By Mike Corasaniti
Not to toot our own horn, but Season's Over did pretty well in it's Round of 16 predictions...give or take a heartbreaking loss by the United States.
The final eight teams in the World Cup get back to work Friday after some drama filled elimination matches to start the knockout rounds. After all was said and done it's hard to say there were many upsets, besides maybe Uruguay, but they really never reached their World Cup potential especially after the Suarez fiasco.
The matches that will decide the semifinals in this year's World Cup though are all but up in the air. Some of the favorites like Brazil and Germany have showed that they're flawed, while newcomers on the big stage like Costa Rica and Belgium are playing strong in trying to make their own mark.
Only a week and a half separate us from the final match of the 2014 World Cup, and the next four contests may very well be the most exciting yet.
France v. Germany – Friday, July 4 at 12 p.m. (ESPN2)
France didn't have to exactly run the gauntlet to get to the Round of 16, but their defeat of Nigeria further grounded the Group E winners as one of the best remaining teams in the field. Karim Benzema has proven he's an excellent scorer but it seems that almost any Frenchmen has been able to find the back of the net. The fact that France was one of only three teams to get past their opponent this round without any overtime was another positive sign.
It's unfortunate that Germany is running into such a hot France squad at a time when they're not playing their best soccer. The Germans easily have one of the Top 4 teams remaining in the bracket, but they haven't showed top form since blowing out Portugal in their opening match. There's no way to avoid the fact that Germany dodged a bullet against Algeria and a similar performance won't do against this French squad. Prediction: France 1-0
Brazil v. Colombia – Friday, July 4 at 4 p.m. (ESPN)
As heroic as Julio Cesar's performance was in penalty kicks against Chile, Brazil will need to take a stand much earlier on against Colombia if it wants a shot at advancing to its first semifinal since 2002. Brazil's talented midfield and attack needs to get over the flaws that have been trying to doom it all tournament. Colombia is a much more terrifying opponent than Chile and Brazil is going to need to treat them as such.
The excellent James Rodriguez is front and center on the international stage and again took control on Saturday for them to get past a disheveled Uruguay. Friday's match has the opportunity to be a classic offensive contest between the likes of Rodriguez and his Brazilian counterpart Neymar. If the host nation can indeed get past the Colombians then they might be good enough to go all the way, but that's a very big "if". Prediction: Colombia 2-1
This may be a matchup of the two weakest teams of the quarterginals but it will garner an interesting result regardless: Either the best player in the world makes it to the semifinals, or Belgium becomes one of the biggest Cinderella's the World Cup has ever seen. That shouldn't take away from the fact that many guessed Belgium would give a strong showing to begin with, but their meeting expectations is still something to be celebrated.
Neither team dominated their knockout round opener. It took late goals from both to get to the quarterfinals, but Argentina played like a struggling squad while Belgium played like a great team against a stellar goalkeeper. It would be a shock to see Argentina fall short of their ultimate goal, but they are yet to prove this tournament that they're a team capable of winning it all. They can't rely on Lionel Messi alone forever. Prediction: Belgium 3-2
Netherlands v. Costa Rica – Saturday, July 5 at 4 p.m. (ESPN)
You can call the Netherlands's comeback win over Mexico luck or you can call it talent, but the Dutch will only have one thing on their minds regardless and its getting back to the World Cup Final. An offensive showing from Wesley Sneijder showed that the Netherlands are more than just the 1-2 punch of Robben and Van Persie. Now the Dutch only have the upstart Costa Rican squad to ensure a return trip to the semifinals.
Costa Rica had to sneak past Greece to make it this far, somewhat diminishing their strong performance in the group stage. Their defense though could make things difficult for the Dutch and their earlier wins against Uruguay and Italy have shown that they won't be the pushover the Netherlands may be hoping for. You should still expect a close match, but a match where the clear-cut better team comes out on top in the end. Prediction: Netherlands 2-0