After a set of tense fixtures in the second round, every side that won their group in the first round has reached the quarter-finals. Some tasty matches have been served up and in this article we analyse each contest and offer our predictions for the outcome of Saturday’s matches.
Argentina vs Belgium: Saturday 5pm
Argentina were once again heavily reliant on the individual brilliance of Messi and Di Maria to see off Switzerland and claim their place in the last 8, although they needed extra time to do so. Belgium also needed extra time to qualify for this stage and they will not fear the Argentines heading into the match. For all of Messi’s brilliance throughout the tournament, the rest of his side, in general, have let him and themselves down. Belgium, meanwhile, have ground out every result so far and are proving tricky customers to break down whilst still offering a threat coming forward. Marc Wilmots will have to decide whether to keep faith with Divock Origi or allow Romelu Lukaku to return to the side after his impressive cameo in extra time against the USA. Another question that Wilmots will have to address is whether Fellaini really merits a place in his first eleven at the moment and possibly consider replacing him with Moussa Dembele who would certainly add more industry to the centre of the park that will be required against the tireless Javier Mascherano.
Both sides have the ability to really raise their game and this match will, ultimately, come down to who performs best on the day. I will back the Argentines to produce at this crucial stage in the competition as they have Lionel Messi, who has the undeniable gift of being able to turn any match on its head, and he should guide them through.
Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Belgium
Netherlands vs Costa Rica: Saturday 9pm
They were 5 minutes away from going home against Mexico but the Netherlands showed their resilience to force a late comeback and reach the last 8. They will be delighted with how the draw has panned out for them and will be very confident of reaching the semi-finals. Despite the Netherland’s confidence, the Costa-Ricans will be no pushovers. They managed to survive the last round despite being down to 10 men against Greece for the best part of an hour and they thoroughly deserve their place in the quarter-finals. That being said, they are, in my opinion, the weakest team left in the competition and the Netherlands are a huge step up from the Greeks. This should, nonetheless, be viewed as a fantastic performance from Costa Rica in this World Cup and the Costa Rican public will fondly remember them for years to come.
This would be one of the greatest shocks in the history of the World Cup if the Costa Ricans do mange to find their way through, but I just can’t see it. Their race is run and it is the Netherlands who will go on to fight for football’s most coveted prize.
Prediction: Netherlands 3-0 Costa Rica