If there was a villain of the first round of the knockout stage, it wasn't Portugal. It was FIFA. First, their ticketing scheme
left hundreds of empty seats during the epic Uruguay-Korea match. Then, their lack of a significant break caused the USA-Ghana match to end up a sloppy match between two exhausted teams. And we all know what happened with the referees in Mexico-Argentina and Germany-England....
Still, no matter how it happened, there are some excellent matchups in the quarterfinals. The big storyline is the three Europe-South America clashes: Brazil-Netherlands, Argentina-Germany, and Spain-Paraguay. Europe's relative mediocrity has been a story of the tournament, but I don't think it's as bad as some make it out to be. Two wins of three and Europe looks perfectly fine. On the other hand, with those three plus Uruguay, South America could actually have all four semifinalists! Uruguay v. Ghana
- Uruguay have been far too solid all-around for me to pick the inconsistent Ghanaians to win this one. 2-1 Uruguay. Brazil v. Netherlands
- I picked Holland to win the tournament. I meant it, too. But this...I have a hard time seeing a victory here. It's Brazil! The Dutch haven't yet proven they can beat Brazil. Maybe if Robben has the match of his life. Maybe if Van Persie learns how to shoot. Maybe Brazil hasn't been tested and won't know how to deal with a strong challenge. Maybe on penalties. 1-1. Germany v. Argentina
- This is exciting. Both teams have been magnificent at attacking, and leave holes in defense. It would be a shock not to see goals. 3-2 Germany. Spain v. Paraguay
- I expect a repeat of the tense, tactical Spain v. Portugal matchup, with a similar result. 2-0 Spain.