Thursday, June 29, 2006

World Cup quarter-finals preview

We are now down to the final eight teams in the competition, and one thing that stands is the lack of a true 'underdog' amongst them.

There isn't a South Korea or USA involved as we saw at this stage back in 2002 and it makes it an intriguing set of games in prospect as the 'big guns' are now going head to head.

Germany v Argentina:

The first match - and looks to be the best one, as the two real 'form' sides meet. Argentina, as anticipated are living upto billing as one of the top favourites and have looked a real threat. Blessed with attacking quality and plenty of options it is hard to see them failing to score.

Germany have perhaps surprised a little as pre-tournament they struggled for form but have looked good right from the first game. They took the Swedes apart in the second round and like Argentina, have goals in them with Klose and Podolski firing.

Prediction: Such a tough one to call with home support and momentum with Germany but I feel that Argentina will just have too much for them.

Germany 1 Argentina 2 (aet)

Italy v Ukraine:

Ukraine perhaps the weakest side left in the tournament but they still pose a danger. The loss of Andriy Voronin will place even more emphasis on Andriy Shevchenko. They have looked better defensively since their opening game defeat to Spain.

Italy are faced with more off-field problems with the Pessotto situation affecting members of the squad. Perhaps this will galvanise the side even further but defensively they continue to miss Nesta and the suspended Materazzi. They have also yet to find the right combination up front.

Prediction: I don't expect a classic by any means but if Cannavaro contains Shevchenko the Italians will have enough to go through.

Italy 1 Ukraine 0

England v Portugal:

A re-run of Euro 2004 and Eriksson again faces Scolari in a major tournament. As a team, England have not come close to what they are capable of but time is running out for them to get it together. A fitter Rooney will be a bonus but they need the midfield to step up.

Portugal edged out Holland in the last round - but at a big cost. Deco and Costinha are suspended whilst Ronaldo could struggle with an injury. Form wise it is hard to tell where they are as they had a relatively comfortable group and the Holland game could not really be an indicator.

Prediction: A lot has been made of Eriksson v Scolari, with Scolari ready to show why he would have been the ideal choice for the England job. Eriksson and England have been bullish though and I think that England will display what they are capable of.

England 2 Portugal 1

Brazil v France:

Facing elimination just before half-time against Spain after a shaky start to the tournament, the French turned the game around to send Spain crashing out. Could the ageing French have galvanised themselves at the last minute for one last shot?

Brazil have eased through qualification to this stage without impressing apart from the odd spell. They have so much quality going forward but don't appear to have clicked so far but are clearly capable of stepping up when it matters.

Prediction: The French will need to go at them if they are to have a chance. Their second half formation looked far better and Ribery showed some class. The front four for Brazil may have to carry them through as they don't appear to be the strongest overall Brazilian side of recent times.

Brazil 2 France 1

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