Here's a rather depressing reality—there are just six more matches remaining of World Cup 2014 before summertime boredom sets in.
We've been completely spoilt so far with drama of the highest order thrilling all four corners, and as we approach the winter of the tournament, here's hoping that international football's finest give us more heart-stopping action.
Day 24 sees the final two semi-final spots decided in Brazil, as Argentina and Belgium go head-to-head before the Netherlands face off with Costa Rica on what's set to be another exciting day.
|World Cup 2014 Day 24 Schedule|
|Matchup||Time||Venue||TV Info||Live Stream|
|Argentina vs. Belgium||5 p.m. BST / 12 p.m. ET||Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, Brasilia||ITV1 (U.K.) / ABC (U.S.)||ITV Player / ABC Go|
|Netherlands vs. Costa Rica||9 p.m. BST / 4 p.m. ET||Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador||ITV1 (U.K.) / ESPN (U.S.)||BBC iPlayer / ESPN Player|
Argentina vs. Belgium
Saturday's first match sees Argentina take on Belgium in Brasilia, a clash featuring two sides tipped by many to lift the trophy come July 13.
Something's got to give in the Brazilian capital then, but if Argentina’s Lionel Messi continues having such a phenomenal impact on matches, then we could be waving goodbye to Belgium.
The Barcelona man scored four group-stage goals and continued his stellar form in the round of 16 against Switzerland, receiving a 9.4 rating from WhoScored.com:
Messi was the only Argentinian player going forward that threatened to breach Switzerland's stubborn back line and turned out to be the architect for his side's winner deep into extra time.
The 27-year-old ran at the Swiss at pace before laying off a perfect pass for Angel Di Maria to slide home and confirm Argentina’s place in the last eight—as the Mirror’s Oliver Holt reported:
Clearly integral to Argentina's cause, Messi will look to continue his strong form against Belgium. However, Marc Wilmots' side have other ideas.
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.
Stopping him will take some performance from Belgium's defence, though, as the four-time Ballon d'Or winner is nothing short of a sensation.
He was the difference for Argentina throughout the group stage and the round of 16, and it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him edge his nation through thanks to another moment of brilliance.
Prediction: Argentina 1-0 Belgium
Netherlands vs. Costa Rica
Though several Dutch fans will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of playing Costa Rica and planning for life in the semi-finals of the World Cup, Jorge Luis Pinto's side aren't the kind of team just to roll over.
They've shown an incredible amount of courage and tactical nous so far, winning Group D at the expense of Italy, Uruguay and England before finding a way past Greece on penalties with 10 men.
Despite the fact that Costa Rica have already set a World Cup personal best by reaching the last eight, they'll be determined to go one better and the Dutch simply cannot underestimate them.
The Netherlands' player of the tournament so far, Arjen Robben, agrees with such a sentiment and told FIFA.com that his side will need to be at their best to reach the semi-finals:
I think they're a very strong team. We have to stay focused. Costa Rica have a very good team, they have already proved that in their group, which was very tough, with Italy, England and Uruguay in there. They've been really impressive and we'll have to prepare very well if we're going to beat them.
Luckily for the Netherlands, manager Louis van Gaal is the master of preparing well for tough encounters and Robben will be integral to his plans.
The Bayern Munich star has scored three goals in the World Cup so far and produced endless stellar performances—earning praise from the likes of Gary Lineker:
In Van Gaal's 5-3-2 formation, Robben is a pacey outlet for the Dutch and has used his counter-attacking brilliance to devastating effect so far in Brazil.
While the Netherlands can't rest on their laurels and expect an easy ride into the last four, they'll be full of confidence ahead of their quarter-final clash having achieved the unachievable already.
From beating Spain 5-1 in their opening match to turning around a 1-0 deficit against the Mexicans with just two minutes of normal time remaining, the Dutch have enjoyed an incredible campaign that's far from done yet.
If Van Gaal can get his tactics right and utilise the strengths of his star men correctly, then the Netherlands can start to dream of back-to-back finals.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-0 Costa Rica
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