After 20 straight days of World Cup action, a two-day break felt like a week. Thankfully the Cup returns tomorrow with the first two quarterfinals- Brazil vs. Holland and Uruguay vs. Ghana. I hit seven out of eight Round of 16 picks, nailing the exact score on half the matches. Let's see if I can keep the hot hand going.
Brazil vs. Holland
In 1994 these sides met at this stage in what was, in my opinion, the best match of that tournament. (Check out the fantastic game open.) In a five-goal second half, Holland rallied from 2-0 down, only to be ousted by Branco's 81st minute goal. Four years later in the semifinals, Brazil took the rematch, advancing in a shootout after a 1-1 draw.
The rosters have changed since those 1990's clashes, but Brazil-Holland still promises to be a showcase match. Team in-fighting has dashed previous Dutch hopes. Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder are anything but best buddies, but with Arjen Robben returning to form, Holland has the talent to overcome their personal issues.
Brazil has some concerns in the midfield. Felipe Melo and Elano are nursing ankle injuries, while Ramires is suspended. But with Luis Fabiano, Kaka and Robinho all on the roster, Brazil have little reason to worry. In net, Julio Cesar has conceded only one goal through four matches.
Holland are 4-0, but their play has been more workmanlike than dazzling. Brazil, meanwhile, looks as though they approaching the form of previous championship sides.
Prediction: Brazil 3, Holland 1
Uruguay vs. Ghana
At the African World Cup, Ghana look to become the African side to reach the semis of a World Cup. Cameroon (1990) and Senegal (2002) reached the quarters, and if the Black Stars are to do what their predecessors could not, they'll need to bottle up Uruguay's dynamic duo of Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan.
Ghana took advantage of some shoddy American defending to win their last match, despite being outplayed for most of the second half. Uruguay features a tighter defense and more effective strikers than the U.S. did, two aspects that could tip this one in the South Americans' favor. But Ghana, the only group runner-up to win their second round match, will have the crowd at Soccer City in their corner. If Asamoah Gyan and his teammates can channel the energy, they'll make history with a win.
Prediction: Uruguay 2, Ghana 1