The FIFA World Cup is getting more interesting by the day as we approach the final next Sunday. It moved into the semi finals with the matches that were played on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, the two quarter final matches played ensured that Argentina and the Netherlands progressed to the semi finals to face each other after they both dispatched of Belgium and Costa Rica respectively.
The first match which kicked of at about 6 pm South African time between South Americans, Argentina and Europeans, Belgium was nothing to write home about, producing only one goal which arrived as early as the 8th minute. As usual, Messi was instrumental in the goal and showed that he cannot be discounted at any stage of a match. He ran circles around his hordes of markers and fed Di Maria who was wide. The winger attempted a defence splitting pass towards the teams’ striker but was blocked by the Belgian defender. It is this block that helped Di Maria’s pass reach its intended target as it had not been as pinpoint as he had intended. The deflection fell invitingly in the path of forward running Higuain who did not hesitate at all and drilled a low volley into the bottom left hand corner of the goal with Belgian goal minder, Thibaut Courtois beaten all systems out.
Higuan was at it again in the opening stages of the second period when after collecting the ball in the middle of the park, he raced through to the left side of the field, played the ball between the legs of Belgian star defender, and finally unleashed a wicked thunderbolt and watched in agony as it ricocheted off the woodwork. Midway through the second stanza, the Belgians could have drawn themselves level when Vertonghen delivered a clinical cross into the area, picking out Marouane Fellaini who rose head and shoulders above his markers but the Manchester United watched in agony as header ballooned over the crossbar. The match continued to see-saw between the two zones with not much action of note. However, Argentine winger, Di Maria had to be substituted as he limped out in the later stages of the second half and it was later announced that he had been ruled out for the rest of the tournament.
The later match between the Dutch and South American outfit, Costa Rica, was a more fitting quarter final encounter. While the first half was quiet and did not have much of note, the second half lived up to the billing of the match and produced a lot of exciting efforts from both teams and, consequently, saves from both ends of the field. However, it was the Holland team that had the lion’s share of these exchanges.
The searing pace of Arjen Robben ensured that Costa Rica were kept pinned in their half for the major part of the game and, with the help of Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie, ensured that the relentless high tempo attack was not let up during the major part of the match. In the fifty third minute, after a brilliant pass from industrious Robben, Sneijder’s effort flew right over the bar, ensuring that the South Americans remained in contention for a semi final berth. They could have gone one up and claimed that place in history had not their clear penalty appeal denied by Ravshan Irmatov of Uzbekistan in the sixtieth minute when Joel Campbell went down in the penalty area after being clattered by Bruno Martins Indi. They were back again five minutes later with Giancarlo Gonzalez who headed wide from a curling free kick into the area.
After that it was a series of survival by the skin of their teeth as the Dutch turned on the heat both in regulation time and in the extra time. Ron Vlaar headed a free-kick over the crossbar in the 73rd minute while Sneijder saw his 81st-minute free kick come back off the post, with Vlaar unable to convert the rebound. However, it was the South Americans who ended the extra time the more likely side to score as in the 117th minute, Urena slid past two markers, raced into the box and unleashed a low effort which was saved by Jasper Cillessen. The Dutch goal was substituted immediately afterwards by van Gaal to make way for Krul. This substitution was to prove key in the Dutch winning the encounter because the shotstopper saved two of the Costa Rican penalties to literally hand victory to his boss for showing such faith in him. The final result is that Netherlands won the quarter finals by four goals to three to set a date with another South American nation, Argentina.