World Cup 2014 - The Last 16
- Brazil 1-1 Chile
- Columbia 2-0 Uruguay
- Holland 2-1 Mexico
- Costa Rica 1-1 Greece
- France 2-0 Nigeria
- Germany 2-1 Algeria
- Argentina 1-0 Switzerland
- Belgium 2-1 USA
The last eight matches were like this :
- Brazil v Chile - 28.06.14 - Belo Horizonte - 5pm
- Columbia v Uruguay - 28.06.14 - Rio de Janeiro - 9pm
- Holland v Mexico - 29.06.14 - Fortaleza - 5pm
- Costa Rica v Greece - 29.06.14 - Recife - 9pm
- France v Nigeria - 30.06.14 - Brasilia - 5pm
- Germany v Algeria - 30.06.14 - Porte Alegre - 9pm
- Argentina v Switzerland - 01.07.14 - Sao Paulo - 5pm
- Belgium v USA - 01.07.14 - Salvador - 9pm
Neymar took an ice-cool penalty in the shoot-out
Brazil v Chile
28.06.14 - Belo Horizonte
The old chestnut about European sides doing poorly in the Western Hemisphere still seems to have legs. Of 13 teams from this side of the Atlantic only 6 remain. Meanwhile CONCACAF got 3 of their 4 sides into the last 16 along with 5 out of 6 South American nations. The vagaries of the draw saw just Argentina into the other side of the draw leaving Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay competing for a single semi-final berth. How many would have got there had the draw kept them apart?
It was a hot day in Belo Horizonte and my heart sank when I saw the first knock-out game was to be refereed by Howard Webb. God help us! Brazil have consistently got the better of Chile down the years but this Chile side with their high pressing game and mobile forwards look dangerous. Today’s game presented their best opportunity to beat Brazil since the sides met, in Chile, in the 62 World Cup: Brazil won that too.
12 Cesar, 2 Alves, 3 Tiago (Cap), 4 Luiz, 6 Marcelo, 5 Fernandinho, 17 Gustavo, 11 Oscar, 10 Neymar, 7 Hulk, 9 Fred
21 Jo for 9 (64), 16 Ramires for 5 (72) and 19 Willian for 11 (105)
1 Bravo (Cap), 5 Silva, 17 Medel, 18 Jara, 4 Isla, 21 Diaz, 8 Vidal, 20 Aranguiz, 2 Mena, 7 Sanchez, 11 Vargas
16 Gutierrez for 11 (56), 9 Pinilla for 8 (87) and 13 Rojas for 17 (108).
The Estadio Minerao was a mass of yellow spotted with significant blotches of red clad away fans as the teams came out. Both sets of fans led their teams in a cappella versions of their anthems and it was clear that players on both sides were near bursting with emotion. The match started at a quite frantic pace which, pretty much, was maintained throughout. Fernandinho was in for Paulhinho and heavily involved in the early exchanges – heading away Chile’s first free kick, then fouling Aranguiz. Chile were sticking to their high pressing game and some of the tackles dished out by both sides were tasty. Webb kept his cards in his pocket which probably saved us from seeing fewer than 22 on the park at the end.
Brazil engineered the first chance. Hulk’s corner was only partially cleared and the ball fell to Marcelo who shot wide. On 6 mins Diaz missed with Chile’s first decent attempt. Hulk started on the left side and had the beating of Isla. His cross was easily taken by Bravo. Neymar was limping following a knock but, fortunately for the hosts, he seemed to run it off in a few minutes. Sanchez then got down the right but his low cross was pounced on by Cesar.
On 13 mins Hulk burst into the box and went down under Isla’s challenge. Webb was not convinced and waved play-on. When Gustavo went over a minute later, Webb did blow for a foul giving Neymar a free-kick on the LHS. It was tame and easily dealt with by Bravo. Then Neymar impressively burst past Silva but the attack came to nothing.
On 17 minutes Mena handled earning him a yellow and a potential ban. Hulk took this one and Bravo punched it out for a corner on the left. Neymar swung his cross into the area, Thiago headed it on and, it seemed for all the world that, Jara put the ball into his own net. But the world, and more importantly FIFA, decided that David Luiz had got the last touch and the records will say he scored. 1-0 Brazil.
The hosts were matching Chile’s energy, pressing them all over the park. On 22 Chile won a free kick which Diaz took but the defence cleared. On 25 Neymar broke from midfield, running away from defenders but shot across goal missing the back post. Then a trade mark long diagonal pass found Neymar down the right. He got his cross in – but Fred had fallen over and the ball was cleared.
Brazil were competing well in midfield but you felt they were rather getting away with it at the back. As Chile piled on the pressure it was usually Thiago who kept them out. Finally, on 32 mins their luck ran out. Marcelo threw the ball to Hulk who tried to pass back. Vargas intercepted and found Sanchez in the box and his firm low shot beat Cesar’s dive. 1-1
Brazil tried to re-establish a lead and came close on 35 when Oscar’s cross was met by Neymar’s firm header. The ball deflected off Silva for a corner. Chaos ensued as Bravo came to collect the cross and didn’t. Brazil then won a string of corners but never succeeded in getting a strike on target. Eventually a chance fell to Fred but he put it over the bar. On 42 mins Alves tried his luck from distance and his swerving shot was tipped over by Bravo. Good save Sir!
