Holy shit. Ho. Lee. Shit. That Brazil-Germany game—can you really call it a game when one team dominates so clearly?—was incredible. 7-1 is an otherworldly score for a World Cup semifinal these days. To put this match in perspective, during qualifying, Germany only beat Kazakhstan 4-1 and the Republic of Ireland 6-1 (that one still stings a bit). Ireland and Kazakhstan are currently ranked 70th and 124th in the world, respectively. Brazil—whom Germany just beat 7-1(!) in Brazil(!!) in the semifinals of the World Cup(!!!) IN BRAZIL (!!!!) even though Brazil haven’t lost a competitive home match since THE SEVENTIES(!!!!!) and even though the last World Cup winner, Spain, only scored 8 goals in their entire winning campaign(!!!!!!)—are currently ranked 3rd in the world(!!!!!!!)!
So what I’m saying is that was unexpected.
I picked up 4 points, taking me ever closer to that elusive 64-point mark.
Brian’s Prediction Points Tally = 57.5
A correct scoreline prediction of today’s match between the Netherlands and Argentina would put me well over the top, while a correct prediction without the scoreline would mean I’d need to guess the final correctly. Unfortunately, this is going to be a tough game to predict. The Dutch had a really tough time when they went up against Costa Rica, a team similar to Argentina in that they rely on their defense to squeak them through. Argentina have not won a game at this World Cup by more than 1 goal. They’ve won every game by 1 goal, in fact, while the Netherlands, though they’ve often scored a bunch, effectively drew Costa Rica 0-0, proving that they can be stymied by a solid defense. Lionel Messi has made sure that the Argentines always score at least 1.
All that being said, I still think the Netherlands have this one. As the Brazil-Germany game showed us, teams at this World Cup have had a particularly difficult time adapting when a key player has had to miss a game through injury or card accrual. Brazil were missing Neymar and Thiago Silva, and they were destroyed by Germany. The U.S. lost Jozy Altidore and barely made it through to the knockout rounds. France acted like they didn’t need Franck Ribéry in the group stages, but when Karim Benzema wasn’t able to step up against Germany, they really started to miss him. Spain’s pride was injured in the opening against the Netherlands, and they weren’t able to come back from that. The only team that seemed to be just fine without a key player was Colombia, who hardly missed Radamel Falcao at all once James Rodriguez decided he was going to carry the team on his back.
Which is to say, I don’t believe that Argentina can win without Angel Di Maria. The Real Madrid man scored the winner against Belgium, one of the few saving acts that didn’t come directly from the feet of Lionel Messi (although Messi did provide the assist). As good as Messi is, without Angel Di Maria, the Netherlands will be free to double up on the 4-time World Player of the Year and not have to worry much about any other serious attacking threats lurking. If Sergio Aguero can make a surprise return (he’s been out with injury, too), then Argentina might stand a chance, but otherwise I don’t think they’ve got enough bite in them. The Netherlands, meanwhile, could be without star striker Robin van Persie, but given the way RVP played against Costa Rica, it might not be a bad idea to play Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in his place anyway. Either way, it likely won’t be nearly as exciting as the Brazil-Germany massacre, but it’ll be enjoyable nonetheless. If the Netherlands win, it’ll set the stage for a first World Cup win by a European team in South America, as well as a possible first-time champion should the Dutch (somehow, impossibly) beat the Germans. My prediction:
Netherlands 2 : 1 Argentina
Honestly, I would say 1-0, but Messi. I can’t imagine Messi not performing some feat of game-tying heroics. For naught, of course, but still.