We are now into the real business end of the 2014 Fifa World Cup finals in Brazil and this tournament continues to be exciting as it makes history in various ways. We now have a situation where you only have teams that topped their groups making the quarter-finals. So it does not matter whether you were in the so-called group of death or a supposedly weak group, but second has not been good enough this time.
That said, if you take out the departure of Italy and Spain, coupled with the progress of the likes of Costa Rica and Colombia, there are very few surprises on the line-up of the quarter-finals. Most of the other teams would have expected to get to this stage and we are almost guaranteed high-profile matches up to the very end. Of course, most of the big teams just scraped through after being fully stretched.
By the time you read this, Brazil will have hosted Colombia at one of their less favourite venues in Forta Leza. The romantic in me would have hoped for the continuation of that bad record because it would be sensational for James Rodriguez and company to continue making headlines. In that situation, however, the only hope would be that the public protests that preceded the finals would not return.
In the earlier quarter-final yesterday, one former World Cup winner would have exited the tournament between France and Germany. Personally, I would be indifferent to whatever result in the historical Estadio do Maracana although a French win would not really hurt. Again it is the romantic side of me that makes me think the flu-struck Germans are slight favourites and I am going for the underdog.
The only exception to this principle will be this evening when Lionel Messi’s Argentina take on the plucky Belgium side in the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha. I am desperate to see the Barcelona star add a World Cup medal to his already impressive haul of accolades. I am, therefore, hoping that the White and Sky Blues can play better than they have done so far and inch even closer to their third crown.
The romantic principle will return in the latter fixture between Netherlands and Costa Rica where the Dutch are clearly overwhelming favourites. What a story it would be, however, should La Sele cause an upset and set up a semi-final tie with Argentina on Wednesday! Of course, given what I have said earlier, I would be hoping that such a result would be the last of the upsets up to the very end. Wishes!
Meanwhile, it seems likely that Luis Suarez would indeed be leaving Liverpool for Barcelona. I maintain that I would have loved to see him remain at Anfield, but he will go with my gratitude and best wishes. I will remember him for the good things that he did in the red shirt of Liverpool because that is what matters to me. His behaviour may not be the most exemplary, but he was hired to score goals and he has delivered.