The first quarterfinal of the day would be Argentina vs Belgium in a high-voltage encounter.
Both Belgium and Argentina have the riches up top but surprisingly both the teams have failed to live upto the expectations in Brazil. They’ve both turned out abject and impotent performances, and have made it this far through individual brilliance and brute force, respectively Hopefully things will get more exciting when they meet over a place in the semi finals. If their attacks finally click into place we can see a stack of goals today!
Belgium’s only absentee is backup fullback Anthony van Borre, with a broken ankle. The rest of the team is available for selection, however coach Marc Wilmots still has big decisions all over the pitch. We may see the return of striker Romelu Lukaku in place of youngster Divock Origi.
Sergio Aguero is expected to miss out again after suffering a muscle tear in the group stages. Ezequiel Lavezzi is expected to start again. Jose Maria Basanta is expected to make his first start of the tournament in left back ahead of suspended Marco Rojo. Otherwise coach Alejandro Sabella is expected to go with a more or less unchanged lineup.
Argentina (4-2-3-1): Sergio Romero; José Basanta, Ezequiel Garay, Federico Fernández, Pablo Zabaleta; Javier Mascherano, Fernando Gago; Ángel di María, Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi; Gonzalo Higuaín.
Belgium (4-2-3-1): Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Daniel van Buyten, Toby Alderweireld; Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini; Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Dries Mertens; Romelu Lukaku.
Road to Quarter Finals
vs Bosnia and Herzegovina W 2-1
vs Iran W 1-0
vs Nigeria W 3-2
vs Switzerland W 1-0
vs Algeria W 2-1
vs Russia W 1-0
vs Korea Republic W 1-0
vs USA W 2-1
Eden Hazard: He is yet to replicate his Chelsea form for his country in this World Cup. He has performed in fits and starts but their most talented player has to rise to the occasion if they are to overcome Argentina. But he is genuinely skilled and a master of the art of trickery and if he does start to perform the Argentine defence will have a hard time containing him.
Thibaut Courtois: One of the best keepers in the world at the moment, he will have to put up his best performance today if he has to keep out the likes of Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria. He has confronted Messi and Barcelona 10 times during his time in Spain and has not shipped a goal to the Argentinian in the past seven of those contests.
Lionel Messi: He has been the best player for the Albicelestes. Of the seven goals Argentina has scored in the tournament so far he has got four of them. Man of the Matches in all the four games shows what impact he has on the game. He has been brilliant throughout the tournament and even on his worst day he can be better than the rest of the men on the field.
Angel di Maria: He has the ability to strike from range, he can dribble past defenders and lay the perfect cross for the forwards. The Real Madrid man has been good for Argentina so far, and has also got himself a goal in the last match that will do a lot to his confidence.
Both the teams have not played to their full potential. But both teams have a truckload of talent in their ranks. From Eden Hazard to Kevin de Bruyne to Romelu Lukaku, Belgium has a formidable attackline. And an able goalkeeper in Courtois, and in captain Vincent Kompany they have a leader and a great defender.
Argentina boasts numerous national league winners in their ranks. Garay won it with Benfica, Zabaleta with City, Lavezzi with PSG, and Champions League winner di Maria.
If the two teams play to their potential we can see a stack of goals today, but if they continue in their current form then a shootout is most likely on the cards. But I believe Argentina will somehow snatch it.