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?
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