Saturday's World Cup action will see two underdogs go head-to-head with tournament favourites Argentina and the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, and both teams will be feeling good about their chances of pulling the upset.
Belgium and Costa Rica have already met their expectations (or far exceeded them) and will be going into their matches free of pressure, knowing they have the potential to beat their favoured opponents.
The tournament has already seen its fair share of upsets, and on Saturday, the dark horses will be looking to add to the drama the 2014 World Cup has already seen. Here's the full schedule for Saturday's action, including TV and live stream info, as well as predictions for both matches.
|Time (BST)||Time (ET)||Match||TV Info||Live Stream|
|5 p.m.||12 p.m.||Argentina v Belgium||ABC/ITV||WatchESPN/ITV Player|
|9 p.m.||4 p.m.||Netherlands v Costa Rica||ESPN/BBC1||WatchESPN/BBC iPlayer|
Lionel Messi Will Not Be Voted Man of the Match
Via the player's Twitter fanclub, the Argentine forward has so far won the Man of the Match award in every single one of Argentina's fixtures:
NEW RECORD: Lionel Messi’s is the first player ever to get 4 consecutive Man of the Match awards on a World Cup! pic.twitter.com/c9wnrTarhp— Lionel Messi FanClub (@LMessifanclub) July 3, 2014
Not on Saturday, although it won't be for a lack of trying. There are just too many matchups and opportunities for other players to finally break his streak.
Obviously, in the event of a Belgium win, it's very likely the award would go to a Red Devil. Forwards Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard come to mind, as well as the defensive duo of Daniel van Buyten and Vincent Kompany.
But even if La Albiceleste make good on their role as favourites, there are two players more likely to be rewarded for their efforts. Angel di Maria and Javier Mascherano are both in an excellent position to put in a performance worthy of winning the prestigious award.
Belgium don't field any natural full-backs, opting to play their best defenders at the position. Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen have both performed admirably so far, but they've yet to come across a winger as talented as Di Maria.
They're solid defenders, but they lack the raw athleticism to keep up with the mercurial Di Maria. With Van Buyten and Kompany bottling up the space in front of the box, Argentina's best option to move the ball will be out wide.
This means Di Maria will be seeing plenty of it, and he has the talent and athleticism to take advantage of his matchups out wide.
Mascherano will go head-to-head with Belgium's powerful midfield triangle, most likely consisting of De Bruyne, Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel. Blessed with a ton of physicality and an impressive calm on the ball, these three players run Belgium's attack.
If Argentina win, it's most likely because they won the battle in midfield. To do that, they'll need Mascherano to be at his best. And if he finds a way to neutralise Belgium's threat in the centre of the pitch, he'd be more than deserving of the Man of the Match award.
Costa Rica's Biggest Strength Will Be Their Undoing
And no, we're not talking about Keylor Navas. The in-form stopper is the team's second-biggest strength, behind their fearlessness to take the match to any opponent, whether it's Greece or Italy.
The Central Americans are a free-flowing, attacking team who have stunned bigger sides by doing something smaller teams usually don't do—play football with the best of them. There's no fear in Luis Pinto's men; they're going to play their brand of football, regardless of the opposition.
Via The West Australian, Navas told reporters as much:
We don't have to change anything..
We will give our lives in one of the most beautiful games of our lives. We want to win it, and we have shown we have what it takes.
We are very united, mentally very strong. People did not reckon with us at all, everyone thought we would not get a single point, and that helped us, it motivated us. We believed in ourselves.
We have no fear. The Netherlands are the favourites because they have done more important things than us, but anything can happen in a game.
It's the right attitude—Costa Rica shouldn't fear the Dutch. They've made it to the quarter-finals for a variety of reasons, and their confident identity is one of them.
But this isn't your average Dutch team, playing Total Football and attacking opponents left and right. Under Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands are playing reaction football, relying on their speed on the counter to catch opponents off guard.
With Oscar Duarte suspended for this match, the Central Americans will need to shuffle their defensive unit a bit. Combined with their tendency to play the ball wide and cut inside from the wings, it'll leave acres of space for Arjen Robben to exploit.
Nobody wants Costa Rica to forsake who they are and park the bus, but a tactical approach would see the team leave the ball to the Netherlands, forcing the Europeans to push their line up the field and try to force chances into the box.
That's not what the Dutch do best, and against Australia and Mexico, they struggled mightily when holding the ball. Costa Rica could use those struggles to their advantage, and their reluctance to do so will eventually lead to their exit from the tournament.