I just can’t believe that this is the first World Cup EVER where both Argentina and Brazil have reached the semifinals. I’m not a stats junky, but that doozy is quite amazing.
Some thoughts on Day 21…
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• Just as Germany and Brazil did on Friday, Argentina lifted its game when it had to and put in an impressive display against Belgium. As usual Lionel Messi was the talisman; just brilliant, especially in the first half. No team depends on one player as much as Argentina does with Messi, and that is just fine. He has carried this side this far, and he can’t seem to hear his many detractors at the moment.
• Gonzalo Higuain was much better today after some poor performances in Brazil. He scored a goal, should have scored another, and by the looks of him when he was subbed off had left everything on the pitch.
• Similar to Germany, Argentina played it safe in this one—happy to sit deep and defend, and despite having a little difficulty with the late aerial assault, never really looked like losing to Belgium.
• Martin Demichelis was almost the villain when Romelu Lukaku's late cameo came close to coming up trumps, but overall the much-maligned Manchester City man played very well. I’m sure much of the angst over him revolved around his hair, so lopping it off pre-tournament might be quietly as important a moment as we've experienced in Brazil.
• Can't say I'm sad to see Costa Rica leave the World Cup. They did their job, provided a fantastic storyline, exposed some reality checks for some so called powers, and revealed the brilliance of Keylor Navas to the world. Playing for pens from the opening whistle though? Please. I get the defensive approach, and I did appreciate the odd explosive counter, but losing in the shootout serves them right. Cruel game sometimes. Or is that Krul?
• Luis van Gaal is playing this World Cup, eh? He should have waited until after the tournament to ink a deal at Old Trafford, as he could have prized a few extra million. He pulled RVP for Huntelaar versus Mexico (and he gets an assist and a game winning goal), and he followed that up with a goalkeeper switch for penalties, and it works!
• Netherlands-Costa Rica wasn’t a great match, but it will be remembered for a great extra-time and fascinating shootout, so once again the World Cup delivers.
• It is quite possible the greatest World Cup we've seen won't have a truly great team, or even a truly great performance. But you what? That's okay.