Germany 1 – France 0
- Mats Hummels: The German centerback scored the game’s lone goal by manhandling Raphael Varane while getting at the end of Toni Kroos’s free kick. On the defensive side, he did most of his dirty work in his penalty area with 4 clearances from the box, 3 blocked shots and 2 interceptions.
- Manuel Neuer: It was not a performance that required Neuer to stand on his head. Neuer had 5 saves and played the sweeper role perfectly. His shining moment was the save on the final strike of the game. Too often a keeper goes to ground and the ball is placed right where the goalkeeper was standing? Neuer stood his ground and used his relaxes for the save.
- Returing Lahm to Rightback: Jogi went old skool by putting Philipp Lahm at rightback and starting Bastian Schweinsteiger. Lahm still contributed in possession with the most passes in the game (48 out of 54) and frequently connected directly with Thomas Müller. Schweinsteiger, Kroos and Sami Khedira played less on the ball and focused more on disrupting the France midfield.
- France Midfield: They didn’t have an answer for the more defensive German lineup. The three starting midfielders Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi only created 2 chances in open play. The sub for Cabaye, Loïc Remy was able to add another to the total. The best of them was Pogba, who took on defenders and linked with Mathieu Valbuena, but was ultimately fruitless in producing a goal.
- Germany’s Balance: While Germany was able to take France’s midfield out of the game, they had issues creating chances in open play. German had a total of 4 chances in open play and 0 in the first half. Germany played a more defensive lineup, but Schweinsteiger and Khedira are not without creative ability.
- The False 9 with Klose: Miroslav Klose got his first start of the World Cup, which also happened to be his worst match. Klose had 0 shots and only received 2 passes in the penalty area, despite France’s centerbacks allowing him to roam without a marker. The blame can’t be placed completely on Klose, that’s not his game. A German coach utilizing a forward in an incorrect role sounds familiar.
Man of the Match: Manuel Neuer
Brazil 2 – Colombia 1
- Brazilian Centerbacks: Both scored on set pieces and had solid defensive matches. Thiago Silva slipped in on a corner near the far post while the Colombians were watching the ball or David Luiz. Luiz will be remembered more for his howling free kick in the upper 90 than his overall solid play. Silva had a brilliant game with 14 clearances, winning 5 of 7 aerial duels, and had 3 blocks, unfortunately his biggest moment, aside from the goal, was getting his second yellow card of the tournament for getting caught in front of David Ospina on a punt.
- Germany: This is not meant to be crass, especially with the nature of Neymar’s injury. Yet, Germany has an oblivious advantage over Brazil, who will miss Thiago Silva, their captain and one of the best centerbacks in the world, and their best creative and scoring threat. Dante is a more than capable replacement for Silva, however, Brazil will struggle without Neymar. Big Phil proved he’s not afraid to set up negatively, if Willian and/or Ramires are called into the starting XI they should trade in their canary yellow for Chelsea blue.
- James Rodríguez: It was a rough day for Rodríguez, suffering 6 fouls and getting kicked all over the field. At least he can take a small measure of satisfaction walking away from the tournament as the frontrunner for the Golden Boot. He is 2 goals ahead of Thomas Müller and 2 goals and an assist better than Lionel Messi.
- Carlos Velasco Carballo: The biggest talking point from a match between the two teams with the most attacking flare and the brightest stars was the negative and aggressive tactics both sides were allowed to deploy throughout. The knockout round matches are cynical in nature, but both sides were well over what is deemed as simply ‘physical’. The game got dirty because the referee, Carlos Velasco Carballo, refused to pull the card when appropriate. Fifty-four fouls and only 4 cards, one of which was the Silva obstructing the keeper on a punt which is exactly an act of aggression. According to Zonal Marking of the 96 minutes of game time, the ball was only in play for 41:07. Both Juan Cuadrado and Rodríguez were fouled 6 times each (similar to everyone else the ref missed a few more), the greatest source of the fouls came from Brazil’s left flank of Marcelo, Hulk and Paulinho with a combined 13 fouls. A small sample size of European football reporters point to the host getting the majority of the favorable calls. Of course the Neymar injury allowed both sides, and the entire sport media, to put an appropriate critical eye to the officiating failure of the Spanish referee.
- FIFA Medical Protocol: The medical procedure for handling injured players is deplorable. Neymar was basically tossed in the basket without being strapped on a board or stabilized. For sports fans in the United States this was jarring to witness. FIFPRO and every player needs to put their collective weight on FIFA to make sure players with possible spine injuries are never handled like that again. Yes, awful officiating has extreme consequences at times, but the handling of Neymar is inexcusable and completely within their control.
- Neymar Haters’ Tweets: Neymar is a known diver well on his way to reaching Arjen Robben level. If you Tweeted your first reaction to Neymar’s injury by throwing shadow because you thought he dove, you weren’t alone. Millions of other, including myself, thought he was making a meal of it. You do not have to delete the Tweet, simply correct the record. I am not above deleting Tweets due to grammar, clear communication is important, but if you are wrong in the moment own it.
Man of the Match: David Luiz (only because Thiago Silva got a dumb yellow card)
Argentina 1 – Belgium 0
- Argentina Keeping it Close: Argentina has won every game in this World Cup by a single goal margin. Additionally, they scored last in four straight matches.
