So here we are with our final eight teams. Two extremely formidable duos and two... somewhat less than stellar matchups.
Argentina-Germany, obviously, could (and has been) a Final pairing. A shame one of these has to exit so soon. (But then, Portugal had to leave after the second round, due to facing Spain so soon.)
The Netherlands, as seemingly always, run up against Brazil. I can scarcely think of a Dutch World Cup run that did not end in defeat to Brazil, though I'm sure it's happened more than I'm remembering. Definitely in 1994, and at least one other time since then. (Scotland, oddly, suffers the same fate in their occasional appearances-- though usually it's the Group phase in which Brazil dispatches the Tartan Army.)
So-- two Semifinal- or Final- quality matchups... and then... we have...
Spain vs Paraguay. Okay. After misfiring in their opening match against the ever-stoutly-defending Swiss, Spain managed to get it together and win their group, and then score a great goal (in what was destined to be a 1-0 win for somebody) to defeat Portugal. But... Paraguay?
I've seen Paraguay over the years. They are one of those teams that knows how to grind out a point from a match. They always seem to play excellent defense and, like the Swiss, seem to get through on low-scoring draws. They were due for a decent run deeper into the tournament, and this year --with its South American success stories-- is the perfect year for it.
But does anyone think Paraguay is going to be able to contain Spain for 90 minutes? Really?
And then there's the most bizarre matchup of all: Uruguay vs Ghana.
This is the spot the USA should have held, but for some odd managerial decisions and a couple of fantastic goals by Ghana.
Instead, we're going to see yet another South American side that plays tough defense, but also manages to score here and there-- a sort of Paraguay with more firepower-- against a smooth and athletic side in Ghana that has been able to play surprisingly good defense and score when it really counted.
A nice matchup, sure-- but Quarterfinal-quality? Hmmm.
Argentina 2-1 Germany
(Though I have a weird feeling this one could end 1-1 and go to PKs, at which point no one in their right mind would bet against the Mannschaft.)
Uruguay 1-0 Ghana
(Too much tough defense from Uruguay.)
Spain 2-0 Paraguay
(I respect the Paraguayan defense, but David Villa and co. will penetrate it multiple times before all is said and done.)
Brazil 2-1 Netherlands
(I'd love to see the Dutch make the Final game, or even win it all... but not with Brazil in the way... Again.)
So look for Argentina to face Spain in one semifinal, and Brazil to face Uruguay in the other. Three out of four semifinal foes from South America-- not bad!