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World Cup Day 25: Five Thoughts On The Quarter Finals

The semi-final line-up is now know. A brief recap on the last eight...

Jamie Squire

Brazil progress but suffer Neymar blow

Don't expect this particular Brazilian vintage to go down alongside the team from 1970 or 1982. Already toiling with the likes of Fred, Hulk and Jo as their figurehead strikers, Scolari on co. went 'back to basics' in their tie against Colombia, clearly intent on a 'seek and destroy' mission to neuter the creative threat of their opponents (and James Rodriguez in particular). The statistics show that this was led by City's-own Fernandinho, leading the way in fouls and it was a mystery how he and others failed to pick up a card. There is a strong argument that the tactics employed created, no encouraged, a situation of lawlessness. The result of which was the injury to Neymar after he received a blow to his back. He is out of the tournament (robbing us of a potential final showdown with Lionel Messi). Thiago Silva will also miss the semi-final through suspension. Expect even more attrition from Big Phil?

Germany put paid to French hopes

Far from glamorous the Germans may be but yet again they remain at the business end of a tournament and will surely be eyeing up their chances of another World Cup final appearance. Many felt that the young and upstart French side would be capable of progressing but after going ahead relatively early through Mats Hummels headed (another crucial set piece goal in the tournament) they largely remained in the control of the game. They will certainly go into their semi-final knowing that much of the mythicism attached to the hosts has dissipated as the tournament has progressed. And we have yet to see the Germans need penalties yet either.

Kompany criticised as Belgium exit

Belgium's 'golden generation' crash out then and do so with a feeling that they well and truly underwhelmed. Possessing a vibrant and wonderfully-talented squad they have shown merely flashes as a collective unit what they, as individuals, have done over the past couple of seasons for their club sides. The Belgians were rocked in the round of sixteen by the USA and second best against Argentina in their 1-0 defeat. It is interesting that Vincent Kompany has attracted criticism for his role in Gonzalo Higuain's goal, yet anticipating a pass out wide to Pablo Zabaleta he was wrong-footed by the deflection. The goal too it must be said was a fantastic piece of instinctive and predatory finishing from Higuain. Sergio Aguero may remain on the sidelines injured but Martin Demichelis saw his first action and we are just two games away from him lifting the World Cup.

van Gaal lauded as Costa Rica's journey ends

I missed the majority of the ninety minutes of this game but, as with one or two others in the knock-out stage, it appeared to come to life in extra-time. For the most part that I saw it was wave after wave of Holland attack, driven and led predominantly by the maligned-Arjen Robben. Post and crossbar saved Costa Rica on a number of occasions yet at the very last the underdogs almost stole the game only for a smart save from Jasper Cillissen, who then saw himself yanked for Tim Krul who became the hero as the Dutch prevailed in the shoot-out. There has been plenty of coverage today regarding Louis van Gaal and the decision to switch keepers. With him being such a quotable guy too the Manchester-based press pack must be salivating at the prospect of him being in charge at United this coming season.

Classic final four remains

There was a stat put out prior to the quarter-finals that since 1970 there have been just seven countries that have contested a World Cup final. Here we are then, with four remaining, and all have been in a final (on multiple occasions) since then. For all the cockiness and confidence of some of the sides that thrilled early in the tournament it is the old hands of Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Holland that remain. Regardless of who progresses through there are many narratives to be taken away yet - and admittedly it may not make for the best game from a spectator point of view - would Brazil v Argentina be the neutral choice? Interestingly, neither country have even been in the semi-finals together at the same tournament, although they do have history in the knock-out stages (most recently with Claudio Caniggia's strike in Italia '90) unlike historical finals between Argentina, Germany and Holland. This time next week though: could the fabled Maracana as the venue play host to the great rival Argentina winning the World Cup destined to be theirs, with a win providing a perfect coronation for Lionel Messi as one of the greats?