On 43 the Chile defence made an uncharacteristic mistake giving the ball away at the back. The chance fell to Fred but he scuffed his shot badly. In injury time Neymar again got in a cross from the right but both Fernandinho and Fred went for it and collided with Fred staying down longest. Before the whistle, Chile mounted another attack with Sanchez feeding Aranguiz but he was closed down by a bank of defenders, winning just a corner. Half time: 1-1.
The BBC pundits were well pleased with the pace and attacking action. I was interested to see Clarence Seedorf’s tour of Botafogo during the break. He was of course born in South America so it is fitting that he is finishing his career there.
Brazil attacked from the off but Chile soon countered. Luiz’s foul on Vidal gave Diaz a chance to put the ball in the box but Cesar punched it away. Moments later the keeper needed to dive at the feet of Vargas as he chased the ball goalwards. Oscar and Hulk had switched sides and Brazil’s first chance of the half saw Fernandinho shoot wide.
The game had a different feel after the break. Both sides no longer seemed content to build slowly from the back and the keepers were now kicking the ball long. There were some tightly fought battles in the middle of the park with no quarter given by either side. On 55 Brazil nearly broke the deadlock. A left wing cross found Hulk in the box, he appeared to control the ball on his chest and knock it across Bravo into the far corner. He turned away in celebration only to see Mike Mullarky’s flag being waved. Following consultation, Howard Webb disallowed the goal and booked Hulk for handball. Replays suggest the officials got that right but the locals were furious.
Brazil certainly felt hard done by but the Chileans were also affected by the brooding atmosphere in the stadium. Guitierez replaced Vargas and on the hour Gustavo was yellow carded for a hack on Vidal. It was one of several niggley fouls commited by both sides. Chile were beginning to look the more likely but the home fans found a reason to cheer when Thiago’s full blooded tackle broke up an attack. On 64 Fred was off, replaced by Jo.
Then Isla broke into the Brazil box and crossed for Aranguiz. He hit his shot well and drew a great save from Cesar. The keeper then leapt to collect a corner and the crowd murmured its approval. Big Phil was still looking daggers at Webb & Co; if Brazil were to go out here, one wonders if the English officials might get lynched.
On 67 Hulk chased a ball into Chile’s box, bounced off a defender half his size and went over like a rag doll. But as we moved into the final quarter, it was still Chile seeing most of the ball with Sanchez cropping up all over the park, keeping the red machine ticking over. Fernandinho limped off to be replaced by Ramires.
Hulk then set off on another impressive run and hit a sweet cross to the back stick. It looked like Jo had missed a sitter but replays suggested that a defender had nicked it away. Chile’s period of dominance came to an end as Brazil ramped up the tempo in the last 15 mins. Chile continued to close down well but Brazil began getting past them as they had done earlier. On 80 Alves’ cross was met by Neymar but headed straight at the keeper. Next Hulk went on another mazy run into the box and fired in a firm shot well saved by Bravo.
Pinella replaced Vidal on 87 minutes. Hulk was still trying to run at Chile but his control let him down. Indeed, errors were being made all over the park as players tired and extra time loomed. During the 3 minutes of injury time it was Chile again on the front foot. Brazil’s defenders blocked crosses and headed balls away and then Howard Webb blew for full-time. 1-1.
What the players were feeling was unclear but both sets of fans were up for another 30 mins. There was a huge noise in the stadium as play restarted and Hulk was pushed over. Neymar’s free kick was headed out for a corner which came to nought. Brazil’s next attack saw Jo chase a lofted ball into the box, colliding with Bravo as he came to collect. Jo was yellow carded for a high boot.
On 95 minutes Ramires fouled Sanchez. Diaz fired the free kick well wide. On 100 mins Jo was sent down the LHS of the box but slipped at the crucial moment. Bravo then dealt with a couple of easy headers but on 103 minutes Hulk ended a weaving run with a hard low shot that the keeper did well to save. Chile then got forward and Alves went into the book for a foul on Pinilla. Sanchez’s free kick lacked the curl needed to trouble Cesar. Half time in extra time – still 1-1.
With Willian on for Oscar, Brazil again took the game to Chile. Jo’s footing let him down again but he was soon up, heading a Neymar cross over. Medel was then stretchered off with Rojas replacing him. Both sides were guilty of over-ambitious long shots. Neither seemed willing to get too far upfield and be vulnerable to counterattacks. As time ran out Chile sometimes had just Sanchez upfield and everyone else behind the ball.
Willian put in a decent cross but Chile cleared and Hulk fired over. Into the 120th minute and suddenly Chile were breaking forward. The ball was fed to Pinella who gave himself a yard before hitting a sweet shot against the bar. Brazil were delighted to see it bounce clear. Brazil fashioned once last chance in injury time which Ramires missed. Time was up – just penalties now.
Penalty shoot outs are a horrid way to decide football matches but boy are they exciting for the neutrals. There were few neutrals in the stadium though. Ten names were given to Howard Webb and a coin toss determined Brazil would go first.
- Luiz scored and Pinilla's shot was saved by Cesar: 1-0
- Willian missed and Sanchez's was saved by Cesar: 1-0
- Marcelo and Aranguiz both scored: 2-1
- Hulk's saved by Bravo and Diaz Scored: 2-2
- Neymar scored then Jara missed with a rebound from the post 3-2. A nation went wild!
