Dream matches on tap for quarterfinals
In less than three weeks, the top 32 soccer teams in the world have been whittled down to eight. Those eight, as is often the case, are traditional powerhouses ” teams that soccer fans around the globe list in the days before the Cup as favorites, as games not to miss. In many ways, for those who appreciate the game, who crave to watch the highest level of play possible, the remainder of the Cup is a dream come true.
However, these quarterfinals contain more than one game that is worthy of being a World Cup final in itself.
Brazil versus France, for instance, the last two World Cup champions, face off in the quarterfinal round.
While France’s performance thus far has not been stellar, they have made it through, including their most recent convincing win over Spain.
Brazil also has not shown the world its full potential thus far in the Cup. The Brazilians have shown flashes of their infamous “Beautiful Game,” but thus far the team has not put forth its potential, which when brought for 90 minutes may very well be unbeatable.
With aging superstars Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira facing off with the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, this is a game not to miss.
In the other quarterfinal to feed the same semi as Brazil and France, England faces off with Portugal.
Perhaps no nation is as infamous in the “football” world as England. While it is their fans who give the English their reputation, it is those very same fans who embody the passionate spirit that makes soccer the world’s game.
Many who sport England tout this as the year they must succeed if it is to happen at all. With superstar David Beckham aging but still powerful ” something visible when he vomited before delivering a brilliant free kick to give England a 1-0 victory over Ecuador ” can younger players like Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch live up to their hype and help push England past Luis Figo and his powerful Portuguese side?
England and Portugal may not be the prettiest game of the Cup, but if it will be anything, it will be a battle.
On the other side of the bracket is Italy and the Ukraine. The Ukraine is the one ever-present underdog of the final eight ” the team that may or may not deserve to have made it so far, but on heart and pride pushed past bigger opponents to earn its spot in the sun.
While Italy did not show the same flair that it brought in its opener against the Czech Republic during its squeaky victory over Australia, the tradition, experience and overall talent on the Italian side is something of great value. And if any team can beat an underdog, Italy proved when it knocked off perhaps the strongest underdog of the tournament ” Australia ” that it can still stifle an unexpected fire.
Despite three exciting games to end this week, without a doubt the king of the quarterfinals will be Germany and Argentina.
Both teams are steeped in tradition. Both teams are seemingly on a roll. But perhaps most exciting is that both teams are from entirely different schools of play.
Germany’s traditional team is like a machine. Big, fast players making strong, reliable runs with tireless stamina in front of a back line built like the wall that divided the country for so long. And lets not forget the traditional German goalkeeper.
Oliver Kahn’s performance in the Korea World Cup was exemplary of this, and Jens Lehmann has proved that he is capable of equal greatness. In short, attacking a German keeper is a frightening concept for any forward.
Yet they face the Argentines, whose modern tradition was built on the back of Diego Maradona ” perhaps one of the greatest individual players to grace a soccer field. He could cut through an entire team as if he existed on an entirely different plane.
The Argentine game is fast, flashy and daring. Maxi Rodriguez’s overtime goal to knock out Mexico was proof of the Argentine ability.
While both teams are very different, yet almost equally talented, Germany may have the leg up simply under the auspice of home-field advantage ” a very powerful weapon that could almost be considered a 12th man.
In any case, and no matter the victor, this could very well be the best game of the Cup.
So with four dream matches on Friday and Saturday mornings, don’t go to work, don’t make plans. Get yourself to a television.
Everything that makes this game we call soccer stand above all others will be shown in these four games. Passion, pride and beauty will reign and it will be four more years before it happens again.
Alex Close is a sportswriter with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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