It wasn’t quite the spectacle we had hoped for before kick-off and then it proved to be downright dull. Both teams seemed to have an inherent fear of being defeated which ultimately led to one of them being defeated anyway. That one, unfortunately for the Dutch, was the Netherlands. Coach Louis van Gaal had notified everyone that he had been instructed by the KNVB to guide the Netherlands to the minimum requirement of the semi-finals, which he duly did. However, looking back on this game I’m sure he’d be looking back on it as a lost opportunity.
Argentina on the other hand created some chances but they were also guilty of not really committing to the win. As the 90 minute mark approached both teams seemed contented to settle for the 0-0 and take the game to a further 30 minutes. As it wore on, it seemed inevitable that the game would be going to penalties and thus the lottery of which keeper could make the difference.
Mascherano epitomised the sheer determination and ruthless ability to place a stranglehold on the Dutch strike force that ultimately paved the way to victory. His patrolling runs in front of the Argentinian back four, notably marking Dutch danger man Arjen Robben out of the game allowed the Argentinians to set up a platform based on the philosophy of “You’re not going to score today”. It was really quite simple.
Uncharacteristically, the Netherlands hadn’t scored a single goal in 240 minutes of knockout football since the two late goals scored to knock Mexico out in the Round of 16. Captain and talisman Robin van Persie was unusually quiet against Costa Rica and Argentina, his usual movement not up to the usual standards, which effectively allowed the Costa Ricans and the Argentinians to push up and blunt the Dutch attacking style.
The penalty shoot-out had me and pretty much everyone baffled – Ron Vlaar first penalty kick taker? This was completely unexpected and ultimately it cost them the chance to go through. Fair play to Vlaar for having the guts to walk up and take it but a defender is never to be the best choice to put a penalty past a good quality goalkeeper from 12 yards. Van Gaal had said after the match had ended that two players had refused to take that first penalty leaving Vlaar who did have a very good game as the only choice due to him being ‘full of confidence’. Nuts indeed.
It’s something a little different for the Goal of the Day as we’ve awarded it to a goalkeeper; not for scoring but for keeping them out. His two saves in the penalty shoot-out ensured that Argentina made it through to their first World Cup final since 1990 and subsequently have the chance to win the World Cup in their bitterest International rivals backyard. Keep your fingers crossed for the Germans, Brazil!
A major gripe is the way it always turns out; there are no grudge matches. Matches like Brazil v Argentina in the final or even the 3rd Place Playoff and Germany v Holland in the same scenarios. Even then the 3rd Place Playoff would have been worth watching.
The first of the highly anticipated World Cup semi-finals got underway last night in the city of Belo Horizonte between the expectant host nation Brazil and perennial challengers Germany.
To describe what occurred last night as a ‘battle’ would be doing a great disservice to the demolition job that Germany inflicted upon the Brazilian defence last night, as well as their whole team come to think of it. It was probably the most surreal moment that I personally have ever witnessed in watching sport. It was almost dream-like in the way the Brazilian defence simply melted away due to the swathes of German attacks.
From the very start, the Germans looked to dominate the game and apart from one potentially dangerous cross in the first 10 minutes from Brazilian left-back Marcelo, they did. The tone was set for a complete victory when Thomas Müller scored from a German corner in the 11th minute. What proceeded to occur in the following 15 minutes will probably not only live long in the memories of every Brazilian and certainly every German present in the stadium last night but also in everyone’s who watched too.
When Miroslav Klose’ record-breaking goal in the 23rd minute ensured Brazil’s bad start had slipped a notch to ‘worse’, Toni Kroos’ two goals in the 24th and 26th minutes made certain it had slipped two notches to ‘nightmare’ and when Sami Khedira proceeded to make it 5-0 in the 29th minute…well Brazil had slipped into the 7th circle of hell by then.
It wasn’t to end there though as substitute André Schürrle made sure it was dreamland for the Germans as he made it 7-0 with two goals in the 69th and 79th minutes. Oscar’s last minute could hardly be described as a consolation as Germany had simply moved into ‘save yourself for the final mode’. A quite remarkable evening has ensued and added credence to the claim that Brazil 2014 is quite possibly the most remarkable World Cup ever.
Well what more can be said of this German team? They were simply magnificent and although you could say that as good as they were, Brazil were just as bad that would be massively understating their performance. Germany ensured that every aspect of their game was spot on, transitionally between defence and attack and then ensuring that when Brazil had the ball it was virtually impossible for them to break through as they had a defined structure to what they were doing.
Of course there was stand out individuals. Mats Hummels in the middle of defence was outstanding, a natural leader that looked like the final link in the armour. Toni Kroos was equally outstanding in midfield, dictating the German tempo, demanding the ball and never wasting it and who can forget Miroslav Klose; the ultimate poacher it seems. 16 World Cup goals beating Brazilian Ronaldo’s World Cup record of 15 and ensuring that the German’s rubbed salt into those goal-ridden Brazilian wounds.
On the other hand, Brazil were simply awful. A collection of individuals who looked overcome with the pressure of representing this great nation in a World Cup on home soil. To many, even before the tournament started, it seemed clear the Brazilian squad was nowhere near good enough and was geared more to pragmatism rather than traditional Brazilian skill and flair.
David Luiz was the archetypal Brazilian centre-back, a marauding presence who joins in attacks…even when you’re 5-0 down within half an hour. It was a ridiculous performance from the stand-in captain who was also lucky not to be sent off for flailing elbows and reckless challenges.
It was quite a devastatingly lethal finish while collecting a lofted ball from Müller and on the half volley lashing in past the hapless Julio Cesar. It served to compound Brazil’s misery as well as confirm German dominance on a quite outstanding night for German football.
Quite a big gripe that Brazil didn’t make it to the final top play in the spiritual home of football, the Maracana Stadium in the World Cup final. It would have been a privilege to see, especially against Argentina as well as then it would have been truly special.
An extremely poor performance put paid to that dream though for many Brazilians and they will not allow that team to forget it either.
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The World Cup quarter-finals are over and done with and we know the semi-final line-ups. The semi-finals could provide Brazil 2014 with some of its most memorable moments if there is anything to be gained from knowing who the participants will be. Participate on your own with this Guts sport bonus! Instant boost on all the action
The Netherlands vs. Argentina revives memories of the 1978 World Cup final when that great Dutch team of the 1970’s again failed at the final hurdle but can they overcome the pressure of expectation from their homeland this time around? Argentina on the other hand are waiting for something to click that hasn’t quite yet and they stumbled over the line vs. Belgium in what was a tepid quarterfinal.
Germany produced a winning performance when they needed to against France and proved they are a force, regardless if they are playing well or not. Brazil find themselves somewhat struggling to embrace the pressure that comes with being Brazilian and playing in a World Cup in your home country.
The Brazilians managed to defeat a vibrant Columbian side in what was the best game of the four quarterfinals in terms of match pace and entertainment. An injury to star man and keeper of the castle, Neymar, will prove to be a downer on what has been an excellent tournament so far but Brazil must fight their way through the Germans if they’re to have any chance.
The Costa Ricans pushed the Dutch all the way in their quarterfinal only to be defeated on penalties after a bizarre and inspired piece of management by Louis van Gaal. However, the Costa Ricans had a marvellous chance in extra-time to win it only for a splendid save from Jasper Cillessen to deny them a special victory.
The Costa Ricans though had enhanced and galvanised a true underdog spirit that had developed from them exceeding all expectations. They comfortably dealt with their group in which they had been expected to be the whipping boys. As it turns out, it was quite the opposite.
The Belgians were never able to provide fans and viewers with the style and vibrancy that their squad seemingly warranted. Only on a few occasions did they threaten a somewhat suspect Argentinian defence and even then their attacking play became as predictable as Eden Hazard cutting in onto his right-foot.
A quite splendid free kick that was a special moment in a match that was providing all the thrills and spills of a World Cup match in South America. Striking the ball from all of 25-yards, the ball flew at an extraordinary pace into the Columbian net via the top corner and it was a magical strike that is added to the list of outstanding goals already at this tournament.
Again, I fail to understand what FIFA have been instructing these guys to do. I genuinely feel sorry for some, the treasured few who try and let the game flow and refuse to be bullied by players and coaches alike who jump around on the touchline like babies who have just had their favourite toy taken away. I commend that few.
However, some have no understanding of the game at all. They blow their whistles for nothing tackles or 50/50 balls such as players jumping with goalkeepers and then proceed to let a player off for a 3rd (yes a 3rd) bookable challenge such as the Costa Rican defender Gonzalez. Where is the common sense?
Wimbledon 2014 was a tournament that not only caught the imagination and managed to revive the concept of the underdog but it also revived the love of beautiful tennis.
With Andy Murray’s elimination at the hands of 11th seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov at the quarter-final stage, British interests in the tournament were ended but our wonder wasn’t.
Roger Federer seemed to be back to his unbeatable best, dropping just one set on his route to the final whereas Novak Djokovic seems to just love the drama of a 5-setter to overcome his opponent. Get a Guts casino welcome code and overcome your casino opponents as well.
There were some famous casualties over the course of the tournament in both the men’s and women’s draws, notably Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Venus and Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and the wildcard entry, 19 year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios provided the underdog entertainment for the men’s draw while in the women’s 6th seed Petra Kvitová destroyed 13th seed Eugenie Bouchard in the final 6-3 6-0 to complete a somewhat unexpected finale.
The men’s final though was a story of familiarity and quality. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic served up a classic final in which the momentum would swing either way until finally Djokovic broke Federer’s resistance and it enabled him to put pressure on the Federer serve at 15-40 that proved too much for the Swiss legend.
As far as the men are concerned, there were a number of candidates for this award as Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov could have easily have won it due to making it through to the semi-finals and pushing Novak Djokovic all the way but 19 year-old Australian wildcard Nick Kyrgios deserves the award simply for his route to the quarters was fairly tough.
His 1st round match was won in 4-sets, his 2nd round match against 13th seed Richard Gasquet was won in 5-sets, his 3rd and 4th round matches were won in 4-sets as well throwing the elimination of the great Rafael Nadal into the mix as well. His tournament was defined by an audacious through-the-legs shot that had beaten Nadal all ends up. Ultimately, it was a step too far for him in the quarterfinals but it can be considered a great tournament from the 19 year-old.
Petra Kvitová deserves the women’s representation, as her final performance was quite simply outstanding. For the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and numerous other dangerous opponents to be outclassed or prove themselves short of the required quality was quite a testament to how well the pre-tournament unfancied players played. Eugenie Bouchard and Petra Kvitová proved better than the rest and battled it out in the final.
A shared award for the fallen ex-champions, Nadal and Murray were not quite up to scratch at Wimbledon 2014, so much so that they were not missed at all by the end of the tournament.
Murray’s presence, or lack of, proved to be an enhancement of the tournament considering how much better Dimitrov was on the day against him and by how far he pushed Novak Djokovic.
Nadal arguably wasn’t on form from the very start of the tournament. He dropped the 1st set of every match he played, ensuring he had to battle through each time. The 4th round match was ultimately too much for him as the young Australian proved to have the better of him.
It has got to be Kyrgios’ shot vs. Rafael Nadal, almost Roger Federer-esque in its execution, the through-the-legs shot was beautifully controlled and won the point for the Australian too which made it all the better.
Must Andrew Castle commentate on everything tennis related? Must he? Frankly he is what makes the experience good instead of great in watching two top professionals compete for the top prize in tennis. His meaningless quips, uninteresting facts and comments were a massive put off.
Here’s the thing Andrew, let Tim Henman who despite never having won Wimbledon, knows his stuff, get on with providing commentary along with a great like Jimmy Connors who again knows his stuff, while you make the tea and fetch the strawberries and cream.
Are you tuning in to the Tour de France this morning? The historic race will enjoy its 'Grand Depart' from Leeds this morning and millions of people will turn on the telly to watch.
Some of the guts.com team might even venture into the Yorkshire hills to see the action live over the weekend.
Anyway, whether you're a Tour de France fanatic or you're tuning in for the first time, put your knowledge to the test with our Tour de France trivia quiz. Average score here: 6/10. Surely you can do better? Do better in your betting as well wtih these Guts.com sports promotion codes!
A highly antipicated day in the tennis quarter-finals as there were some potentially stunning match-ups and by producing another shock result, Wimbledon 2014 endeared itself to the true-underdog supporter. With 19 year-old Nick Kyrgios knocking Rafa Nadal out in the previous round, a shock was bound to happen in this the subsequent rounds and Murray v Dimitrov provided it as the Scot was beaten in straight sets as he slipped to his lowest ranking in 6 years.
However, tennis can be a cruel sport and Andy Murray simply didn't turn up and he was punished brutally by the powerful Bulgarian. There were some other interesting match-ups too that produced a thrill or two and were equally classic-inducing tennis matches. One thing was for sure, Wimbledon 2014 has proved that tennis is more than an able substitute for World Cup action.
Unfancied Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov had already caused a stir or two in the tournament but there was next to no hope that he would not only defeat one of the favourites for the tournament but completelt obliterate him in straight sets. It was an incredible performance from Dimitrov and Murray had no answer to the power of his serve of his devastating winners when pushed back to the service line.
It was a devastating blow for Murray but it's arguable that as good as Dimitrov was, Murray was equally as bad. It'll now be interesting to see how quickly Murray can recover from the blow of this and it'll be equally interesting to see if Dimitrov can carry this performance forward in his meeting with Novak Djokovic.
For a defending Wimbledon champion, Andy Murray put up quite a limp defence against the unfancied Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. It was like a man against a boy in the end and the the straight set victory did not flatter Dimitrov at all.