Brazil maintained their impressive record against Chile but were taken to the final penalty kick. At 2-2 they were lucky to have Neymar to take their final spot-kick. Jara, recently released by Nottingham Forest, was desperately unlucky to hit the inside of a post but see the ball bounce to safety.
Neymar didn’t look 100% and Brazil’s physios need to get him patched up before they face Colombia next week. Both keepers did well but I’m making Cesar my Man of the Match. His two early shoot-out saves gave Brazil the opportunity to progress which, eventually, they took.
- David Luiz 18′
- Sánchez 32′
After Extra Time
Brazil Win 3-2 on Penalties
Ref: Howard Webb
- Brazil 48%
- Chile 52%
- Brazil 23
- Chile 13
- Brazil 6
- Chile 2
- Brazil 9
- Chile 5
- Brazil 28
- Chile 23
There's only two J Rodriguez, two J Rodriguez etc...
Colombia v Uruguay
28.06.14 - Rio De Janeiro
01 Ospina, 18 Zuñiga, 07 Armero (Booked), 08 Aguilar, 02 Zapata, 03 Yepes, 11 Cuadrado (Guarín - 81'), 06 Sánchez, 21 Martínez, 09 Gutiérrez (Mejía - 68'), 10 Rodríguez (Ramos - 85')
04 Arias, 05 Carbonero, 12 Vargas, 13 Guarín, 14 Ibarbo, 15 Mejía, 16 Balanta, 17 Bacca, 19 Ramos, 20 Quintero, 22 Mondragón, 23 Valdés
01 Muslera, 16 Maxi Pereira, 06 Pereira (Ramírez - 53'), 22 Cáceres, 03 Godín, 13 Giménez (Booked), 20 González (Hernández - 67'), 17 Arévalo Rios, 10 Forlán (Stuani - 53'), 21 Cavani, 07 Rodríguez
02 Lugano, 04 Fucile, 05 Gargano, 08 Hernández, 11 Stuani, 12 Muñoz, 14 Lodeiro, 15 Pérez, 18 Ramírez, 19 Coates, 23 Silva
No Gastón for Uruguay, which was disappointing, as was the fact that this is on ITV, so a couple of buffoons would be babbling throughout the game, and it wasn't B and me. Thankfully Rodriguez and Zapata were playing for Columbia.
Townsend started by declaring that no one likes Uruguay, well I have nothing against them at all and I'm not judging a whole squad on the actions of one man. Having said that, I want Columbia to win.
First thoughts; the ref was a bit camp and his red shirt was possibly a little too tight, but at least he wasn't Howard Webb. Clive Tiddles pronounces Colombia's Rodriguez's first name as James, and not Hamez.
The game started off at a frantic pace, neither side settled early although after 15 minutes or so Colombia started to try and get their slick passing game going. On twenty minutes they tried one of those sneaky short corners where one player touches it then then walks away and another, Rodriguez, walks over and then runs in towards the box with the ball. Perfectly ok, but he officials made them retake it. Dopey buggers.
Uruguay sat back and let Colombia have the ball, denying them any space so it was difficult of them to get any prolonged passing going. Then on 27 minutes Rodriguez scored an absolute screamer. He controlled the ball on his chest about 20 metres out, spun and volleyed it, all in one movement. The keeper managed to get a finger tip to it but was never going to save it as it hit the underside of the bar before flying into the net. It was a truly fantastic goal.
Forlan and Yepes, the two oldest men on the pitch, squared up to each other after a collision in the area, there was some pushing and shoving, a bit of shouting and a camp man in a tight red shirt trying to calm everything down. It was the most Forlan did in the first half. At least Uruguay had started to launch some attacks of their own.
And that was basically it for the first half.
Four minutes into the second half 'Hamez' Rodriguez rounded off a nice Columbia attack by slotting home from inside the 6 yard box after a cross was superbly headed back to him by Cuadrado.
Almost immediately Gastón was brought on as Uruguay made a double substitution. Forlan was one of those that went off, I'd forgotten he was still on. Uruguay started going forward more, but were also flying into tackles, with Rodriguez suffering from a couple of heavy challenges.
Uruguay's Rodriguez (Christian) had a fine run through the middle but his long range shot was well saved. Gastón was getting himself involved, but they couldn't break through, and Colombia still looked the most dangerous.
Gastón kicked Amero up in the air when he didn't retreat quick enough as Ramírez wanted to take a quick free kick. It was quite a kicking, but not malicious, and Amero was the one actually booked. Uruguay looked a better side with Gastón on the pitch, and both Cavani and Maxi Pereira brought good saves out of Ospina, the Colombian goalkeeper. But that was about it for them and after three minutes of added on time it was over. Colombia go though to face Brazil, and that should be a great game.
Colombia are still my favourite team in this World Cup.
