Ste Topping rounds up the action from the first quarter finals at the FIFA World Cup, and previews tonight’s action.
France and Germany began the day’s events with an intriguing battle. Both managers made tactical changes, with Joachim Low moving Philipp Lahm back into defence and Didier Dechamps replacing Olivier Giroud with Antoine Griezmann, the result being two sides looking better balanced than in their previous games. Germany dominated the possession early on, with their pressing game almost coming off when Thomas Mueller connected to a slack French pass, but the attacker missed the target.
France grew into the game though, and looked particularly dangerous on the break. Griezmann was put in behind the German defence through a great Yoann Cabaye pass, but his cut back couldn’t find Karim Benzema. Almost immediately the French were punished, Paul Pogba giving away a free kick for a push on Toni Kroos, with the same man taking the set piece and finding the head of Mats Hummels, who got the better of Varane in the air and made it 1-0 to the Germans.
The remainder of the first half was competitive. Miroslav Klose, chasing a record breaking goal, had a penalty shout turned down by the referee under the challenge of Mathieu Debuchy, before the French gave away a couple of free kicks in decent positions. The French still caused problems on the break though, with Mathieu Valbuena forcing a smart save out of Manuel Neuer, before Benzema jinked past two defenders just before the break to shoot straight at the Bayern Munich goalkeeper.
The second half began with France firmly on the front foot but unable to make the key breakthrough. Germany were looking the more likely to score, breaking with regularity, but didn’t trouble Hugo Lloris enough to put the game to bed. Kroos fired a tame effort from 30 yards wide, before a couple of late breaks fell to Andre Schuerrle, who was twice denied by the stoic French defence.
Despite throwing players forward for the remainder of the game, France never truly looked like equalising. Varane headed an opportunity straight to Neuer off the back of a fine Cabaye cross, whilst the off-par Benzema had a shot blocked by Hummels and a late effort from a tight angle well saved.
Brazil took on Colombia in the second game of the day, and the host nation began the game firmly on top, confirming their dominance with an almost exact replica of their goal against Chile; this time Thiago Silva connected to Neymar’s corner at the back post. Colombia were determined to get back into the game, but lacked quality going forward; lynchpin James Rodriguez couldn’t get into the game as Brazilian defenders swarmed around him every time he touched the ball, often resorting to fouling the Monaco player.
After the break the game continued to be scrappy, typified by endless fouls given away by the hosts, doing so safe in the knowledge that Colombia lacked finesse in set piece situations. Brazil’s game plan almost fell apart though, when Mario Yepes bundled the ball in from one such free kick, but the lines man controversially flagged for offside. Soon after Brazil were presented a free kick in a good position which David Luiz took, lifting the ball over the wall and into the top right corner of the net.
Colombia did manage to find a way back into the game late on though, as Julio Cesar fouled Carlos Bacca in the box. Rodriguez scored his sixth goal of the tournament, and sparked new life into Colombia. Adrian Ramos had a shot deflected wide by the dogged Brazilian defence, before a late free kick was headed over the bar by Mario Yepes, before the game ended 2-1.
Tonight will see the remaining two quarter finals. First Argentina will take on Belgium, with both sides yet to have truly found their stride in the tournament so far. Lionel Messi has often carried his nation in the tournament, whilst the Red Devils have relied on the substitutions made by Marc Wilmots to deliver the goods thus far. Eden Hazard has been disappointing in Brazil, and will want to finally show the same form he did in a Chelsea shirt last season. This game could be tense, as one team will finally have to step up to progress in the tournament.
Later on the Netherlands will play Costa Rica in what seems an unlikely quarter final. Costa Rica have surprised fans and pundits alike by reaching the latter stages of the World Cup, but the Dutch will be the heavily fancied side in this game. Arjen Robben has been in great form and could cause Los Ticos’ defence endless problems, but their goalkeeper Keylor Navas has also been impressive, inspiring confidence in his team. The Dutch may be favoured, but there could be a major upset on the cards in this fixture.
Main image courtesy of T-Online (de)