France

Quarterfinal World Cup madness [Part 1]

wc-1400859202The gift that keeps on giving in this years World Cup, eight wonderful matches made up the round of sixteen and now we’re left with 8 teams.

And for the first time, the eight group winners have made it through to the quarterfinals – a feat that is most impressive once you realize that Brazil, Argentina, France and others have yet to hit top gear and really get going.

Belgium overcame the heroics of Tim Howard’s record setting performance for the USA, while everyone’s darling nation Costa Rica continues to drive forward showing that CONCACAF are no pushovers.

 

Germany v France

thomas-muller-celebrating-goal-in-germany-4-0-portugal-fifa-world-cup-2014

Muller to continue his domination

How delightful is this matchup? As a pure fan of the game, this is about as delicious as it gets for a quarterfinal showdown – the resurgent French against a German team that has continued to impressive at the very peek of the sport.

There is no doubting the strength of the Germans: a fourth successive World Cup semifinal berth awaits them, but an athletic and resilient French side stand between them and that lofty goal.

The youth of France in Pogba, Griezman, Varane and Matuidi against the guile of experience in Klose, Muller, Ozil, Scheinsteiger and the younger Kroos.

During a Summer where the heat of Brazil was to suffocate the skill of European nations, France and Germany have both dealt with expectations but have yet to hit full throttle.

With a berth in the semifinal awaiting, expect a chess match like tension from the off with both sides trying to assert control of the ball – the pace and speed of France can cause fits to a flu-ridden German side, but I fully expect Muller to continue his venomous form and drag his side into the semifinals.

With so much youth and tensions high, I fear we’ll see a first half red card in Rio de Janeiro.

Prediction: Germany 3 – 1 France

Man of the Match: Thomas Muller

 

It is Neymar's time to shine.

It is Neymar’s time to shine.

Brazil v Colombia

A true battle of South America, a very real chance of Colombia upsetting the host nation and a team of superstars still waiting to click – Brazil v Colombia gives us so much and more.

I doubted Brazil would make it this far after some poor, but winning, performances but this is where Scolari’s team comes together – better to peek late than peek early and crash out of the tournament, right?

While Neymar has shown moments of brilliance and Brazil has flashed their skill and flair, they have yet to really get going – the weight of a nation, the pressure of a host nation and the desperation to win in the spotlight.

But with the monkey off their back after sneaking past Chile, I fully expect Brazil to stand up and be counted, showing their talent and snatching a spot in the semifinal.

Don’t get me wrong, Colombia is more than capable – as they have shown so far this Summer – and will be another stern test for the hosts, but this is where the party ends for the South American upstarts.

James Rodriguez has been brilliant, perhaps the best young player at this tournament, but much like Costa Rica against Netherlands I fear this is where they run out of steam.

Prediction: Brazil 2 – 1 Colombia

Man of the Match: Oscar

Euro 2012, Quarterfinal Predictions

Ronaldo will look to book his team into the Semi-finals

Euro 2012, Quartfinal Predictions!

By: Henry Whitfield

Just when you think you can rest up after a crazy two weeks of Football, Euro 2012 throw’s the knockout rounds at you.

Surprise pick Greece squeaked into the round, but the match up of Spain v France and England v Italy will have fans of the beautiful game licking their lips.

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Czech Republic v Portugal

Portugal will be buoyed by the resurgence of Christiano Ronaldo, who picked his game up and showed the footballing world he’s still here with a masterclass display against the Netherlands.

But will it be enough?

The Czech’s have used sturdy defence, after their 4-1 demolishing by Russia of course, and tough work ethic to break down opponents and seal their spot in the next round.

It will be Petr Cech vs Ronaldo to determine this one, throw in a dash of Nani and a sprinkle of Postiga and you’ll have a win for Portugal and a spot in the semi-finals.

Prediction: Portugal 3 – 1 Czech Republic

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Rain or shine, Mario Gomez will score Friday.

Germany v Greece

 This isn’t 2004 and this isn’t a Germany team to be taken lightly.

Greece parked the bus, rode the biggest lucky horseshoe they could find and plumped themselves against tournament favourite Germany in the Semi-finals.

Even the most die-hard of the Greek faithful must see this one as a hopeless cause, we’ve seen bigger upsets, but this is a Germany team locked and loaded from to top to bottom.

Rain or shine, expect Mario Gomez to score and continue his red hot form this season.

Sorry Greece, better luck next time but congratulations on getting this far with Samaras up front.

