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Netherlands-Brazil, Germany-Argentina promise dazzling World Cup quarter-finals

July 1st, 2010

Not many coaches would admit to being anything but soil-their-shorts terrified by the prospect.

Not with midfield choreographer Kaka beginning to re-discover his rhythm, marauding Douglas Maicon steaming up and down the right touch line with the dispatch of a commuter train, Luis Fabiano in marvellous poaching form and a tightened defensive structure marshalled by the vastly under-appreciated Lucio.

All backed up by Julio Cesar in goal.

So that makes Bert Van Marwijk crazy, right?

“I’m looking forward to this match,” admits the Dutch boss, looking ahead to Friday’s dream encounter between the Netherlands and Brazil at Port Elizabeth. “Against Brazil, perhaps we might be the underdogs for the first time in South Africa. But we are here for one reason, to get the big prize. We have to believe in it. People might have laughed at us when we said we were capable of winning the World Cup. But you have to show a real mentality, a constant focus. I think we are.

“In all of the matches we have played so far, we have shown that we can control a match,” added Van Marwijk. “We have scored seven times. We have been able to show how good we play.

“I think we are improving in every aspect but I would like to see everything converge into one match.”

This match.

The 2010 World Cup reaches the quarter-final stage Friday-Saturday with two matches of the highest possible interest. The Netherlands and Brazil are both sides that have subordinated offensive panache in favour of a more balanced whole. Germany and Diego Maradona’s Argentina, meanwhile, are playing the most adventurous, dynamic soccer here. Set the PVR if you can’t for some reason watch it live.

This one should be a keeper.

In preparations for the Dutch, Brazil took a psychological hit Thursday with news that Manchester City midfielder Elano was certainly out of the Dutch match and could be lost for the remainder of the tournament due to an ankle problem.

Brazilian coach Dunga certainly isn’t taking the Dutch for granted. Not after seeing Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder in their current form.

“We know the Netherlands are a very difficult team to beat and they are very able technically,” he said. “They play their football like South Americans.”

Not that Holland-Brazil is anybody’s idea of an undercard, but the highest-octane of four mildly diverting-to-absolutely riveting quarter-finals has to be Saturday’s Germany-Argentina clash at Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium.

Joachim Low’s youthful German side ran riot over England in their much-anticipated Round of 16 match and but now must contend with the on-fire Gonzalo Higuain and, naturally, the world No. 1, Lionel Messi.

It’s a rematch of 2006, when the host Germans took out Argentina on penalties.

Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller have undoubtedly been among the top players here through four matches. Werder Bremen general manager Klaus Allofs has added fuel to the fire, claiming that Ozil has been the best playmaker throughout the tournament.

Yes, including Messi, the Argentine metronome.

“I have not seen anyone at this World Cup that has played a better ball than Mesut,” claimed Allofs.

“Ozil is an incredible player, capable of coming up with remarkable plays. In short, he is a world-class player. I have not seen any more effective play in South Africa, not even from Lionel Messi.”

Although Argentina, largely on account of their dazzling No. 10, go into the game as slight favourites, the Germans don’t seem concerned.

“We have found weaknesses in their side,” said Low mischievously, “but I will keep that information for my players.

“We have several players in the team who faced them in 2006, that was a very tense game with lots of commitment. We can’t afford many errors against Argentina, they can punish any mistakes very quickly.”

An entire continent is backing Ghana to dispose of Uruguay and reach the semifinals. So the emotional backing they’ll receive at Soccer City is apt to be a major factor in Friday’s late game. The Black Stars can make history by taking the next step but Uruguay provides a stern test to do so.

“We are confident,” announced striker Diego Forlan, “that we can reach the semifinals to give joy to our people.”

Of the four quarter-final matches, only one is generally regarded as a done-and-dusted. The Spanish armada are not expected to be troubled by a Paraguay side that ground out a drab Round of 16 match against Japan, eventually claimed 5-3 on penalties.

“We are still a long way from the semis,” cautioned Xabi Alonso. “We definitely have to ignore the euphoria in the country and the fact that people already see us playing in the semis.”

Spain has produced stretches of scintillating stuff over its past two fixtures in eliminating Chile and Portugal but there is an unshakable sense they have yet to crank the volume up to maximum levels.

Much to Paraguay’s peril.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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