In Game Week 4 of the FIFA World Cup, we saw the 16 qualified nations face off against each other in the knockout stages. Underdog teams were lauded for their gutsy performance, poor refereeing decisions were heavily scrutinized and it was once again proved that football is a team game, brilliant individual performances are more than often not enough to see a team through.
Underdogs bid adieu:
The quarter finals were as far as the Underdogs went. USA, Nigeria, Algeria, Colombia and Costa Rica, all teams have now been eliminated but all of them went out fighting. This World Cup was heavily characterized by the indomitable and working spirit of these teams. None of them held any players with the skill set of Messi or Ronaldo but all them won our hearts with their ‘never say die’ attitude. Colombia and Costa Rica were the two teams which made their way to the quarter finals. Both of these two pushed their limits to hold off their opponents till the last minute but luck did not favour either of them. A very late free kick from David Luiz sent the Colombians home while Costa Rica held Netherlands to a nil-nil drawn match until the penalties which the former lost 4-3. Nigeria, Algeria and USA lost out to France, Germany and Belgium respectively in the round of 16.
Neymar Jr’s injury:
Colombia’s Juan Zuniga violent tackle on Neymar left the Brazilian golden boy with a broken vertebra. Although Zuniga has apologized to Neymar yet Brazilian legend Ronaldo claims that there was an intention to cause harm. “We could see on TV there was intention by the Colombia player to actually cause some harm,” said Ronaldo. Neymar was replaced in the 88th minute and will miss the rest of the World Cup. He has 4 goals in the last 5 games of the World Cup and has literally been the fantasy footballer for the squad and the whole nation. But Scolari’s attacking options will be tested in their semi-final match against Germany.
Belgium vs Argentina:
Much more was expected out of star studded line up of Belgium. They left their fans disappointed with an utterly disorganized game against Argentina. While the Argentines certainly would be happy with such a dismal performance from their opponents, the rest of the world would ponder whether Marc Wilmots actually had any plan to stop Messi, Di Maria or even Higuain. Poor judgment within the Belgian defence let Higuain clinch the lead for Argentina after 8minutes. From then on as Messi and Di Maria continued to trouble the Belgium defence, Belgium’s midfield seemed to have lost its confidence. The whole squad seemed to be playing with non caring attitude and even at the closing stages of the game there were a lot of missed passes by them.
David Luiz scores a scorcher:
David Ospina could not believe it, neither could the whole world nor could David Luiz himself. The 35yard free kick that went into Ospina’s top left corner was the nail in the coffin for Colombia. David Luiz was voted man of the match after the 2-1 victory over Colombia in the quarter-final. ‘I think it was genetic, my legs were born like this. I hit the ball at the right point, it is difficult for the goalkeeper and I am happy to help the team.’, were his words.
Van Gaal, Master Tactician:
Netherlands was on the driving seat against the Costa Ricans but some resolute goal keeping by the Keylor Navas and Sneijder being denied twice by the goal post left the match drawn at 0-0. As the game continued towards penalties Van Gaal made an unexpected switch. Cillessen was switched by Tim Krul for the penalties and the Netherlands won 4-3. The Oranjes have had disastrous run in penalty shootouts in the past but Van Gaal had left nothing to chance this time around. Not only did Tim Krul walk up to unsettle Costa Rican players but also dived every time in the correct direction and everything paid dividends . The Ticos who had won their round of 16 game against Greece by scoring all five penalties, were blocked twice by the well prepared Tim Krul.
Germany record a 13th semifinal:
Although France played with far greater conviction in trying to oust Germany after Hummels scored from a header yet they couldn’t succeed in finding that one equalizing goal. With that win qualified went into the semifinals for the third time in the 3 consecutive editions of the World Cup. Germany has now been the most consistent team among all the nations that have competed in the World Cup with a total 13 semifinal appearances in the 20 World Cups they have played. Germany has not won a single World Cup since the format of the game changed in 1998 to include 32 nations. But German coach Loew would be cautious this time around.
Colombia vs Uruguay (Round of 16)
Luis Suarez might have been an excellent striker both for Liverpool and for his country. But he is a player who is easily stressed to insane levels which leads him to bite opposition players.This tendency to bite at opposition defenders reminds us of Oliver Khan who is as infamous as Luis Suarez in terms of attacking opponents. Luis Suarez is now banned but we all have heard the saying “The team is bigger than the individual” but what this sentence misses out is that individuals have to perform in order to make the team big. Suarez didn’t feature in this quarter final show down and Uruguay lost to Colombia 0-2. This just proved how much Oscar Tabarez needed his master talisman and the extent the Uruguay squad were dependent upon him. Goals were expected from Cavani but that didn’t happen either. Suarez and Uruguay are probably the biggest losers.