Brazil, Colombia, Holland and Costa Rica are the first to be qualified for the quarter-final’s of the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. In the middle of this round, we can already see that some of the arguments that we put forth in this forum are still effective. For example, Brazil is favorite to qualify for the next round of the World Cup in which they are the host’s, but this still leaves a feeling of insecurity that leads them to win in a fashion that highlights more problems than were expected. Also, the teams from the South American continent, even with the fall of Chile, Uruguay and Mexico, still have a presence imposed thanks to their capacity for adaptation that has always been the key in the competitions on that continent. Costa Rica is the greatest revelation so far and nobody forgets the runner-up of the last World Cup - Holland, which appears ready to be the thorn in the latest World Cup. We will talk now about the first two days of round of 16 of the World Championship of 2014.
The host’s go forward
Brazil was long suffering when qualifying through to the next stage. Drawing with one goal a piece with Chile and being forced into extra time. With the outcome still being undecided, it went down to a penalty shoot out to decide who went through. Already in the first minutes of the game we could see two squads playing with too much tension and a high intensity in regards to the Chilean team.
The hosts, with a theoretical 1-4-2-3-1 that often becomes a 1-4-4-2, because Neymar drops to help with defense and Chile played with a defense line of five, which will pressure the holder of the ball in any part of the field. Their initial aggressiveness allowed the game to be quite closed until Brazil scored from the corner that Thiago Silva played in with the menacing presence on the second post from David Luiz, Jara conceded an own goal whilst attempting to throw out the ball. Officially, FIFA awarded the goal to the new PSG player.
Leading on from this, Scolari’s team retracted and the greatest danger came from a couple of long balls into the back of the Chilean defense and also when they recovered the ball near their area, trying to leave the Chilean’s playing short.
When it seemed that Brazil was controlling the match, the Sampaoli found a gift in the form of goal after a throw-in and the subsequent loss of the ball, catching the defence misplaced. Alexis Sánchez tied the match and started to introduce fear into the 'canarinha' defense.
The Brazilian team depended on Neymar and long ball’s from David Luiz to the back of the Chilean defense and gradually, especially in the second half, Chile started to recover more balls, still pressing with intensity and are encouraged to keep the ball, starting to give a real sense of danger. Speaking about the Brazilian’s, in the second half Hulk, with an individual move, made enough danger in front of the goal of Bravo. Although, also noteworthy would be the entrance of Jo, who gave them another alternative in attack.
Reaching extra time, where it seemed that Chileans could be the stronger physically, however, it is Brazil who began to take control of the match. The change gave some air to both teams and Pinilla, from Chile, who in the last minute of added time hit the crossbar confirming the last penalty that Julio César had to face and allowing Chile to progress in this World Cup.
Brazil performed in a pressured round of penalties and again left a kind of feeling which depended too much on individual’s. The advantage for them increasing with the passing of days as the country believes more and more - but the pressure on the players can be seen in every move they make and the fear of failure can be an influence more than motivation towards victory. We will see what will happen in their next commitment against a side such as Colombia. We will now look at their victory now.
Clear victory for the ‘Coffee Growers’
Colombia emphatically won against Uruguay (2-0) with James Rodríguez as the protagonist, but not the only stand out performer. The Colombian side dominated from start to finish in a duel against a "shrunken" Uruguay, something that is not too surprising in view of the latest developments both on the football field and off it.
After the first minutes of the game with the 'yellows' handling the ball based on a back four line, with the two wingers, Armero and Zúñiga, coming out in attack and with lots of freedom linking with James Rodríguez, who always plays inside. Both teams sit back and wait, very compact and with the firm idea of playing with a counter-attack, but are playing to behind to be a danger in the first twenty minutes of the game.
As a curiousity, the move from the corner kick (20 m) in which Zúñiga touches the ball allowing James Rodríguez to pick up the ball but the Assistant Referee considered that it was not a valid action. This move was also annulled against Ivory Coast, but I remember that it was authorized a few years ago, so I think it may be an interesting issue to discuss.
The game remained with the same trend, Colombia dominates and the Uruguayans defend until the great goal from James Rodríguez, controlling with his chest and volleying with his left, leaving no options for Muslera. Being 1-0 down, Uruguay had to show something more from that moment on. The 'charruas' stretch and reached the rival area a couple of times to show something in attack. Cuadrado changes position with James Rodríguez, but always leaving both with the freedom to move across the field. The first thalf ends with Colombia controlling the match and Uruguay trying to exit in attack, but without danger.
The second half started with Colombia dominating again and, in a good move with a centre from the left of Armero, a header from Cuadrado into James Rodríguez marking his second goal of the game and the fifth in the tournament - leading the "Golden Boot" race so far.
Tabárez reacts with two changes, Stuani enters instead of Forlan and Gastón Ramírez for Álvaro Pereira to add energy and a tactical change, dropping to a defensive four thereafter. Tightening a little more, but the match is quite controlled by Colombia, which falls below the defending lines and continues handling the ball whenever they can to surprise the rival defense, which now is playing frequently in a two against two situation.
Rodríguez was subbed for Abel Hernández for Uruguay and looks like Óscar Tabárez had already played all their cards - he had nothing to lose. They continued to menace the blue ones and José Néstor Pékerman’s squad had to protect, with the entrance of Mejía Gutiérrez going down to the boundary of the area to accumulate men there, leaving only Jackson Martínez above.
The chance for Maxi Pereira at minute 79, with some luck on the move, is the highlight of the Uruguayan attack for many minutes until a shot from Cavani (85 m).
