Below is what’s on tap in South Africa.
Friday, July 2
- Netherlands vs. Brazil – 10 a.m. ET, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
- Uruguay vs. Ghana — 2:30 p.m. ET, Soccer City, Johannesburg
Saturday, July 3
- Argentina vs. Germany – 10 a.m. ET, Green point Stadium, Cape Town
- Paraguay vs. Spain — 2:30 p.m. ET, Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
Netherlands vs. Brazil
The complete preview of this clash of the titans can be read here.
Uruguay vs. Ghana
The only matchup without a traditional soccer powerhouse (although Uruguay has two World Cups), the afternoon match between Ghana and Uruguay will likely be characterized by opportunism. Both "La Celeste" (the preferred moniker of the Uruguayans, translating to "The Sky Blue" for the team’s jerseys) and "The Black Stars" (named for the emblem in the center of Ghana’s flag) have been defensively stout, led by Uruguay captain and backline anchor Diego Lugano and Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson, respectively.
Given both squads’ penchant for the counterattacking style, the question must be asked: "Who is actually going to control the ball?" The likely answer will be Uruguay, as their midfield featuring F.C. Porto workhorse Álvaro Pereira may simply outclass that of their opponents.
Uruguay’s strikers, former Manchester United star Diego Forlan, as well as Luis Suarez — who ran away with the Dutch league scoring title this past year for Ajax Amsterdam — have been among the tournament’s most impressive players. Each has scored multiple goals, and we’re not talking about tap-ins.
Without their best player, Michael Essien, and with their second-best player, Sulley Muntari, recovering from injury, Ghana’s success in South Africa has been rather surprising. Still, as witnessed in their match against the United States, they have capitalized on their relatively few scoring opportunities. Target man Asamoah Gyan has impressed, as have the "two princes", Kevin Prince-Boateng and Prince Tagoe. A healthy Muntari, though, would make a huge difference for the team.
Prediction: Uruguay 2, Ghana 0
Argentina vs. Germany
The second most-anticipated match of the quarterfinal round features the tournament’s two highest-scoring teams. Germany, a team renowned for overachieving at nearly every World Cup, has now advanced to the quarterfinals in every World Cup since 1982.
Normally known for their physical play and tireless effort, Germany features more flare and speed than usual in the form of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller, ages 21 and 20, respectively. Stalwarts Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose have upped their combined career World Cup goal tally to 17, and Captain Phil Lahm has constantly impacted the action. Still, perhaps nobody has impressed more in the World Cup than Ozil.
Argentina, though, features the world’s most talented attack force. To put things in perspective, Diego Milito, the best player on 2010 European Champions Inter Milan, rides the pine for the team in the blue and white stripes. While Lionel Messi has received nearly all of the attention despite going scoreless in South Africa, the bulldoggish Carlos Tevez and opportunistic Gonzalo Higuain have each been goal machines.
Manager Diego Maradona, the greatest Argentine soccer player of all time, has done his best to pull an "Ozzie Guillen," constantly making a mockery of himself in the media, but also inspiring his players.
Questions remain, though, about Argentina’s defense and goalkeeping, both of which have looked shaky thus far in South Africa.
Prediction: Germany 3, Argentina 3 – Germany wins on penalty kicks.
Paraguay vs. Spain
In Paraguay, soccer is religion, and with its first quarterfinals appearance ever set for this Saturday, the country could not be more ecstatic.
While they may be the least-talented team in the quarterfinals, they have consistently impressed in 2010. First, they finished second in South American World Cup qualifying, well ahead of the talented Argentines. Next, they won Group F, which featured defending champions Italy.
Unfortunately for the Paraguayans, they have the honor of facing Spain in the quarterfinals. "La Furia Roja" (The Red Fury – as Spain’s team is known) must be among the favorites to win the title, despite their slip-up against Switzerland in their opening match. Spain’s midfield, featuring free kick expert Xavi, cannon-shot Xabi Alonso, and Andres Iniesta, the world’s best dribbler, is the greatest on earth by a fair margin.
Furthermore, if there’s one thing striker David Villa does, its score goals. He’s netted at least one in each of Spain’s last three matches.
Spain’s defenders, though, have a tendency to get themselves too involved on the offensive end and leave their goal exposed.
That would have to happen quite a few times for them to have any trouble.
Prediction: Spain 3, Paraguay 1
All players will receive a clean slate in regards to yellow cards after the quarterfinal round. Each quarterfinal matchup contains a South American team, the first time this has occurred in World Cup history.