- Courtois vs. Messi: Thibaut Courtois has shut Lionel Messi out the entire 2013-2014 season and in the World Cup. Barcelona played Atletico Madrid 6 times (2 La Liga, 2 Semi-Final of Champions Leagues and 2 SuperCup) and Messi has 0 goals and 0 assist. Messi had a one-on-one opportunity late in the match and Courtois stoned him.
- Argentina’s Best Total Performance: Without Kun Agüero and an early injury to Ángel di María, Argentina took an early lead off a fortunate bounce then bunkered down. It is not the ideal situations to lose your creative midfielder after 30 minutes. Somehow, Argentina hung on against Belgium despite giving up a significant majority of possession in the second half. Argentina sat back, but collapsed on Belgium once they got within five yards from the penalty area. Of their 10 shots, Belgium only had 3 shots inside the area.
- Blackhorse Picks: With Belgium knocked out all the Blackhorse favorites are eliminated. Remaining are the super powers of world football.
- Inexperience: Belgium has not qualified for the World Cup since 2002 and the Euros since 2000. Only one player on this squad had World Cup experience. In addition, Marc Wilmots had no major international tournament coaching experience. The squad was full of EPL talent, and only Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard has experience going deep into the Champions League.
- Final Pass to Forwards: Neither team was able to make the final pass into the penalty area. Divock Origi received 0 passes in the area, Romelu Lukaku successfully received 2, and Gonzalo Higuaín got 1 (not counting the deflection that fell to him on the goal). This was a problem that Belgium suffered from all tournament. With Higuaín, the number was due in part to their defensive focus after the di María injury.
Man of the Match: Gonzalo Higuaín
Netherland 0 (4) – Costa Rica 0 (3)
- Costa Rica Having Balls: They played their game for a 120 minutes and held the mighty Dutch to no goals. They did it the same way throughout the tournament: amazing goalkeeping, an expertly executed offside trap, good emergency defending, great organization, and grinding play.
- Defending Arjen Robben: Complain about his diving and being a one trick pony, but he was the only consist threat to the stout Costa Rican defense. Yet, Los Ticos had him covered as they blocked all 5 of Robben’s shots, only fouled him outside the box and allowed him 1 chance created in open play.
- Pinto was Better, but Van Gaal was Cleverer: Jorge Luis Pinto wrung every ounce of ability possible out of Costa Rica then found a little bit more. Pinto is an organizational and tactical master and deserves all the praise heaped upon him. Louis Van Gaal is every bit as good as his resume and a bit cleverer. Of course after Van Gaal made the move to put in designated shootout keeper Tim Krul in the 120 minutes, everyone not rooting for the Netherlands wished it blow up in this face. It didn’t, Van Gaal’s a genius and everyone now has a villain they wanted in the Manchester United manager’s seat.
- Anyone that Dropped Out After 80 Minutes: The first 80 was rubbish, the final 40 was thrilling. In the first 80 minutes the Netherlands had 6 shots and 4 on goal and Costa Rica had 3 with 0 on goal. After that the Dutch took 13 shots putting 3 on goal with the Costa Rican defenders blocking 7 including one off the line. Costa Rica finally got a shot on goal also well.
- Dutch Narrative: The Netherlands love patting themselves on the back for their brilliant tactics. Against Mexico, Van Gaal touted his adjustments during the second half water breaks. This match, Krul in the press conference said “I psyched them out. You try to do everything you can without being too aggressive. I tried to get in their minds.” … This is not a criticism of trash talking, just the narrative of Dutch genius woven into every match.
- The Netherlands in Possession: The Dutch looked aimless against another counterattacking team. The long ball they used so well was neutralize when they had to play compact and Costa Rica wouldn’t allow their strikers to get 1 v 1. The three centerbacks combined for the first, third, fifth, and seventh most passes in the match.
Man of the Match: Keylor Navas
This week’s MLS Throw-Ins:
- I have yet to write about Chivas USA as a main column topic, however Erick “El Cubo” Torres is my most frequent mention in the Throw-In section. This week El Cubo provided two goal of the week nominees, both match winners in 1-0 victories. The first was a near mirror image of Tim Cahill’s World Cup goal and the second was a scissor kick in stoppage time.
- After an impressive World Cup, Deandre Yedlin had been rumored with several teams. Pre-World Cup the likely destination was an unnamed Liga MX side. Now he is linked with Liverpool for a trial. This weekend an Italian news source said a deal between AS Roma and the Seattle Sounders is complete with Yedlin leaving at the end of the MLS season. Two things stand out regardless of the validity of the Italian report. One, why should Yedlin, who has played 42 games with Seattle’s first team last season, have to cut into his season for a trial? It makes no sense for Seattle. Second, does the fact that both teams are under ownership groups from the United States play into this? Is he more likely to transfer to a team with American owners or do domestic soccer reporters have more sources in these American ownership groups?
- Does any club have more desirable players than Sporting Kansas City? Oriol Rosell transferred to Sporting Clube de Portugal a week before the World Cup. Eighteen year old Erik Palmer-Brown is long rumored to be a Juventus target. Now the returning USMNT centerback Matt Besler has received “enormous interest” from European clubs. Besler was the most consistent and arguably the best USMNT outfield player. SKC is not afraid to sell key players midseason, last year they sold Kei Kamara to Middlebrough and still won the MLS Cup. Despite the World Cup absences and numerous injuries, SKC was able to maintain near the top of the Eastern standings. SKC has the depth to move forward without Besler, or at least they believe they do.