It will not come as a surprise to many that the World Cup in Brazil has become increasingly dominated by South and Central American sides. But as the Netherlands showed yesterday in their fortuitous 2-1 victory over Mexico, Europe's best can mix it with their Latin American counterparts.
Today sees two of Europe's very best, France and Germany, aim to join their Dutch neighbour in the quarter-finals of this most compelling of tournaments. Let's take a look at how we think things will pan out.
|World Cup 2014: Day 18 Schedule|
|June 30||5 p.m BST/12 p.m ET||France vs. Nigeria||2-0|
|June 30||9 p.m BST/4 p.m ET||Germany vs. Algeria||3-0|
Germany vs. Algeria
Germany have danced between the sublime and the magnificent in Brazil. Their 4-0 demolition of a Portugal side including Cristiano Ronaldo was a wonderful sight for German fans and an ominously dreadful one for everybody else. But their 2-2 draw with Ghana and narrow 1-0 win over the USA showed they are far from invincible.
Before the tournament, nobody would have thought twice before predicting that Germany would romp home in this seemingly one-sided tie. But Algeria under the tutelage of Vahid Halilhodzic have been this tournament's surprise package. Emerging from a difficult group including South Korea—who they beat 4-2—Russia and Belgium highlighted that the north Africans have done this the hard way. They will certainly put up a fight against Joachim Low's men.
Low will almost certainly be without Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski, who picked up an injury in the USA win. That opens up the opportunity for Miroslav Klose to surpass Ronaldo as the World Cup's all-time top scorer. Klose moved level with the Brazilian legend after hitting his 15th World Cup goal in the 2-2 draw with Ghana.
While Algeria have proved themselves worthy participants in the knockout rounds, they will meet the end of their run against Germany.
France vs. Nigeria
Didier Deschamps' men have been one of the surprise packages of this tournament, having been underestimated in the build-up to Brazil. But Les Bleus' 5-2 thrashing of Switzerland underlined just why they can never be written off.
Any team with a spine of Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema is worthy of consideration, and with the French camp harmonious, they should fear no opposition. Remember, of the last four World Cups, France have reached the final of two.
African Cup of Nations champions Nigeria will prove difficult opposition to break down. Their attacking talents were displayed when they struck two goals past Argentina in the group stage. That they in turn conceded three alludes to that fact that they are an attack-minded outfit.
France are one of the most well-balanced sides at this tournament, and they will be able to cope with whatever Nigeria have to throw at them. Nigeria's defensive frailties will struggle to cope with the inevitable French onslaught.
That's why we have the French to win this one at a canter.