And then there were four. The quest to be the winners of the FIFA World Cup has made exhilarating viewing for football fans worldwide. Pre-tournament favorite Spain was knocked out in the group stages while former world champions England and Italy also didn’t go through. The Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal also failed to qualify from their group after only winning one game. Minnows like the USA, Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile have provided an underdog feel to this World Cup.
The runner-up from the last World Cup, the Netherlands, has continued to impress the avid viewers of this prestigious sporting event and may finally win it this year while a dark horse has appeared in the form of Belgium. Lionel Messi finally looks at home playing for Argentina making them strong contenders to win the tournament. Germany keeps on winning games with their tactics and teamwork while Brazil continues to make their supporters hyped up with their victories.
Brazil: The case for the home team
While other nations may be happy just to perform well in the World Cup, Brazil is the exception to that rule. As the most successful nation in the history of the tournament, Brazilians expect their country to win it especially now that they are host of the event. Luiz Felipe Scolari aims to win a second World Cup after guiding his country to their last triumph in 2002. Anchored by Thiago Silva and led by the charismatic Neymar, Brazil had all the tools to go all the way until both players were ruled out of the next game with the latter out of the tournament due to getting an injury versus Colombia.
Other players need to step up in order for Brazil to reach the final without Neymar and Silva. In attack, Fred must start banging in the goals while David Luiz must be able to lead the defense well. Probable replacements for the said duo are the Chelsea winger Willian and the Bayern Munich center-back Dante.
Facing Germany was bound to be a tall order in this World Cup, especially now Silva and Neymar are out for the next game. However, if there’s one team in the final four that can conquer adversity the most, it is Brazil.
30 percent of surveyed Lasallians believe that Brazil will win the World Cup.
Germany: The favorites
Probably the toughest test of the home team this year will be the semi-final match-up against the offensive giants, Germany. Currently ranked second in the world, Germany is one of the favorites to win the world cup this year. Having won the world cup thrice in the past, Germany is no stranger to what it feels to be this deep in the biggest football stage in the world.
Brazil’s defense will have their hands full as they will go up against the offensive brigade of Germany. With head coach Joachim Löw and a cast of superstars, who wouldn’t be troubled? Leading the German team are two of their most experienced players in the persons of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger with over 100 international appearances. Playing alongside them are superstar youngsters Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller just to name a few. With a lineup filled with great tacticians and offensive players, it is no wonder that they hold the best passing record in the tournament so far with 82 percent pass completion.
Probably the only chink in Germany’s armor is their defense. There have been different occasions wherein the German defense was outplayed by their opponents. But with Manuel Neuer who is the undisputed number one keeper in the world, the Germans will have some breathing room down in defense.
46 percent of surveyed Lasallians believe that Germany will win the World Cup.
Argentina: “The Messi era”
After a hard earned 1-0 victory over Belgium in the quarterfinals, Argentina moves on to the semifinals to face the new and improved runners up of the previous world cup, the Netherlands. Ever since the time of the great Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to world cup glory in 1986, the country has been looking for another player to lead them once again to victory. It looks like the search is over as they enter into the era of Lionel Messi. With his phenomenal skill and success with FC Barcelona, he has become the leader of this Argentinian team.
Despite having one of the world’s best player in their team, Argentina will be tested by the very hungry Netherlands team when they meet in the semis. One of the key improvements that Argentina will have to go through is the improvement of their support cast. In short, they cannot fully rely on Messi to provide for them the win every time especially up against the Netherlands.
Head coach Sabella Alejandro would also have to account for the loss of one of their key players Angel di Maria, who has sustained a World Cup ending injury in their semifinal match against Belgium. On the flipside, players like Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain have greatly improved and have proven to be additional weapons to Argentina’s offense.
12 percent of surveyed Lasallians believe that Argentina will win the World Cup.
The Netherlands: Is it finally time?
It will always be a mystery as to why the Netherlands still haven’t won the World Cup. Having been to three finals yet not winning at least one of them makes them the country to have reached that stage the most times without actually winning it. This time however, things may finally be clicking in.
In Louis Van Gaal, the Netherlands have a coach who’s won trophies in three different European countries. The incoming Manchester United coach is tactically brilliant and has made two crucial substitutions in the knock-out rounds. The first one was when he brought in striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar against Mexico, and the goalkeeper Tim Krul for fellow goalie Jasper Cillessen against Costa Rica for the penalty shootout in that game. Huntelaar eventually scored the winning goal (via a penalty) versus Mexico and Krul made two crucial saves in the penalty shoot-out against Costa Rica. There are also special players in the Dutch squad. Players like captain Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt and Arjen Robben have won multiple trophies at club level that a winning mentality is ensured.
The Netherlands-Costa Rica game was the first time the Dutch won a game that reached extra time in five attempts. Noting that and the two masterstroke substitutions of Van Gaal, it seems like lady luck is on the side of the Netherlands. All the signs are pointing upwards. Could it finally be their year?
12 percent of surveyed Lasallians believe that the Netherlands will win the World Cup.
With all the twist and turns that this tournament has experienced, this just may be one of the most exciting World Cups so far. As we approach the twilight of the tournament, only four teams remain. Which one of these teams has what it takes to take home the gold this year? Search for the answers among Brazil, Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands.