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The last four spots

Rashneel Kumar
Saturday, July 05, 2014

HOW amazing will it be to have Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Netherlands in the top four? Too amazing!

Barring any upsets in the quarter-finals this weekend, those four teams are likely to advance into the 2014 World Cup semi-finals.

On paper, Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Netherlands have an edge over France, Colombia, Belgium and Costa Rica, respectively. And if the favourites are able to overcome the challenge in the quarters, the semi-finals will be a "clash of the titans" affair. In that case, Germany will play Brazil while Argentina takes on Netherlands.

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. At this stage anything can happen. It isn't impossible for France, Colombia, Belgium and Costa Rica to do the same.

Whatever results surface this week, there is one thing certain. Fans will get to see football at its best. All teams in the quarters except for Costa Rica are known for their offensive play so expect a galore of goals this weekend.

Off the field, MirrorFootball's Jack Lang picks his five favourite games from the tournament so far:

Netherlands 5 Spain 1

Chile may have dealt the final blow, but this was very much the day the music died. Spain's ludicrous, era-defining run of tournament success had to come to an end at some stage, but the sheer ease with which Louis van Gaal's side beat them was as unexpected as it was hard to watch.

Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie ran riot for the Dutch, aided and abetted by a performance that Iker Casillas will still be losing sleep over in two decades' time. Van Persie's first, a diving header from Daley Blind's stunning long ball, will also live long in the memory.

France 5 Switzerland 2

Les Bleus were excellent in their World Cup opener against Honduras, but it was against the Swiss that they truly emerged as contenders for the title. With Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema in sensational form, France seemed capable of scoring every time they went forward - and often did.

Switzerland's goals — Granit Xhaka's expertly taken volley and Blerim Dzemaili's free-kick — were never likely to change the result but did contribute to the spectacle, like a violin soloist doing his thing on a sinking ship. And then there was Benzema's penalty miss and the goal ruled out seconds after the final whistle. Great fun.

Uruguay 1 Italy 0

A straight red card. One team sitting back, clinging on to the draw. One team pouring forward, increasingly desperate. A late goal. A FOOTBALL PLAYER BITING ANOTHER FOOTBALL PLAYER. Oh, come on.

Brazil 1 Chile 1 (Brazil win on penalties). The knockout stages started in magnificent style with this nervy, error-strewn game in Belo Horizonte. In Portuguese, the knockout stages are called "mata-mata" — literally "kill-kill" — and you could see why here: this was emotional, do or die stuff from the first whistle to the last.

It also brought the first penalty shoot-out of the competition, with Júlio César working miracles to ensure the hosts progressed, four years after his nightmare in South Africa. So you can tick the "redemption" box as well.

Belgium 2 USA 1 (after extra time)

For 90 minutes, this was a chess match. Belgium looked more fluent in attack but were struggling to break down Jurgen Klinsmann's determined side. As extra time began, penalties looked a certainty.

Then all hell broke loose. Romelu Lukaku came on for the Red Devils and changed the game, teeing up Kevin De Bruyne for the opener before slamming home the second. That should have been that, but young Julian Greene popped up with his first World Cup goal to set up a fraught, dramatic finale.

The USA gave it everything but would come up just short. They sank to the turf, in need of a good lie-down — and viewers at home knew how they felt.


Today - 4am France-Germany, 8am Brazil-Colombia Tomorrow - 4am Argentina-Belgium, 8am Netherlands-Costa Rica

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