The tonic being at the end was 'I want to but I can't' by the 'charrua' squad against a very solid Colombian side, with players who handle the ball well, always working for the team and having an air game to imbalance. A fairly complete scheme which, undoubtedly will be difficult for Brazil at the next stage that now awaits them both.
Holland dismiss Mexico
It was not easy for Holland to leave behind a committed Mexican side. They had to wait almost until the last breath of an interesting clash between the two teams. Before that the need to turn an adverse scoreboard around and leave no doubt about the hard opponent facing them.
On the pitch, two nearly identical setups, with a defence of five and two strikers was evident. As we have already mentioned more than once in this same forum, the team of Louis Van Gaal showed phases in which there was six and even seven players behind the line.
Mexico gradually realized that one-two plays or second plays could give them an advantage. Fast play with a companion to beat their rival or long play to find the second action with speed to arrive before your pair. That is what occurred with the goal at the start of the second half when Dos Santos was faster than the opposition and with a shot from outside the area, put Holland one- nil up
Going back to the first half, the European squad waited for Mexico, who took the initiative and handled well the match. First, their defense of three controlled the two dangerous Dutch strikers. In the last minutes of the first half they changed for a while the possession, but they still offered less danger in attack - heavily dependent on some sporadic plays of Robben. The clearest chance was favored by a mistake from the Mexican defense, although Van Persie and Robben didn't know how to take advantage. Viewing the images and replays, maybe there was a penalty on Robben.
The goal conceded at the start of the second half forced Van Gaal to make some changes, Depay entered for Verhaegh, standing well open on the left and Kuyt went out on the right. The Dutch attacked focused on that side searching for any individual action through the newcomer Depay. However, Mexico stood still defended quite well. Van Gaal searched for another way to achieve the goal and brought on Huntelaar for Van Persie and the tactic was now throwing more balls toward the striker to try to win the second move.
In a similar action, but in a corner kick, Sneijder 'hunting' that second opportunity and with a strong shot, manages to tie a few minutes for the final.
In addition, Holland continued tightening and recovering balls much earlier than during the rest of the match and again Robben – Holland’s most outstanding player, faced his defender, Layun, leaving him behind and in front of Márquez. Robben ran over both with speed and was awarded a penalty that Huntelaar converts and to take it to 2-1 on the scoreboard for the Netherlands, leading to a place in the second round for the 'orange' side. Like we said before, Holland had to work hard to win against a difficult and worthy rival.
Costa Rica - A revelation
Although they needed penalties to seal their ticket to the next phase (as in the case of Brazil), we can say that the revelation of this tournament is Costa Rica - An excellent team with excellent players who have been the standouts so far in this World Cup. Greece leveled with a goal almost in the dying seconds of the first half to equalise the match but as in the extended time there was no changes to the scoreboard - they have to trust in the luck of the penalty shoots.
Like many perhaps expected, this would be the game that might bring a surprise. Especially with the arrival of both team’s at this stage and even more because one of them would be going through to the next round.
At the start, Costa Rica squad played a game different than we had seen so far. Perhaps because their authority, or simply because the Greeks wanted it, the 'ticos' took the initiative from the start and throughout much of the first half. While Greece hoped simply to go against them, always looking to hurt them. But they failed on so many occasions.
Costa Rica pressed more between lines with their defense, without going any further, than against England for example and that left the back of the defensive line with more open spaces, but the Greek strikers could not take advantage of it. The only sense of danger came from some isolated counterattack that Costa Rica with the speed of a footballer such as Campbell or any isolated action in their set-pieces. However, in minute 37 came the only clear chance, when Salpingidis finished off a cross from the left and if the great Keylor Navas didn´t stop the shot, we would be talking about the first goal of the match.
Then, in the second half, the scoreboard changed. In the 57 minute, Ruiz scored the first goal to change the attitude of both teams. The Greeks brought on Mitroglu as a striker and they began to search for crosses for him or for Samaras. Moreover, Costa Rica went back out on the field looking for the counter-attack.
Another key of this game was at minute 66, Duarte was given a second yellow card and the subsequent red card, leaving the team with only ten players and also still with a few minutes to play. Then, they changed the defense of four and the Greek’s put a more offensive man as Katsouranis in the field.
Substituting Brenes in place of Bolaños to make all the changes on the South American side but they still defended with one less player based on the 1-4-4-1, with Campbell playing alone in up front. The Europeans are still opening to the sides, accumulating strikers in the area and putting cross to them. In one of those, in this case from the center, became the header, the shot and the reject of Sokratis to tie the match.
We still could see a header from Mitroglou, who could have got the victory for his team, but he didn´t convert it and then came extra time. Lazaros was now playing on the right, Samaras moved to the left, Mitroglou and Gekas were now the front line and Greece was still attacking and taking advantage of their numerical superiority. Costa Rica was seeking permanently to give the ball to Campbell, who was alone, to taken out some fault or stand still with the ball, giving time to his team to leave in attack.
Greece had two clear situations in corners kick with a counterattack of five against two that they wasted. Even more clearer, Mitroglou in the last minute had another chance but a great intervention from Keylor Navas definitely brought them to penalties.
There, as we already know, success of the most of the strikers and a stop from the Costa Rican goalkeeper took his team to Rio de Janeiro to face Holland in the fourth of july game, looking for a place in the semifinal and another historic achievement for their country.
In summary, an interesting and competitive knockout round so far, with many alternatives and back to the beginning, confirmations, favoritism, revelations and much disputed games on the path towards the success.
How much has the emphasis changed from 2010, is the attention now on having high intensity off the ball, and quick, strong runners with the ball to break through the lines instead of passing?