Argentina and Belgium face off in Brasilia in the World Cup 2014 quarter-finals on Saturday, with the prize of being in the last four a mouth-watering prospect for both teams.
Though both sides came into the tournament heavily tipped to take home the trophy, neither of them have demonstrated their world champion credentials just yet and will look to step up in the Brazilian capital.
Argentina and Belgium were taken all the way to extra time in their round-of-16 matches, but there’ll be no room for tired legs at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, with some of the brightest talents in international football going head-to-head.
Venue: Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, Brasilia
Date: Saturday, 5 July
Time: 5 p.m. BST / 12 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV1 (UK) / ABC (U.S.)
Belgium Feeling Confident
Labelled the dark horses of World Cup 2014, Belgium’s young side haven’t quite lived up to their billing so far, but the fact that they’ve progressed this far tells you all you need to know.
Marc Wilmots’ side have shown an incredible amount of grit to reach the last eight, particularly in the last round against the USA—scoring two in extra time to win 2-1 in dramatic circumstances.
While Argentina will undoubtedly be their biggest challenge yet in Brazil, they’ll be far from afraid of the two-time champions despite a certain Lionel Messi in their ranks.
Messi has been the Argentinians' not-so-secret weapon so far, scoring four group-stage goals and providing the perfect assist for Angel di Maria to see off the challenge of Switzerland in the round of 16—as the Mirror’s Oliver Holt reflected on:
Terrific break and perfectly weighted pass by Messi to set up that goal. Performing like superstar he is at this World Cup, when it matters— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) July 1, 2014
Though the Barcelona star will keep Belgium’s defence on their toes, star man Eden Hazard said that if his team can keep Messi quiet, they can progress to the semi-finals—as reported by Ian Ladyman on Mail Online:
We know the best player in the world is in this team, who can make the difference every game. But we are not afraid. If we can stop him we have a chance.
We can win if we attack. The whole team is tranquil. We do not feel pressure, we play like we do in training, and that is why we are there.
It is a big game for this generation. It is very important. We can make history. This is maybe the biggest game in my life.
Not feeling pressure will undoubtedly work in Belgium’s favour when they come to take on the star-studded Argentina, who will provide a stern test in Brasilia.
However, Messi aside, Alejandro Sabella’s side have disappointed, and they need a big step up against Belgium or the curtain will come down on their tournament.
It goes to show just how big an impact the 27-year-old can have on a side, and his four man-of-the-match awards so far in Brazil rather speak for themselves—as Super Sport revealed:
Belgium’s plot to keep Messi quiet seems rather sensible, then, but how many teams have tried that one over the years?
One can’t simply silence Messi, but Belgium just have to make sure their star men have a bigger influence on the game than the Argentina star if they want to progress.
With both sides going all-out for the victory, it’s set to be another incredibly tight affair in the quarter-finals and it could go all the way to the wire.
So much attacking talent on show means it’ll be a battle of the defences in Brasilia, and Argentina just about have enough to cross the line.
Prediction: Argentina 1-0 Belgium