something that never has happened before in World Cup history. It was Krul, who saved two penalties and became Holland's hero. Surprising facts: The coaching of Louis van Gaal, who has brought in subs who each won games for Holland, starting with Memphis Depay and Leroy Fer, then Klaas Jan Huntelaar and now Tim Krul.
Although each of these quarter final games were probably tense and exciting for their respective fans, as I can attest for the Holland-Costa Rica game, I found the other three quarter finals not fun to watch and clearly disappointing. Although these teams compete to win, football is a game to watch and enjoy, and if that is lacking then we football fans all have a problem. Let's hope for better during the next three games.