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World Cup: Semifinals

Well we are almost at the end of the 2014 World Cup Brazil, having reached the Semifinals.  Just like most NCAA Basketball Tournaments, the final four teams are a lot of the usual suspects.  On one end we have a five-time winner facing a three-time winner, and a two-time winner faces off against a three-time runner-up.  Let’s look at the match-ups:

Brazil vs Germany-  Brazil has won the World Cup on five occasions, but are one of two champions never to have won one in their home country.  The only other time they hosted, they lost the title to Uruguay.  While Germany owns three World Cup titles, all of them were as West Germany.  Since unifying the two Germanys with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union, Germany has only made one appearance in the championship, a 2-0 loss to Brazil at the 2002 World Cup Japan/Korea.  That match-up, surprisingly, is the only other time that the two powers have ever met each other, until the semifinal match in this edition of the World Cup.  For the fourth straight tournament, Germany finds itself among the final four teams still alive– they were runners-up in 2002, and third place in both 2006 and 2010.  Brazil wasn’t looking that great through the round of 16, when they needed penalty kicks to get by Chile.  Against Colombia, though, they finally started playing the beautiful game as a team.  That was until Neymar was kneed in his back, which fractured a vertebrae and ended his 2014 World Cup.  The question becomes can Brazil beat a loaded Germany squad without their biggest star?  Let’s not forget that Brazil will also be without their captain, Tiago Silva.  Yes Brazil has plenty of talent still remaining with Hulk, Oscar, and David Luiz, but Germany comes in with Muller, Lahm, Ozil, Schweinsteiger, and Klose can come off the bench and add scoring punch.  This is, hands down, the best German side since the 1990 team that won it all in Italy– led by the scoring of Jurgen Klinsmann.  While the Brazilians have a strong goalkeeper in Julio Cesar, their one weak spot is the back line.  Germany with all their weapons will take full advantage of this fact.  Germany wins 2-0 and head to the Championship match at historic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Netherlands vs Argentina-  The Netherlands is the only selection in this year’s semifinals to have never won it all.  They have been to the final on three occasions, most recently in 2010, and lost all three finals– including in 1978 to Argentina.  Argentina has won two World Cups, but haven’t really challenged much since winning it all in 1986– thanks to the “Hand of God.”  If any match can bring that exciting offensive shootout,  without a doubt it is this one.  Netherlands brings the scoring punch of Robben, Van Persie, and Sneijder– plus they can bring Huntelaar off the bench to add more punch.  While the big names on this roster remain the same from four years ago, only seven players return from that roster.  Most of this team is in their early 20s and have two to three successful World Cups ahead of them.  As for Van Persie, Robben, and Sneijder, they don’t have as many opportunities left.  They have certainly been playing this whole tournament as a team on a mission, and they certainly have the squad to fulfill that mission.  Argentina comes in with plenty of weapons like Aguero and Higuain up front with arguably the best player in the world, Messi.  However, the Argentines seem to be waiting for Messi to carry them all the way to the title.  That is asking for the impossible.  Di Maria was finally beginning to step up for the Argentine side, but will miss the semifinal against the Netherlands.  This game will go back and forth all over the pitch and will see plenty of scoring.  In the end, the Dutch will come out on top 3-2– guaranteeing the first time a European team wins a World Cup in the Western Hemisphere.

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