World Cup 2014 has given us everything so far: Last-minute drama, extra time aplenty and, of course, goals.
Arguably the best tournament to date, there are now just six more matches remaining in Brazil as the climax fast approaches.
While a very depressing reality, Day 24’s action should keep the thought of post-World Cup blues at bay as the final two quarter-finals play out. Here, we take a look ahead to the day’s action and assess who could reach the last four.
|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 on Course for First Semi-Final in 24 Years
Argentina have become the great underachievers on the international stage in the last few decades.
Though always blessed with a wealth of talent in their squad, the Argentinians have failed to make it beyond the quarter-finals since they were beaten finalists back in 1990.
However, they appear more prepared than ever to end their unwanted poor run in Brazil, with just Belgium standing in their way of a place in the last four.
That’s not to say that Argentina have played brilliantly well in this year’s tournament, but they have mastered the ability of crossing the line even without performing.
Integral behind their four tournament victories so far is star man Lionel Messi, who has chipped in with four goals and an assist so far with sensational all-round displays to boot.
There have been suggestions of Argentina being a one-man team, but manager Alejandro Sabella said that it’s the team that make Messi, not the other way around—per FIFA.com:
"Any team that has a player like Messi will greatly depend on him. But I believe that what he's doing is the work of the entire team. He's the best player in the world, but he's part of a team. Four years ago he was criticised. Now they say we depend on Messi too much. It's not easy."
Argentina have more than enough big names in their line-up to cope without Messi, but it’s safe to say that his contribution so far has been invaluable—impressing the likes of former England striker Gary Lineker:
I can't think of another man that excites me quite as much as Messi does.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 25, 2014
The Barcelona man will have his work cut out against the stubborn Belgians, though, who have kept three clean sheets in their four matches in normal time.
With so many stars on show, it’ll likely be a battle of the defences in Brasilia, and Argentina look like just having enough to emerge on top.
Prediction: Argentina 1-0 Belgium
Costa Rica’s Admirable Journey Could be Coming to an End
Everyone loves an underdog, and Costa Rica’s 2014 World Cup story has been a classic tale of odds-defying brilliance.
After emerging through Group D as winners at the expense of Italy, Uruguay and England, Costa Rica triumphed over Greece on penalties in the round of 16 despite being reduced to 10 men.
Such courage and determination is exactly what a lesser-known nation needs in the World Cup, but with the Netherlands their next Goliath, it could be the end of the road for Jorge Luis Pinto’s side.
The Dutch have been tactically perfect in the World Cup so far, setting up with a counter-attacking policy that has worked wonders—even in the dying embers of matches.
With two minutes to go against Mexico in the last round, the Netherlands turned the game on its head with two quick-fire goals to send them through.
They’ll be determined not to make the same mistakes against Costa Rica and will turn to their danger man to see them into the last four.
Arjen Robben has been the star of the Dutch show so far, chalking up three goals and producing consistent brilliance in Brazil.
His stellar form hasn’t gone unnoticed, either, with Joey Barton remarking just how impressive he’s been:
Whilst the World was watching Ronaldo and Messi, Robben has came along and lit this tournament up. MVP so far...— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) June 23, 2014
The Bayern Munich man will be key to the Netherlands’ chances of progression, but he recently told FIFA.com that his side will need to be at their best to overcome the challenge posed by the Costa Ricans:
“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 Netherlands fans, manager Louis van Gaal is the master of preparing well for matches, and so long as he gets his tactics right once again, the Dutch will be in the semi-finals.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-0 Costa Rica