- Rodríguez 28′, 50′
Ref: Björn Kuipers
- Colombia: 51%
- Uruguay 49%
- Colombia 9
- Uruguay 16
- Colombia 4
- Uruguay 4
- Colombia 3
- Uruguay 5
- Colombia 19
- Uruguay 17
As the match wore on Robben tormented the Mexican defence
Netherlands v Mexico
01 Cillessen, 12 Verhaegh (Depay - 56'), 15 Kuyt, 05 Blind, 02 Vlaar, 03 de Vrij, 20 Wijnaldum, 06 de Jong (Martins Indi - 9'), 10 Sneijder, 09 van Persie (Huntelaar - 76'), 11 Robben
04 Martins Indi, 07 Janmaat, 08 de Guzmán, 13 Veltman, 14 Kongolo, 16 Clasie, 17 Lens, 18 Fer, 19 Huntelaar, 21 Depay, 22 Vorm, 23 Krul
13 Ochoa, 22 Aguilar (Booked), 07 Layún, 15 Moreno (Reyes - 45'), 04 Márquez (Booked), 02 Rodríguez, 06 Herrera, 03 Salcido, 10 dos Santos (Aquino - 61'), 19 Peralta (Hernández - 75'), 18 Guardado (Booked)
01 Corona, 05 Reyes, 08 Fabián, 09 Jiménez, 11 Pulido, 12 Talavera, 14 Hernández, 16 Ponce, 17 Brizuela, 20 Aquino, 21 Peña
The Dutch won this with two rapid goals in the dying moments of the game, after the Mexicans had scored almost at the beginning of the second half.
Mexico, both the team and the country, must have thought they were almost there. With two minutes of normal time remaining they were leading 1-0. All they had to do was last these two minutes, plus the six minutes of extra time.
Unfortunately the Dutch were in the ascendancy and Robben was causing havoc down the right flank, but the Mexicans were undone by a simply spectacular strike from Sneijder following a corner. Deep into injury time Robben drove for the goal from the byline and was upended in the box. Or did he dive? Whatever, the penalty was taken by Huntelaar who calmly slotted the ball past the excellent Ochoa in the Mexican goal. Game, set and match.
This game was played in temperatures approaching 39C, but that will seem cool compared to what players will encounter in Qatar. However, for the first time there were official 'Cooling Breaks' in each half. The time taken up with the breaks was added on at the end of each half. That effectively turned the match into a game of unequal quarters and van Gaal in particular, used the breaks as coaching sessions.
This was the first time that I have watched the Netherlands in this World Cup and I had half an eye on them wondering if Saints will be a reflection of the Dutch style.
In the end, they were impressive, in spite of Robben's predilection for diving. The ironic thing was the most obvious tackle which should have been a penalty, wasn't, because Robben skipped over the hanging leg of the Mexican, but his attempted shot came to nothing.
The Dutch front line is impressive. Van Persie, Sneijder and Robben. Their defence slightly less so. I would like to say that I was sorry for the Mexicans, but that would not be true. I was actually impressed with the way the Dutch ratcheted up the pressure as the second half wore on until, finally the Mexicans broke. All this in temperatures in excess of 38C.
So, The Netherlands move on to Salvador on Saturday to meet Costa Rica. A semi-final in Sao Paulo beckons.
- Sneijder 88′ Huntelaar 90′ (pen)
- dos Santos 48′
Ref: Pedro Proença
- Netherlands 56%
- Mexico 44%
- Netherlands 13
- Mexico 10
- Netherlands 4
- Mexico 5
- Netherlands 10
- Mexico 2
- Netherlands 8
- Mexico 12
Costa Rica were fairly happy to win the penalty shoot out
Costa Rica v Greece
29th June 2014, Recife
01 Navas (Booked), 16 Gamboa (Acosta - 77'), 15 Díaz Campbell, 04 Umaña, 03 Gonzalez, 06 Duarte (Dismissed after an earlier booking), 10 Ruiz (Booked), 17 Tejeda Valverde (Booked) (Cubero - 66'), 09 Campbell, 05 Borges, 07 Bolaños (Brenes - 83')
02 Acosta, 08 Myrie, 11 Barrantes, 12 Francis, 13 Granados Maroto, 14 Brenes, 18 Pemberton, 19 Miller, 20 Calvo, 21 Ureña, 22 Cubero, 23 Cambronero
01 Karnezis, 15 Torosidis, 20 Holebas, 22 Samaris (Booked) (Mitroglou - 58'), 04 Manolas (Booked), 19 Papastathopoulos, 14 Salpingidis (Gekas - 69'), 02 Maniatis (Katsouranis - 78'), 07 Samaras, 10 Karagounis, 16 Christodoulopoulos
03 Tzavellas, 05 Moras, 06 Tziolis, 08 Kone, 09 Mitroglou, 11 Vyntra, 12 Glykos, 13 Kapino, 17 Gekas, 18 Fetfatzidis, 21 Katsouranis, 23 Tachtsidis
It was perhaps predictable that Costa Rica, who flourished against teams such as Italy and Uruguay who played with their own attacking intent, would struggle against a Greek side famous for its focus on defence. But they showed their versatility in defeating Greece as they found a determined side to their game rather than the counter-attacking flair that won them the group.
With Costa Rica playing 5 at the back, nullifying most of Greece’s forays forward, it took 62 minutes for the game to spark into life, and it was ironically the sending off of Los Ticos’ Duarte that gave the Central Americans the determination to see the game through.
Until that point, Greece’s moments of promise came through a congested centre of the pitch but ultimately they could not find the quality required to consistently break down the opposition. Their play reflected the fact that they have managed just 2 goals in this World Cup, one of those being a penalty. Indeed, their play was the perfect antidote to this World Cup which has produced an endless stream of heart-stopping moments and a record number of goals.
But not in this game. Neither team wanted the ball in the first half, both content to concede possession. Costa Rica, however, did press hard in the opposition’s half, and this tactic led to a few opportunities which led to nothing. Greece’s moments of promise came from set-pieces.
