Just four games remain in this World Cup, a saddening prospect for football fanatics across the globe. The fervent feast of magnificent action that this tournament has served up will be a void that’s difficult to fill when the competition comes to an end on July 13, but there’s still plenty to be sorted before then.
Who will win the World Cup?
The semi-finals have arrived, and often, it’s these clashes in the last-four that produce some of the most enthralling moments in World Cup history.
Think back to the iconic tears shed by Eusebio in 1966 and Paul Gascoigne in 1990 as their respective nations fell at the semi-final stage. Think back to Fabio Grosso’s late winner against Germany in the 2006 semi-final and the passion that poured out of him. Think back to Diego Maradona's exceptional individual performance against Belgium in the 1986 semi-final.
Hopefully these games will give us a couple more moments of that kind of raw, unhinged emotion that’s so synonymous with the World Cup. To ensure you don’t miss a second of the action, here’s all the information you need on where and when to catch the pair of semi-final ties, and an overview of what to expect from these two enormous clashes.
|Match||Date||Kick-off Time||TV Info||Live Stream Details|
|Brazil vs. Germany||July 8||9 p.m. (BST), 4 p.m (ET)||BBC (UK), ESPN (US)||BBC iPlayer (UK), WatchESPN (US)|
|Netherlands vs. Argentina||July 9||9 p.m. (BST), 4 p.m (ET)||ITV (UK), ESPN (US)||ITV Player (UK), WatchESPN (US)|
BBC, ITV, ESPN
Brazil vs. Germany
Somewhat remarkably, these two teams will meet for just the second time ever in a World Cup when they lock horns on Tuesday in the first of the two semi-finals. The first time they met was in the 2002 final, where Ronaldo broke German hearts with a superb brace.
Germany will be out to avenge that disappointment from 12 years ago by dumping the hosts out tantalisingly short of the final itself. As already mentioned, Die Mannschaft know what it feels like to crash out at this late stage in front of a home crowd after Grosso's heroics in 2006, and they’ll be looking to inflict similar heartache on Brazil.
Joachim Low’s team will fancy their chances of doing exactly that. The hosts will be without both Neymar and Thiago Silva for this vital clash, and when you consider that the aforementioned duo have been Brazil’s standout players amongst some pretty average team performances, the Selecao’s prospects don’t look overly promising.
Bundesliga expert Lucas Swain thinks, given the absence of these two massive figures, that the Germans should be thanking their lucky stars:
Neymar out of the World Cup, Thiago Silva suspended. Germany can count their blessings.— Lucas Swain (@BundesligaLucas) July 4, 2014
But it’d be naive to rule out the Brazilians. They still have players that can hurt this Germany side, and those backing the men in yellow will be hoping that the likes of Hulk, Oscar and David Luiz will be united and galvanised by the prospect of being the underdogs ahead of this one.
There’s been a sense of shirked responsibility from some of these Brazilian players, as if they’re waiting for a moment of magic from Neymar to heave them over the line. Now, they all must take collective responsibility if they’re to beat this fine German outfit and keep dreams of the Hexa—a sixth World Cup win—alive.
Netherlands vs. Argentina
After hitting the woodwork three times in 120 minutes of action, you would have been forgiven for thinking it was not to be the Netherlands’ day against Costa Rica. A combination of superb defending from Los Ticos and downright rotten luck conspired to keep the Oranje out, and given their horrendous record from penalty shootouts, their chances of progression looked bleak.
But thanks to steely nerve and some astute management from Louis van Gaal, they made it through, and there is a growing belief that this team could potentially go all the way in this tournament. After all, they’ve been on the brink of elimination against both Costa Rica and Mexico, and they clung on in both occasions.
Team spirit has been vital to the Oranje cause, and Dutch football expert Elko Born paid tribute to the togetherness Van Gaal has managed to conjure within the Netherlands camp:
Holland's team cohesion is just special under LVG. From the guy wearing the No. 1 shirt to the reserve goalkeeper, everyone's in it together— Elko Born (@Elko_B) July 6, 2014
Inspired by some very intelligent management and some blistering showings from Arjen Robben, this Dutch team has been one of the must-watch outfits of the 2014 tournament. They’ll also have fond memories of when an Oranje side last faced Argentina in World Cup knockout match, as a late Dennis Bergkamp wonder goal sent the Albiceleste home in the 1998 quarter-final.
But this Argentina side are a little different, primarily because they have Lionel Messi. The Barcelona man has dazzled at this World Cup, and he's looked intent on dragging this Argentina team all the way to the final with a plethora of virtuoso performances.
Messi has seemed to relish taking on the brunt of the offensive responsibility for the Albiceleste, but the news that Sergio Aguero is set to return for Alejandro Sabella’s side will still come as a major boost for Argentinian hopes. Angel di Maria is set to miss out though, as reported here by BBC Sport:
Di Maria out but Aguero back for Argentina against Netherlands for World Cup semi-final http://t.co/t6eGRLMb4V— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) July 6, 2014
Van Gaal is sure to have a plan to contain those two effervescent forwards, but given the tactical flexibility the Dutch boss has showcased in the tournament so far, it’s pretty difficult to take a guess at what that might be. Van Gaal is most likely to instruct his team to sit deep and counter-attack through Robin van Persie and the mercurial Robben.
Nonetheless, Messi has showcased time after time in this tournament that he is capable of finding space against even the tightest of defences. If he performs to the levels we’ve seen so far, then it could be a long afternoon for this young Dutch defence.