The World Cup is down to its final eight teams. “Normalcy” has been restored this Cup (there’s no U.S., Turkey, South Korea, or Senegal), probably because the tournament is back in Europe. Six of the remaining eight are nations that have won the Cup before and that make the quarterfinals at pretty regularly — Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy, France, and England. A seventh, Portugal, is clearly one of the world’s best eight sides now. The final team, Ukraine, simply doesn’t belong in this company, and faces long odds in tomorrow’s match against Italy.
The other match tomorrow will feature Argentina and Germany. Based on what has happened so far, these two teams should probably be considered two of the top three in the tournament. To my suprise, Germany has actually played the best football of any team. When you couple this fact with its home-country advantage, the Germans must be favored.
Argentina isn’t a great match-up for Germany, though. If the Germans have a weakness (or area of non-strength) it’s probably the lumbering center-back tandem of Metzelder and Mertesacker. These two have done well against big forwards like Ibrahimovic of Sweden, but may be suspect against quality quick forwards, of which Argentina has several. Germany may counter by trying to stifle Riquelme, the superb play-maker who supplies the forwards. In Frings, Germany has a defensive midfielder who may be up to this task.
One way or the other, I like the Germans in this match, but they probably will have their hands full.