Costa Rica did, however, find a goal early in the second half. It was another slow and laboured build-up, but Ruiz found the ball at his feet and enough space in front of him to scuff a shot which swirled and gripped on the turf and nestled in the corner with the Greek keeper rooted.
The goal gave Costa Rica, who could have had a penalty shortly after the goal, more purpose and it forced Greece to gradually find their attacking instincts. Missed opportunities passed, with Samaras of Celtic particularly culpable. It is easy to see why he only has 9 international goals, despite having been around for ages. They brought on Mitroglu to help Samaras up front but he didn’t bring the quality that Greece were so badly lacking in front of goal.
And then, with the sending off, Costa Rica were legitimately able to play the role they wanted; that of the underdog. Down to 10 men, they forced Greece to attack from wide positions. As the clock approached 90 minutes, it looked as if their tactics had worked but in the last minute, Costa Rica failed to deal with a long ball into the box. It bounced, and Greece struck. They were level, and there was still time for more. Navas, the Costa Rican goalkeeper, tipped a Mitroglu header over the bar and Greece had one final corner, a last chance to win the game. But their corner failed to beat the first man and it was over. It was a fitting end to 90 minutes, for it summed Greece’s game up perfectly. Lacking in quality.
But while my Greek wife was a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ on the sofa next to me, I was lamenting the loss of a further 30 minutes of my life. This was a game that needed to be put out of its misery and Costa Rica allowed to pass through to the next round. Extra time was characterised by cross after cross from Greece, and Costa Rica looking increasingly tired. But for all the crosses, Greece couldn’t find the net and Costa Rica somehow found the determination to counteract their weary legs. And in the last second before penalties, Navas capped off an excellent night with a brilliant save from Mitroglu to ensure he would have the chance to make a hero of himself in the penalty shoot-out.
In contrast to the rest of the game, both sides showed great quality from the spot. The first 3 from both sides found the net and once Costa Rica had gained the advantage with their 4th, the stage was set for the two most experienced players on the pitch to decide their respective World Cup fates. Gekas, with 75 international caps and an unfortunate spell at Fratton Park under his belt, stepped up and missed. And so, the job fell on Umaña, with 83 international caps to his name, to seal his country’s deserved passage to the quarter finals.
- Ruiz 52′
- Papastathopoulos 90′
After Extra Time
Costa Rica Win 5-3 on Penalties
Ref: Ben Williams
- Costa Rica 40%
- Greece 60%
- Costa Rica 7
- Greece 23
- Costa Rica 1
- Greece 8
- Costa Rica 3
- Greece 11
- Costa Rica 22
- Greece 16
Pogba (left) scored the all important first goal
France v Nigeria
30th June 2014, Brasilia
01 Lloris, 02 Debuchy, 03 Evra, 06 Cabaye, 04 Varane, 21 Koscielny, 19 Pogba, 14 Matuidi (Booked), 09 Giroud (Griezmann - 62'), 08 Valbuena (Sissoko - 94'), 10 Benzema
05 Sakho, 07 Cabella, 11 Griezmann, 12 Mavuba, 13 Mangala, 15 Sagna, 16 Ruffier, 17 Digne, 18 Sissoko, 20 Remy, 22 Schneiderlin, 23 Landreau
01 Enyeama, 05 Ambrose Emuobo, 13 Oshaniwa, 10 Mikel, 02 Yobo, 22 Omeruo, 08 Odemwingie, 17 Onazi (Gabriel - 59'), 09 Emenike, 11 Moses (Nwofor - 89'), 07 Musa
03 Uzoenyi, 04 Gabriel, 06 Egwuekwe, 12 Odunlami, 14 Oboabona, 15 Azeez, 16 Ejide, 19 Nwofor, 20 Uchebo, 21 Agbim, 23 Ameobi
I’ll be honest, the thought never entered my head prior to the game that I’d be watching anything but a France win. That came to pass in the end, although it was close for a long time.
The game started cagily and both teams took a while to hit their stride, France sometimes moving nicely through midfield but lacking sharpness in the final third, while Nigeria were equally wasteful when they earned some set pieces. The best piece of play in the first 20 minutes was denied by a correct offside flag when a curling cross was turned in by Eminike, but it was a very close decision and perhaps a bit slack by France to allow the kind-of chance. France do respond through Pogba, showing flashes of his form of the opening game, surging through midfield and exchanging passes with Valbuena before forcing an excellent save from Enyeama. I have watched Pogba with fascination through this tournament and while there are some rough edges to his game, often being wasteful both in front of goal as well as in his passing, he is clearly immensely talented and is always looking to make things happen. It does make Ferguson’s decision to release him look strange, he’s the closest thing Man Utd would have had to Roy Keane since Keane’s departure.
France start to dominate territory and possession but find it hard to make clear chances, although occasional fluid passing moves bring rewards, Debuchy blazing wide from the edge of the box with their clearest opening after 39 minutes. Nigeria meanwhile find it difficult to launch effective counter attacks of their own until Eminike hits a thunderbolt from 25 yards that Lloris does well to block.
