With eight teams remaining in the 2014 World Cup, fans can start to cheat by looking ahead at possibilities in the finals.
The entire tournament to this point has been everything fans have hoped for over the past few years. There are high-scoring battles, massive surprises and the most talented players are living up to their potential.
Based on the quarterfinals matchups, there is a good chance that the upcoming round is just as exciting. For those without a rooting interest, however, it might be a good idea to start cheering to see the best matches going forward.
Here is a breakdown of the schedule for the rest of the tournament with a look at the best potential matchups in the finals.
|Date||Round||Match #||Matchup||Time (ET)||Where|
|July 4||Quarterfinal||58||France vs. Germany||12 p.m.||Rio De Janeiro|
|July 4||Quarterfinal||57||Brazil vs. Colombia||4 p.m.||Fortaleza|
|July 5||Quarterfinal||60||Argentina vs. Belgium||12 p.m.||Brasilia|
|July 5||Quarterfinal||59||Netherlands vs. Costa Rica||4 p.m.||Salvador|
|July 8||Semifinal||61||Match 57 winner vs. Match 58 winner||4 p.m.||Belo Horizonte|
|July 9||Semifinal||62||Match 59 winner vs. Match 60 winner||4 p.m.||Sao Paulo|
|July 12||3rd Place Match||63||Match 61 loser vs. Match 62 loser||4 p.m.||Brasilia|
|July 13||Final||64||Match 61 winner vs. Match 62 winner||3 p.m.||Rio De Janeiro|
Top Finals Possibilities
Brazil vs. Argentina
There is no questioning which team is under the most pressure this summer. As the hosts, Brazil are expected to come away with their sixth World Cup title.
While they have the talent to get it done, this pressure is starting to get to even the veteran Thiago Silva. He explained to reporters, via Fernando Duarte of ESPN FC:
The pressure to win a knockout game is enormous because you know you're going home if you lose. I am the kind of person who commits heart and soul to what I do and I am an emotional guy. But I am also a guy who has proved his value on and off the pitch. A lot of people in the press are sayings things that are not helpful.
Still, the more success the squad has, the more relaxed it will be. By the time it reaches the finals, the elite talent of Neymar, Oscar, Dani Alves and others will be able to live up to their ability.
On the other hand, one of the few teams that can match Brazil on talent alone is Argentina. Lionel Messi pairs with Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and others to create an attack that is difficult for anyone to stop.
Messi is usually known for his scoring ability, but he has also done a great job of creating for teammates as well in this tournament:
Lionel Messi: Has made more key passes (18) than any other player in World Cup 2014 #arg— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 3, 2014
Whether this match becomes an individual battle between Messi and Neymar or a full squad competition, this South American clash could be thrilling to watch throughout.
Germany vs. Netherlands
Few teams have been more impressive in Brazil than the Netherlands. The Dutch have been the tournament's highest-scoring team with 12 goals in four matches, including three goals apiece for Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
This pair has shown that it can get the ball in the back of the net in any way possible, putting a lot of pressure on any opposing defense.
Despite this fact, Robben still thinks Germany is the better team, via Goal.com:
Robben: Germany are World Cup favourites http://t.co/l6ziL4qdQG— Goal (@goal_intl) June 24, 2014
While it is not too surprising that the Bayern Munich forward would give a lot of respect to a team featuring many of his club teammates, he should not overlook his own national squad at this stage in the tournament.
Of course, he is not too far off. Germany entered the World Cup with one of the most talented squads in the world, and they have not done much to ruin this thought process. There are world-class players at every position and there is plenty of experience in making deep runs:
By advancing over France on Friday, Germany would be the 1st country to reach 4 straight World Cup semifinals #FRAvsGER— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 3, 2014
Even when Germany does not look its best, it still has elite players like Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil capable of pulling out big plays.
These are two highly active squads that could provide a dramatic moment at any time, which would make this a thrilling battle for all 90 minutes and possibly more.
Colombia vs. Costa Rica
Everyone loves a great underdog story, and it might not get any better than a battle between Colombia and Costa Rica.
James Rodriguez has been the breakout star of this World Cup with five goals in four matches at just 22 years old. As Phil McNulty of BBC Sport points out, Brazil are scared of the talented player as their next opponent:
However, not many casual fans knew about the AS Monaco player a few weeks ago and could not name any Colombia players once Radamel Falcao went down. Despite this, the squad has loved watching the team succeed and dance after every goal.
On the other hand, Costa Rica have no players that fans of the sport would recognize. Of course, this has not stopped them from finishing in first place in the "Group of Champions" with Uruguay, England and Italy.
With their latest win in penalty kicks against Greece, they have moved into the quarterfinals for the first time in the nation's history.
Both sides have displayed great teamwork to win matches in Brazil, and everyone should root for this excellent play to continue into the finals.
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