Friday, July 2, 2010

World Cup 2010: Quarterfinals Preview- July 3

Can the second set of quarterfinals equal the drama of Friday's games? One match has the making of a classic, the other a mismatch. Time to play.

Argentina vs. Germany
Arguably the world's best intercontinental rivalry, Argentina and Germany meet in the knockout stages for the fourth time in the last seven World Cups. They traded Finals victories in 1986 and 1990; Maradona's side winning a classic in '86, with the Germans capturing an ugly affair four years later. In 2006 the Germans won a quarterfinal match in Berlin, prevailing in a shootout after a 1-1 draw.

The depth of the Argentine side is reflected in the fact that they've cruised to four convincing wins without a goal from their best player. But while Lionel Messi has been kept off the scoresheet, he's done plenty to set-up teammates Gonzalo HiguaĆ­n and Carlos Tevez. While Tevez's first goal against Mexico was suspect, his second was pure class.

Germany took advantage of a blown call and lots of blown defending to romp past England, 4-1. Germany's side is the perfect blend of experience and youth. Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose provide the World Cup pedigree, while Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil are the team's talented young guns.

There has been no shortage of head games in the build-up to this match. Argentina have yet to face adversity in the tournament. If they fall behind, how will they respond? (See Brazil as an example of how not to rally.) Germany won't find the stroll through the Argentine defense as easy as it was against England, but as the more disciplined of the two sides, they're better suited mentally for a tight contest.

Prediction: Germany 2, Argentina 1

Spain vs. Paraguay
With Brazil heading home, Spain assume the role of tournament favorites, and a match-up with Paraguay should be little more than a speed bump. David Villa continues to impress, scoring four of Spain's five goals, including the lone tally in the win over Portugal. Sergio Busquets helped Spain control the midfield against Portugal, connecting on 95 percent of his passes. While Iker Casillas has been rarely tested, the European champs know they can count on one of the world's best goalkeepers.

Paraguay's Round of 16 scoreless draw with Japan was the lone stinker in the second round. Somehow a team that hasn't scored in its last two games finds itself among the last six teams alive at the World Cup. If Paraguay are to have any chance of pulling off the upset, they'll need to follow the Swiss model from earlier in the tournament- furious defending and capitalizing on the counter-attack. I don't see it happening.

Prediction: Spain 3, Paraguay 0

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