In fact, if the match had carried on, there was no way that I could see Murray recovering from such a deficit and the crowd sensed that too as all too often there were noises and groans of audible disappointment at every Murray mistake from the Wimbledon faithful.
It made for painful viewing as Murray was ruthlessly dispatched and with his self-belief, his chances of Wimbledon glory too were sent by the wayside as he failed to recover from a first-set hiding in which Dimitrov was utterly and totally dominant.
Novak Djokovic and Mario Cilic served up a thrilling match in which both players took the lead before Djokovic was finally able to keep Cilic at bay for the remaining two sets. However, it was closer than predicted for the Serb as he looks to re-capture the title he last won in 2011.
The first set was as straightforward as it gets these days for Djokovic as he ruthlessly tore Cilic apart 6-1. However, Cilic began to quietly and quickly assert his authority over the following two sets as he first drew level and then took the lead in sets 3-6 6-7 winning a tie-break in the latter. The remaining two sets however were comfortably won by Djokovic 6-2 6-2 as Cilic simply ran out of steam and looked a shadow of the player who had rattled Djokovic in sets 2 and 3.
The Big Four of tennis, similar to the so called Big Four of football, continually dominate tennis and rightly so because they are the best around. People want to see them play because generally they serve up the best tennis and the greatest entertainment that the paying public could pay for.
While there is always support for the underdog, there is a tendancy for any match-up between two underdogs to become slightly edgy and thus not as intense and nail biting as those between the top players. With 2 of the remaining so called Big Four remaining in Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, the hope is that these two meet in the final as they would undoubtedly produce a magical final due to what is at stake.
It was quite a way to end the last-16 phase of the 2014 World Cup and definitely added to the aura that this tournament is acquiring. Already considered one of the best World Cup’s in terms of entertainment and goals in modern times, the 2014 edition keeps delivering albeit sometimes unintentionally.
The first game listed on Day 20 was Argentina against the resounding underdogs of Switzerland. Who would give Switzerland a chance? Who on Earth thinks they can cause Argentina problems? Well, as it turned out, they did have a chance and they did cause Argentina problems. The Swiss missed some glorious chances particularly in the 2nd half of extra-time when Blerim Džemaili headed against the post only to see the ball agonizingly rebound off the woodwork and onto his knee and sail wide of the goal.
The Argentinians had to count their blessings for that and for the fact that Lionel Messi and Angelo di Maria had unbelievably ordinary games but still managed to produce the goods deep into extra-time.
Belgium and USA was the last game of the last-16 phase and it didn’t disappoint. It was yet another game whereby it remained goalless after 90 minutes and extra-time again beckoned. However, rather than the usual tepid and turgid ‘settle for penalties’ mentality that seems to encapsulate teams in these circumstances, these two opened up and so began some of the best entertainment of the 2014 World Cup.
The USA produced the gutsiest performance of anyone last night in their encounter with Belgium. Why? Extra-time beckoned after a goalless 90 minutes in which the game had flowed end-to-end and pace had rarely drifted from the notch indicating ‘fast’. The Belgians had scored within 3 minutes of the extra period starting and when Romelu Lukaku burst through the American defence to blast the ball past Tim Howard to make it 2-0 on 105 minutes, the USA looked dead and buried.
However, two minutes after extra-time half time, Julian Green produced a stunning volley not a minute after coming on. This proceeded to give the USA an unbelievable lift and the self-belief running the team was now as evident as ever. They pinned Belgium back and under unrelenting pressure the Belgians came close to wilting on a number of occasions. Although an honourable mention to Tim Howard whose 15 saves were more than any other player in World Cup history from 1966 to present.
The Nuts Award has to go to Angel di Maria, who despite scoring, produced a rather ‘average at best’ performance. His touch, passing and composure were somewhat lacking culminating in an inexplicable trick of back heeling the ball out of play when in a promising position.
However, he somewhat regained his magic touch when he swept in a Lionel Messi pass to put the Argentinians through to the quarter-finals.
The USA’s Julian Green produced a stunning volley that nestled into the corner of the Belgian goal immediately after being sent on by Jürgen Klinsmann. It wasn’t just the finish that made this goal special, it was the pass and the perfect weight on it that made the volley possible but what a goal.
WHY? I know the players need a break from the sweltering heat of the Brazilian climate but we want more of the same please! We want to see something World Cup related. Why can’t we have the losers playing each other for the rights of the best plane?
Another day and another two quarter-finalists finalised. Another two big nations through and what a mouth-watering, titanic struggle it will be too. France vs. Germany. The history and the obvious angst these two feel for each other, with the 1982 meeting still fresh in the memory for the French.
