Still the forerunner for the Golden Boot, Columbia’s James Rodriguez had his coming out party brought to a halt by the home side Brazilian squad. Given his tender age of 22, he should return for a couple more Cups, but it was sad to see him go. It was similarly difficult to bid adieu to the Columbians who brought such flair and desire for wide open play. This, generally, is not a winning strategy to employ against the likes of Brazil, but it was highly entertaining and frankly, it’s nigh impossible not to respect someone who goes down with guns blazing.
The French would do well to learn this lesson. They were so casually dispatched by the Germans that one almost wonders if they cared. Only in the late stages of their contest with the always methodical Germans did Les Bleu mount any halfway decent scoring chances. Most of the game was spent with no sense of urgency, a surprising turn of events given their prolific goalscoring in the earlier games. Perhaps they were never really tested to this point, and simply failed the test. They’d not been behind at any point in the Cup, and once there clearly had no idea what to do. For me, this made perhaps the worst game of the Cup since expectations were so much higher.
This sets up a what should have been and still could be a titanic battle in the semifinals between Brazil and Germany. The back injury to Neymar materially damages Brazil’s chances, however, so despite Brazil’s home-team advantage, one has to like the Germans to move into the final.
On the other side of the draw, I doubt anyone expected Belgium to be serious competition for Argentina, and indeed they weren’t despite the 1-0 score line. Still, that’s a respectable result from a second tier squad against a first tier squad, and it’s to their credit that Belgium never gave up and didn’t concede a goal or an assist to Messi (though they surely would have if not for their goalkeeper).
What to say about the Ticos of Costa Rica that hasn’t already been said? Their valor and determination (and defense/goalkeeping) against Greece and Netherlands were the stuff of legend. They were not the better squad with attacking chances being few and far between, but to take to consecutive games to penalties and win one of two rightly showers them in glory. If I were ranking CONCACAF teams at the Cup, I’d put them Costa Rica, Mexico, then the US, and that’s almost in inverse order of talent. Costa Rica has a lot to be proud of.
Argentina v. Netherlands should be a game for the ages. Although I think I picked Argentina in a pre-Cup bracket, I’ve liked Netherlands since they leveled Spain in their opener, and I continue now to make them my pick to go to the final and to win the whole thing.