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Friday, Sep 22, 2017
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Marsh: World Cup quarterfinals fit for a final

From a purely soccer lover's point of view, it seems a bit of a shame that Argentina vs. Germany and The Netherlands vs. Brazil have to play in the quarterfinals. Both of those games would have made great finals. Instead, you're going to have two great teams going out relatively early in the knockout stage. If this were a concert, the other two quarterfinal games - Uruguay vs. Ghana and Spain vs. Paraguay - would be much lower down the billing. Spain, however, has been the most economical in its approach to all of its games. To this point, I think the Spaniards have played mostly within themselves and, aside from the Portugal match, really haven't needed to push to another level to produce a result. Let's look at Argentina-Germany first. To me, the Argentines have played the most flamboyant soccer in the tournament. They have scored the most goals of the surviving eight squads. I think it will be an extremely close game that will come down to a question of Germany's defense and counter-attacking ability versus Argentina's all-out offense.
The Germans are well organized, make few mistakes and are tactically brilliant. Argentina is a team that attacks from all angles, it has defenders who can score and sensational forwards like Gonzalo Higuain, who has four goals, Carlos Tevez (two goals) and Lionel Messi, whom I think has been one of the most creative players in the tournament. Messi has hit the woodwork three or four times and is quite unlucky not to have scored. And yet he still looks amazing. Germany, I think, will be very cautious and try to hit on the counter-attack. They've shown patience and the ability to finish opportunities. Now Holland-Brazil. I think that match will be end-to-end. This might be the best game of the tournament to watch for the soccer-neutral, especially with all the offensive-minded players - Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt and Arjen Robben of Holland and Robinho, Maicon, Kaka and Luis Fabiano of Brazil. This Brazil squad may not have the caliber of players it has boasted in the past, but it still has that creative spark. But it's not surprising this is a comparatively less-flamboyant Brazilian side because their coach, Dunga, was a defensive midfield player and has set up this team in his own image. Speaking of managers, it's been quite interesting to watch Diego Maradona on the sidelines for Argentina. Is he really coaching or just an overweight cheerleader? From a technical point of view, no, all that is likely left to his assistant coaches. But I think he's good for Argentina because this is a group who play with their hearts and Maradona exemplifies that. He couldn't be the England coach, but I think he's good for Argentina. As for Uruguay-Ghana and Paraguay-Spain, from a purist's point of view, I think they're the type of games that you would expect to find in the group stages, not the quarterfinals. I wouldn't expect many people to watch, because Uruguay and Spain will be so heavily favored. I think Paraguay will come out to defend and Spain will dominate the possession. But Spain has too many weapons. Same goes for Uruguay, with players like Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.
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