Normally in somewhat uneventful games like this one I’d start making fun of the commentators, but that’s a bit tricky here with safe-hands Simon Brotherton and Kevin Kilbane. Kilbane is by all accounts a super nice guy and does lots of research, he can tell you all about the teams the players come from and how they got on last season, but he doesn’t really teach you a lot about the game or have many anecdotes about stuff- Rio Ferdinand for all his faults does have insights about what it is like to mark Balotelli and Messi etc. The half time discussion makes some interesting points about how Benzema, so good in the group stages, is isolated out on the left and struggling to make an impact, apparently to accommodate Giroud through the middle. It does seem strange, neither player had a big effect in the first half, while Benzema in previous games had been at the heart of France’s incisive attacks. Actually, in defence of the BBC, the team here of Keown, Murphy and Ferdinand do a good job of discussing the players that have impressed them this tournament, picking out some interesting names. 4 years ago, an identical discussion would have had Hansen and Lawrenson saying ‘Muller, Xavi, Sneijder’ and that would have been about it. At least this team doesn’t have contempt for its audience.
The second half starts in similar fashion to how the first ended, with little incident apart from a horrible tackle by Debuchy, although we do see one of those World Cup specials where a player released by Kilmarnock (or similar) comes on, Gabriel in this case for Nigeria.
After an hour, we get the game changing substitution, the poor Giroud withdrawn at last and replaced by Griezmann. At this stage, Nigeria are starting to grow in confidence after matching France, Odemwingie hitting a good shot from long range, but the French go up a gear and Nigeria can’t keep up.
With 70 minutes gone, Benzema finally shows some incision as he seems to have an attacking colleague on his wavelength in the shape of Griezmann: a one-two puts Benzema in, but his shot is smothered by Enyeama, the rebound hits his shins and needs Moses to clear it before it reaches the goal. It wasn’t an easy chance, and in a tight game that might be a crucial miss (see my misgivings about Benzema in my group preview), but not today.
Griezmann keeps adding nice touches and it’s his influence that allows France to take a complete stranglehold on the game. Where before they struggled to make chances, now they are creating at will, with Nigeria pinned back and their box resembling a pinball table. A Benzema cross whistles along the goalmouth and is cleared as far as Cabaye who hits a beauty which unluckily hits the underside of the bar and bounces clear. Then Benzema has a header tipped over from close range. From the resulting corner, Enyeama flaps at it and Pogba has a free header which he carefully places into the unguarded section of the net, it’s a neat finish and a deserved lead for France after 10 minutes of near constant pressure.
Nigeria start to push men forwards, but they can’t make chances as France hold them at arms’ length and look dangerous on the break themselves, Matuidi hitting an excellent long pass to Griezmann who strikes it well requiring a good tip over. As it looks like France are going to take a short corner to waste time, they surprise Nigeria by heading towards their goal, Matuidi putting in a low cross which Griezmann misses, the ball hitting Yobo and going in to seal the win in stoppage time.
France were not as fluid as in earlier games, at least until Griezmann came on- where before Giroud had failed to link up with teammates, Griezmann gave them extra verve and brought Benzema into the game. From that moment on, France were in complete control and 2-0 is a fair scoreline. They found a way to win what had been an even match up to that point, which is what you need to do to win the World Cup. Credit to Deschamps for eventually making the switch. Germany are about to kick off against Algeria and assuming they win that, a France V Germany match up will finally give the French the challenge they need. That would be a titanic match and I can’t wait to watch it - I couldn’t call a winner based on what I’ve seen so far this tournament.
- Pogba 79′
- Yobo 90′ (og)
Ref: Mark Geiger
- France 53%
- Nigeria 47%
- France 13
- Nigeria 9
- France 5
- Nigeria 2
- France 12
- Nigeria 9
- France 12
- Nigeria 15
Schürrle scored the breakthrough goal for Germany in the first part of Extra Time
Germany v Algeria
June 30th 2014, Porto Alegre
01 Neuer, 21 Mustafi (Khedira - 70'), 04 Höwedes, 16 Lahm (Booked), 17 Mertesacker, 20 Boateng, 07 Schweinsteiger (Kramer - 109'), 18 Kroos, 13 Müller, 08 Özil, 19 Götze (Schürrle - 45')
02 Großkreutz, 03 Ginter, 06 Khedira, 09 Schürrle, 10 Podolski, 11 Klose, 12 Zieler, 14 Draxler, 15 Durm, 22 Weidenfeller, 23 Kramer
23 M'Bolhi, 20 Mandi, 03 Ghoulam, 08 Lacen, 04 Belkalem, 05 Halliche (Booked) (Bougherra - 97'), 10 Feghouli, 22 Mostefa, 13 Slimani, 19 Taïder (Brahimi - 78'), 15 Soudani (Djabou - 100')
01 Mohamed, 02 Bougherra, 06 Mesbah, 07 Yebda, 09 Ghilas, 11 Brahimi, 12 Medjani, 14 Bentaleb, 16 Zemmamouche, 17 Cadamuro, 18 Djabou, 21 Mahrez
Playing for a quarter final place against France, Germany were everyone's certainty to go through, but the Algerians obviously hadn't read the script, tactically they packed the midfield, played a quick closing down game and broke with pace, this upset the Germans, who got so frustrated they started pushing more players forward, leaving huge gaps in there defence, Algeria had some great counter attacks in which they really should have capitalised on, they had at least 4 great goal scoring chances, a very entertaining half
Germany 0 Algeria 0
Second half Germany predictably came out far more disciplined, Algeria remained spirited with a few counter attacks, but you always felt the longer the game went on the quality of the Germans would see them through, however at 90 mins although there had been chances at both ends the score remained
Germany 0 Algeria 0
Within a couple of minutes of extra time, Germany got the breakthrough, Muller put in a cross from the left and a fine flick from Shurrie ended up into the corner of the net,
Germany 1 Algeria 0
The goal meant Algeria had to push forward and abandon there previous discipline, this made the game very end to end, but no real surprise when Ozil added a second,
Germany 2 Algeria 0
Algeria got a deserved consolation goal from Djabou, but it was far too late in the game to worry Germany. Another entertaining game which has involved Germany !
