All the favorites won. [Sobs.] Also, the tournament has never got back to the high-scoring fast-running energy of the Group Stage. Let’s hope it ends with a bang.

Me blogging the World Cup for a mostly-tech mostly-norteamericano audience has felt a bit like bringing dispatches from a foreign country. But at this point chances are that many of you actually watched the games I’m writing about. Does that change anything?

France 0 Germany 1 · A fair result, I suppose. One thing nobody else seems to have pointed out is that this was a triumph of conditioning; in the last 20 minutes or so the French play became ragged and choppy; there were no real slashing attacks or Neuer game-savers.

On Twitter I wondered out loud how it was that the German passing sequences were so much better than any other team in the tournament, and someone pointed out that seven of them play together for Pep Guardiola over at Bayern. But I dunno, I watched some of the Champions’ League and I don’t recall seeing Bayern or anyone else pulling off that sort of precision surgery.

I think the world owes a tip o’ the hat to Argentine referee Nestor Pitana, a real hardass, no tolerance for foolishness; the diving was correspondingly less blatant.

Brazil 2 Colombia 1 · What a nasty, nasty game. I said that Brazil would have to show us more than they had so far in the tournament to get through, and they did. If the Colombians had woken up earlier… Anyhow, this one left me sad, both in the performance and the result.

And since I saluted France-Germany referee Pitana above, let’s send a joint sneer in the direction of Spanish ref Velasco Carballo, who tolerated continuous shoddiness, which is to say encouraged it. Feaugh.

Argentina 1 Belgium 0 · And Feaugh again. I’m particularly irritated at the Belgians, who decided to play it safe, which is to say they decided to lose gracefully rather than go all-in and maybe win. I think there are lots of teams in this tournament that can beat Argentina, but they’re going to have to attack to do it.

Netherlands 0 Costa Rica 0 · This match, and the first half-and-a-bit of France-Germany, were the fun part of the quarterfinals. What a game! The Ticos were the overwhelming sentimental/geographical favorites, and while I want to see Holland in the semis, nobody could help loving the underdogs here.

On top of which, the Costa Rican defense isn’t an underdog compared to anyone. Let’s review their path to this game: They yielded one goal against Uruguay, none against Italy, none against England, one against Greece, and none against the Netherlands. I think that the two best defences, Mexico and Costa Rica, are now out of the tournament.

You can push back and point out that plenty of Dutch balls rolled in front of open goals and bounced off wood, but hey, if you want to watch a game where being close counts, wait for next winter’s curling season.

And what a finale! I had no idea that there was such a thing as a penalty-kick-specialist keeper; Krul is 6'4"/1.93 m, and a really nasty guy. I don’t think the Ticos’ training sessions included being abused by a monster Dutchman on the biggest stage most of them will ever occupy. Note to those remaining in the tournament: Do not let a game against Netherlands go to penalties.

No, I don’t actually approve of Krul’s style, just as I loathe Robben’s diving. But damn, those Holland games are just never boring

The semis · Brazil’s really gonna have to raise its game to survive their German encounter. And against Colombia, they did. But losing Neymar is really a big deal, while the Germans are mostly undamaged; and as well-conditioned as anyone. I don’t see how Germany isn’t in the finals.

The Argentina-Netherlands game is massively unpredictable. All the numbers people are convinced the Dutch are doomed, but I’m sure not. Let’s review: To get here, Argentina got past Bosnia and Herzegovina (yielding a goal), Iran, Nigeria (yielding 2), Switzerland, and Belgium (goal differential +4). That’s pretty stingy, but their defense just hasn’t been tested by an elite offence, which Holland is.

The Netherlands got past Spain, Australia, Chile, Mexico, and Costa Rica, yielding four goals and with a differential of +8. Remind me again why it is the numbers people like Argentina?

It’d be a little sad if this big Latin-American show ended up with an all-Euro final; but at this point not surprising.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Matěj Cepl (Jul 06 2014, at 16:04)

I cannot agree with your appreciation for the Germany - France game. I was looking forward to it; yes, I am old enough to remember and I do agree it might be perhaps the most beautiful football match I have ever seen.

But this was not France I hoped for. French football should be elegant beautiful and smart. And what I saw was game based mostly on attacking personally German players. No, I also cannot agree that the referree did a good job. I saw couple of (mostly French) attacks on Germans which IMHO would deserve some kind of card and which were completely ignored.

Unfortunately, I cannot see (and frankly I didn't want to see) more than like first twenty minutes of the game, but if the rest of the match was the same, I am really glad Germans won. They deserved it. Not mentioning that to be physical on Germans is the most stupid strategy possible ... they can play that style of game as well as anybody.


From: Tim K (Jul 06 2014, at 16:48)

Having a PK specialist keeper makes a lot of sense if you can afford to save the substitution. He can spend the game reviewing the tendencies of the expected takers.

But why wait for the 121st minute to make the sub? If there is no stoppage of play during that minutes he doesn't get in (right?).


From: Ricardo (Jul 06 2014, at 18:17)

Don't underestimate the value of having many players who play in the same club in a national team. Look at Spain in the last world cup / euro... pretty much the Barcelona team (and yes, Pep's team) with a couple from Real. Or Portugal in Euro 2004 / World's 2006 (Mourinho's FCPorto, who won the Uefa Cup and Champions League in 2003/2004).

And now Germany, with a playing style very close to what Spain was showing before - possession, to an almost irritating level of pass precision leaving very few options to whoever falls behind in the score. And yes... that's how Guardiola likes it, how Barcelona played for years and years, and exactly how he had Bayern playing for the last year. It's not without drawbacks... when things start wrong there's no Messi or Robben to fix it in the current mannschaft.

Netherlands showed amazing football in one match or two, as they often do. But for long they always seem to fall short, and Argentina is not playing particularly well, but definitely playing with heart! Very strong midfield, and when they had Maradona they had the extra bit to make them go all the way... if only they had someone that could do the same this year... ohhh maybe they do :-)

Goooooooo Argentina! :-)


From: Anil John (Jul 07 2014, at 04:23)

As one of the "mostly-tech mostly-norteam­er­i­cano au­di­ence", your blogging on the world cup is very much appreciated!


From: Nick (Jul 07 2014, at 06:59)

In the UK coverage (BBC I think) they mentioned that Low had got Germans passing decision down from 2.5 secs down to less than a second. Had a quick Google but didn't find a source, but sounds like it goes against the more players at one club philosophy.


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