Prediction: Germany 4 – 0 Greece

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Spain v France

The current holders of the Jules Rimet Trophy and Henri Delaunay Trophy respectively, Spain come into this game without a convincing display in the tournament, (yes they beat Republic of Ireland 4-0, but did they have to do much to do it?)

France started off slow, won then lost in a 2-0 match against Sweden and despite the effort of forgetting the 2010 implosion of this team there were once again reports of a bust-up between players.

Players fighting and arguing isn’t exactly what France want’s heading into a match against the world’s best.

Spain have yet to look like that of 2008 and 2010, but will still be favourites to win this one.

Look no further than Fernando Torres as the answer for Spain, if he can get his shooting boots working then it’s a win but if they toil and find themselves unable to get in gear, don’t think that France will be afraid to pounce.

This game looks far more even on paper or form than any other, but Spain edges this and books themselves into the semi-finals.

Prediction: Spain 2 – 1 France

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Which Mario Balotelli will show up for Italy?

England v Italy

Oh England, what have you gone and done now? They forgot to read the script and instead of crashing out of the group stage have pushed through to the knock-out rounds and face a resilient Italian squad.

Regardless of the controversy at home and the scandals abound in Italian football, this Italian squad has been solid in all three displays and the ageless Gianluigi Buffon has continued his dominance of opponents forwards.

While some may see two draws and a solitary win as weak, the Italians drew Spain and a difficult to break down Croatia, finally putting Ireland away in their final match.

England had stumbled into the tournament but after a draw against France, they were able to scramble and pick up wins against Sweden and Ukraine; shockingly finishing top of their group.

This match up is as dead even as it gets, from keeper to midfield to the strikers up front, my heart says England will win and the realist in me says that England can sneak this with a tough Roy Hodgson tactical display.

Will Joe Hart stand tall? Can Pirlo bend it enough? Will Balotelli stay on the pitch? Can Terry’s body hold up?

If England can sneak this, it may truly be a Great Escape.

Prediction: England 2 – 1 Italy

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Batting 6/8 in the first round, let’s hope the luck can continue:

Predicted Semi Final match-ups: England vs Germany, Spain vs Portugal

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Henry is a writer for Sportstream.ca  and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU  every Thursday Morning at 9am. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , he’ll be bringing daily updates throughout the entire European Championships.

Euro 2012 – Day 4, As It Happened

Lescott opened the scoring for England

Euro 2012 – Day 4, As It Happened

By: Henry Whitfield

The much anticipated match between England and France failed to produce an exciting display of football, ending in a 1-1 draw. With France unable to turn their dominance into a result to be happy with.

The surprise catalyst for excitement in Group D was Andriy Shevchenko, as the 35-year old scored two headers in six minutes to steal win for the Hosts.

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England 1 – 1 France

The pre-game talk was all whether England would be able to stop the 21-game unbeaten streak by France, but the match ended a bore 1-1 draw.

France dominated for much of the match, with 60% of the possession and a whopping 15 shots on target, compared to the just one by England.

James Milner had an excellent chance to score early on, beating the keeper but hitting the side netting instead of the wide open goal.

England were saved the embarrassment, with Joleon Lescott heading a sublime free-kick into the back of the net and sending the England fans into celebration.

Despite their positive start, England were guilty of sitting back for much of the game and at times seemed content to sit with ten men behind the ball, void of all attacking intent.

The tactic was their downfall, with Samir Nasri scoring a long-ranged shot past keeper Hart, with three England players unable to close down the Manchester City midfielder.

France will be disappointed that their superior control in the second half was unable to secure them a vital three points as Karim Benzema came close to sneaking a win.

Man Of the Match: Samir Nasri

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Shevchenko turned back time with a splendid brace for Ukraine

Ukraine 2 – 1 Sweden

A battle of two aging strikers lived up the billing as both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andriy Shevchenko scored, showing the skill that has cemented the two in their countries respect lore.

After a tightly contested first half, Ibrahimovic put his Swedish team ahead off a cross from Kim Kallstrom, making no mistake from six yards out.

The excitement was short-lived, with the Ukraine talismanic forward turning the game on it’s head with a quick fire double.

His first goal came from a killer header off a short cross, the second was an even more spectacular header at the near post off a corner kick, turning the match around in a mere matter of moments.

The 35-year old sent the stadium into delirium, turning back the years and showing why he is regarded as nothing short of a National Hero.

Man Of the Match: Andriy Shevchenko

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Henry is a writer for Sportstream.ca  and part of the Bill McLean Sports Show on 88.1 CKDU  every Thursday Morning at 9am. You can follow him on twitter at @HenryWhitfield , he’ll be bringing daily updates throughout the entire European Championships.