Germany 2 Algeria 1
Algeria reminded me of a few Saints performances last season, if only they had taken a couple of there great chances, they could of caused a major upset, as it is Germany go through to play France in the quarter finals, Germany were shocked by Algeria tonight, but against France they will be more suited to playing and will know exactly what they are up against,
- Schürrle 92′
- Özil 119′
- Djabou 120′
Ref: Sandro Meira Ricci
- Germany 67%
- Algeria 33%
- Germany 28
- Algeria 10
- Germany 14
- Algeria 4
- Germany 10
- Algeria 4
- Germany 11
- Algeria 20
Diego Benaglio dives despairingly as Di Maria scores in the 118th minute of a dull, dull game
Argentina v Switzerland
1st July, Sao Paulo
01 Romero, 04 Zabaleta, 16 Rojo (Booked) (Basanta - 106' ), 14 Mascherano, 17 Fernández, 02 Garay (Booked), 22 Lavezzi (Palacio - 74'), 05 Gago (Biglia - 105'), 09 Higuaín, 10 Messi, 07 Di María (Booked)
03 Campagnaro, 06 Biglia, 08 Pérez, 11 Rodríguez, 12 Orión, 13 Fernández, 15 Demichelis, 18 Palacio, 19 Álvarez, 20 Agüero, 21 Andujar, 23 Basanta
01 Benaglio, 02 Lichtsteiner, 13 Rodriguez, 11 Behrami, 22 Schär, 20 Djourou, 10 Xhaka (Booked) (Fernandes - 66' (Booked) ), 08 Inler, 19 Drmic (Seferovic - 82'), 23 Shaqiri, 18 Mehmedi (Dzemaili - 113')
03 Ziegler, 04 Senderos, 06 Lang, 07 Barnetta, 09 Seferovic, 12 Sommer, 14 Stocker, 15 Dzemaili, 16 Fernandes, 17 Gavranovic, 21 Bürki
Well, that was all very dull wasn’t it! After the excitement of writing up Iran V Nigeria’s sleep-inducing 0-0, I get to do the review of this game too. How lucky am I? Not!
Will Argentina win this campaign? Not very likely on this showing, but any team that has little Lionel in it can’t be ruled out. If they do get through to the final they will have to cope with a few ulcers and other stress-related symptoms en route if they continue playing like this.
Argentina were without the injured Aguero, other than that the teams were pretty settled. Swiss coach Hitzfeld is retiring after this World Cup. Reeling from the news of his brother’s death, a day earlier, he still managed to set up a determined opposition to the stars of Argentina.
Happily BBC had this match even if it did mean having Lawro alongside Jonathan Pearce’s commentary. Lawro makes Marvin The Paranoid Android sound cheerful and optimistic but he has one thing going for him… he’s not Townsend.
From the start Switzerland’s plan becomes immediately obvious - don’t give Argentina any room or time to set up moves; Simple yet effective. Lots of running backwards and forwards, sometimes with the ball, sometimes not. Harrying Argentinian players every time they get the ball. Especially Messi; one, two or three players on him, as required. It’s all very organised and efficient and deadly dull to watch - unless you were a Swiss. There are some promising attempts by both sides but none come to anything. The foul count, on both sides, rises and it’s about 30 minutes before we see any worthwhile shots on target, first Switzerland then Argentina. Shaqiri and Messi are the two standout players on the pitch - Shaqiri is attracting fouls and a free kick that he takes on the edge of the box needs a smart response from Romero to punch the ball out. Xhaka becomes the first player to be yellow carded - although not the first to deserve it. On 40 minutes Drmic should have scored. Only the stranded goalie to beat with a simple chip - and a pitiful lob into the goalies hands was all he could manage. Messi continues to plug away, Di Maria is having a ‘mare but the Swiss defence is resolute. Half time 0-0.
The second half opens like the first ended - not very entertaining. The TV cameras roam the crowd looking for interesting and/or pretty faces to televise. The crowd, look to entertain themselves with a succession of Mexican Waves (or Hooplas - thanks Christopher!). Romero looks like he’s bored and has lost interest as he fumbles a ball in his own area.
