Only four matches remain of the 2014 World Cup—cue the panicking.
However, although 60 matches in Brazil may already be in the books and the vast majority of the action is in the rearview mirror, there's still plenty to look forward to. Two semi-final matchups between four of the world's best national teams will decide who plays for it all in the July 13 final.
There's still the opportunity for an all-South American final between Brazil and Argentina, or two European giants might spoil the party. Needless to say, legacies will be decided over the coming days.
Let's get right to it and break down the Tuesday and Wednesday semi-final clashes.
World Cup Semi-Final Odds
|World Cup Semi-Final Odds|
|Matchup||Team 1 Odds||Team 2 Odds|
|Brazil vs. Germany||Germany 9-5||Brazil 3-2|
|Netherlands vs. Argentina||Argentina 7-5||Netherlands 2-1|
Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, updated as of July 7.
|2014 World Cup Schedule|
|July 8||Semi-final||Brazil vs. Germany||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|July 9||Semi-final||Netherlands vs. Argentina||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|July 12||Third-Place Match||Semi-Final Losers||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|July 13||Final||World Cup Final||3 p.m.||ABC|
Semi-Final Previews, Predictions
Brazil vs. Germany
Although there have been moments in the last few weeks where it looked to be fading away, this half of the semi-final has had Brazil-Germany written all over it since the draw many months ago.
In their machine-like fashion, Germany marched on to the exclusive final four with wins over Algeria and France in the knockout stages. That came after topping the "Group of Death," including a 4-0 drubbing of Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal. The Germans were taken to extra time by Algeria but scored twice in the extra 30.
Meanwhile, the host Brazilians haven't exactly quelled all of their criticism throughout three-plus weeks of football—but they're still alive, and that's huge considering how early nations like Spain, Italy, England and Portugal flamed out.
Still, just getting to the semis isn't sitting particularly well with Brazil after the treacherous injury blow they suffered against Colombia. Neymar took a knee to the back from Colombia's Juan Zuniga, fractured his vertebra and was announced out for the rest of the World Cup.
To make matters worse, as The Times' Oliver Kay noted, Thiago Silva will also be out with an accumulation of yellow cards after his appeal was rejected:
Nothing has been announced for sure, but Chelsea's Willian looks to be the likeliest replacement in the starting XI:
Even with a healthy Neymar and an available Silva, there's no certainty that the Brazilians—even at home—would be a match for the Germans.
Germany's unconventional use of four centre-backs in the defence has worked, with their only conceded goal in three previous matches coming in extra time in a win over Algeria. This unit simply hasn't made mistakes, and whether it has been Chile or Mexico, there have been instances where a strong defence has kept Brazil's offense completely at bay.
Luiz Felipe Scolari certainly has some tricks up his sleeve with his own deep roster of strong attackers, but there's no true replacement for Neymar. He was Brazil's unquestioned leader on the attack, and the extra loads that Fred, Hulk and possibly Willian will have to face will be too much to score against the Germans.
Prediction: Germany 1, Brazil 0
Netherlands vs. Argentina
One team is knocking on the door of a second straight World Cup final—this time hoping to erase the pain of four years ago. Another is led by a player furiously chasing the title of "greatest of all time."
The significance of any World Cup semi-final is through the roof, but this one just feels like something more is at stake for both Argentina and the Netherlands entering Wednesday's match in Sao Paulo.
The Dutch had quite the flair for the dramatic in getting to this one. No national team looked better in the group stage with three wins over Spain, Australia and Chile, but it took two last-gasp goals to beat Mexico—then 120 minutes and penalty kicks to beat Costa Rica in the quarter-finals.
Argentina haven't been dominant in the knockout stage either, but two 1-0 victories over Switzerland and Belgium paved the way for the country's first semi-final appearance since 1990.
But there's no doubt about it—each nation's respective chances for winning largely rely upon these two men, per Live Football:
Of course, the problem for Argentina has been that their chances for winning rely all too much on Lionel Messi. While there's no player you'd rather have that level of reliance on, it has proved problematic and kept the Argentines from exploding with goals like Messi's Barcelona side so often does.
Angel di Maria has arguably been Messi's right-hand man in the attack, scoring off his assist to beat Switzerland and constantly making runs for him. But after being substituted off against Belgium, Di Maria won't be fit to face the Dutch, per FIFA World Cup:
Unless Gonzalo Higuain keeps scoring wonder-goals like he did against Belgium, Messi will be noticeably shorthanded in the attack without Di Maria. That will allow the Dutch's underrated defence—which has held its last three opponents to one combined goal in 300 minutes—to zero in on Messi.
There's no telling if that will be enough to keep Messi scoreless for a third straight match, and betting against the Argentine star in such an instance would be foolish. He'll score, but it won't be enough.
Argentina's defence has been impressive in recent fixtures, but they haven't faced anything close to the Netherlands attack. With Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder clicking on all cylinders, the Dutch will move on to an all-European final.
Prediction: Netherlands 2, Argentina 1
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