However, these two didn’t have it all their own way. Firstly, France had to battle hard against Nigeria but when the breakthrough finally came through Paul Pogba in the 79th minute, there was only going to be one winner and the French wrapped up the victory in injury time through a Joseph Yobo own goal.
The Germans had a somewhat harder time of it. Algeria demonstrated that the German defence can be got at and should have been at least 2-0 up before the Germans fashioned their first meaningful attack. However, Germany will not give up and an outrageous flick from substitute Andre Schürrle opened the scoring and from then the Algerians, while still fashioning very good chances, was facing an uphill task.
Algeria deserve the award due to their ability to hurt the Germans and they came close a number of times to making the dream a reality. Even in the dying minutes of the game, Algeria attacked and scored a great team goal and could have scored a ultra-dramatic equaliser had Majid Bougherra grown enough to get enough power on the header that ultimately ended up in Manuel Neuer’s arms.
Nigeria were frustrating France, and the Moody Bleus were on the verge of running out of ideas. Then up steps Vincent Enyeama, the normally dependable keeper who on the back of a good season for Lille, proceeded to flap for a corner, completely miss the ball and then hand France and in particular Paul Pogba, the perfect chance to snatch the lead.
It wasn’t the first time he had been caught flapping though and France exposed him from a number of set pieces throughout the game. I think it’s fair to say that ol’ Vincent had a bit of a nightmare at the worst moment for Nigeria.
At a time when Germany would have taken any sort of goal to take the lead and preserve, Andre Schürrle produced a fine flick with the heel of his boot to put the ball past Algeria keeper Rais Mbolhi to hand the Germans the initiative in the tie.
I don’t think anyone would argue that Germany had been under the cosh at times against the plucky Algerians but again they managed to get the job done which surely seems ominous for the French?
As soon as the tournament started there was something instantly dislikeable about how the Cameroon squad were behaving. From threatening to strike over match bonuses and proceeding to put in 3 abject performances that didn’t justify their hype, now there is something that every professional sportsman abhors – match fixing.
Seven of the Cameroon squad are being investigated for match fixing and it is something that we don’t want to see in any professional sport let alone the global game of football. What must not happen though is it threatening to overshadow this wonderful tournament that has so far gone beyond expectations for the amount of entertainment and outstanding football that we have all seen.
The third weekend of the World Cup has brought with it high levels of excitement, sorrow and controversy!
There was drama from the get go when Chile was defeated by Brazil during Saturday's opening knockout match. We also say goodbye to Mexico after a nail biting match against world cup favourites the Netherlands on Sunday. Chile and Mexico may be leaving the tournament, but they depart with their pride intact.
Even the underdogs are stepping up to the plate to add additional entertainment of these years World Cup. The match between Costa Rica and Greece on Sunday (two teams that many didn’t expect to make it to this stage) was sent into an extra 30 minutes of play due to Sokratis Papastathopoulos scoring in stoppage time.
There will be plenty of drama to come, as host team Brazil are due to face Colombia in the immanent quarterfinal. Until then, take a look at our Guts Awards for the World Cup weekend below.
Our weekend Guts Award goes out to Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa is the 28-year-old goalkeeper for Mexico. He has been demonstrating his proven goalkeeping talents throughout the tournament. Sundays match was no exception. Ochoa put up a solid defence against the attempts of the Netherlands to score up until the 88th minute. With his quick reflexes and now worldwide recognition, we think that Ochoa will be a player to watch in the future.
And now for the controversy. Mexico put up a strong fight against the Netherlands on Sunday, but the dive taken by Arjen Robben has tainted the victory. In the 92nd minute, Robben free fell to the ground after Rafa Marquez grazed his foot. As well as the moment being captured on film, Robben admitted to Dutch TV that he took a dive in the first half. This means that Robben could face retrospective reprisal from FIFA in the future.
As well as being entertaining, this years World Cup is showcasing a whole host of new talent. One of these stars comes in the form of Colombia's James Rodriguez. Saturday saw the tense match between Colombia and Uruguay. The 22-year-old midfielder managed to score a beautiful second goal for Colombia. Rodriguez took a pass off his chest, and then made the shot a staggering 25 yards from the net. The team celebrated by dancing on the pitch while the fans danced in the stadium.
We all know that a referee needs to have the confidence and knowledge to not only rule out a strike, but to also stick to it. In the case of the World Cup, this is pushed to the extreme when you have the eyes and the opinions of the world fixed on you. Referee Howard Webb is leaving a lasting legacy on behalf of England after disallowing a strike made by Brazils Hulk due to a handball. This decision affected the lead position of the host cities team.