It’s all getting too much for Alex Sabella and he urges his team on from the technical area sending his subs out to warm up. He means business even if the team are lackadaisical! They get the message and, realising that they’re unlikely to win this match playing as they have been, up the tempo. Benaglio tips over a Higuain header, Argentina are pressing hard, another corner! The Swiss look as if they’re starting to wilt. Xhaka is called off and Fernandes is on - tactical or to save Xhaka from a second yellow card? Switzerland are playing with disciplined determination. Their two, four man, defensive lines are just about holding Argentina at bay and counter attacking when they can. Rojo, then Zabaleta are alive to the threat. But the Europeans are visibly tiring; Zabaleta is making more attacks down the right. It’s not just the Swiss, the Argentinians are showing fatigue too; Palacio comes on with fresh legs and his odd pony tail - within a minute he’s attacking the goal. Ten minutes to go and Switzerland take off Drmic for Sefforovic, he immediately sets off running at goal. Nobody else can keep up with him; no support! But it’s belatedly turning into some sort of a spectacle! Messi trying to take advantage of a tired defence, the South American defenders bringing down first Rodriguez (Rojo yellow carded) then Mehmedi when they attack. But still deadlock and after 93 minutes the whistle blows.
Oh dear - we have to sit through another half hour of this! Messi and Shaqiri are doing their best to conjure up something special - is it going to take an error by a tired player to give us a result? Extra time starts. Argentina have had the lion’s share of possession but looked very nervy in the middle of defence, Switzerland have had the determination. Switzerland continued to defend and counterattack, Argentina’s defence continued to make silly mistakes. A tired Rojo is substituted. In the second period, Argentina push an extra man forward but are still held at bay, reduced to shooting from distance. Di Mari is trying too hard, his shots all over the place. Mehmedi is swapped for Dzemaili, Gago off for Biglia - fresh legs for all! Switzerland look like they just want the whistle to go - penalties notwithstanding; just stop the torment! Suddenly Messi has the ball, the advancing Argentine front line with its extra man leaves Rodriguez with two to mark, he takes the obvious threat but this leaves Di Maria free. Messi passes to him and Di Maria makes no mistake this time - a fine finish and it’s 1-0 with two minutes left to play. Such celebrating! Switzerland are re-energised and almost get an equaliser as Dzemaili hits the post with a header. Shaqiri is fouled and wins a free kick in the D. But his free kick cannons off the wall as the referee blows the final whistle.
A dull game with an exciting finish; a not particularly convincing performance from Argentina who relied on Messi, once again to save their blushes. Belgium, who they next meet, won’t be quaking in their boots.
- Di María 118′
Ref: Jonas Eriksson
- Argentina 64%
- Switzerland 36%
- Argentina 29
- Switzerland 15
- Argentina 8
- Switzerland 4
- Argentina 13
- Switzerland 5
- Argentina 18
- Switzerland 29
Green scored a great goal for the USA, but it was too little, too late
Belgium v USA
1st July, Salvador
01 Courtois, 02 Alderweireld, 05 Vertonghen, 06 Witsel, 15 van Buyten, 04 Kompany (Booked), 14 Mertens (Mirallas - 60'), 08 Fellaini, 17 Origi (Lukaku - 90'), 07 De Bruyne, 10 Hazard (Chadli - 111')
01 Howard, 23 Johnson (Yedlin - 32'), 07 Beasley, 20 Cameron (Booked), 03 González, 05 Besler, 19 Zusi (Wondolowski - 72'), 13 Jones, 08 Dempsey, 04 Bradley, 11 Bedoya (Green - 107')
02 Yedlin, 06 Brooks, 09 Jóhannsson, 10 Diskerud, 12 Guzan, 14 Davis, 15 Beckerman, 16 Green, 17 Altidore, 18 Wondolowski, 21 Chandler, 22 Rimando
Belgium finally came out of their shell and showed exactly why they were the Dark Horse team of the tournament, but they were run very close by an enthusiastic, committed and well drilled USA team.
This match was as exciting for the neutral observer, as Belgium's other games had been eminently missable. Once again the Belgian's manager, Marc Wilmots, made excellent use of substitutes, who changed the course of the game.
Kevin de Bruyne scored the goal that finally broke through the American's resistance, in the second minute of extra time. Substitute Romelu Lukaku, who had been hugely disappointing to date, bundled in a second goal 11 minutes later to seemingly kill the game off.
The US though, would not go quietly. They stepped up their game and this led to a goal from substitute Julian Green, who volleyed a wonderful shot past Courtois in Belgium's goal. Further chances fell to the Americans, with Jones and Dempsey both missing opportunities to take the match to penalties but neither was able to take the chance to extend the USA's dream.
Jurgen Klinsmann's men were well organised, but the real hero on the night was Tim Howard with a truly outstanding goalkeeping performance. He made the record number of saves ever in a World Cup match. Some of those saves were truly breathtaking.
Belgium now play Argentina in Brasilia and after this showing you have to fancy their chances. Marc Wilmots has now got the undeniable individual talents of the Belgians working as a single unit. Together with the managers ability to make telling substitutions they are looking good to go all the way to Rio.
For the Americans, it might just be that the profile of 'soccer' in the USA has just been raised by several notches, with the team getting extensive coverage back home. Whether this translates into anything tangible remains to be seen.
The Belgian coach Marc Wilmots was quoted as saying: 'We had a lot of opportunities, and we dominated the game, and in the end it was well deserved even if it was scary with the US goal. Tim Howard had a fantastic match but we need to forget about this match and focus on Argentina.'
'There shouldn't be any more worries from the media about us not playing football.'
It was a great match to watch.
- De Bruyne 93′
- Lukaku 105′
- Green 107′
Ref: Djamel Haimoudi
- Belgium 46%
- USA 54%
- Belgium 39
- USA 17
- Belgium 17
- USA 5
- Belgium 19
- USA 4
- Belgium 27
- USA 11