Race for Premier League Golden Boot is wide open

Will we see a new name atop the Premier League goalscoring charts this season?

Will we see a new name atop the Premier League goalscoring charts this season?

As is often the case in the summer following a World Cup, the clubs at the top of the Premier League have been busy in the transfer market.

Last year’s top four have each made a high-profile purchase or two, while some interesting business has taken place involving clubs further down the table. And with last season’s top goalscorer Luis Suárez now plying his trade abroad (well he will be once his worldwide ban is over), the stage is set for a new name to lay claim to the Golden Boot.

 

Premier League Outright Betting Odds:

Chelsea – 37/20

Manchester City – 2/1

Manchester United – 19/4

Arsenal – 6/1

Liverpool – 9/1

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Will one of the big names top the charts in 2014/15, or will an unlikely contender rise to the top? Here are just a few in with a shot at the Golden Boot (all odds courtesy of Coral are accurate as of today and subject to change).

 

Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) – 7/2

The Argentinean forward struggled with injuries last season but still managed to score 17 goals in 23 league appearances. After heartbreak in the World Cup final, Agüero will look to reignite the partnership with Álvaro Negredo which played a huge part in Manuel Pellegrini’s side winning the Premier League last season.

 

Robin van Persie (Manchester United) – 9/2

Van Persie endured a frustrating campaign under David Moyes last season, but looked reinvigorated at the World Cup under incoming Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. With a coach who may be prepared to play to the 30-year-old’s strengths rather than marginalising him to accommodate Wayne Rooney, van Persie could be on course for a third Golden Boot in four years.

 

Diego Costa (Chelsea) – 11/2

Many believe Chelsea would have won the Premier League last season with a prolific striker, and indeed Costa’s 27 goals helped fire Atlético Madrid to an unlikely La Liga title. With Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o both departing, responsibility will lie with the Spain international to justify José Mourinho’s decision to meet the striker’s £32m release clause.

 

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) – 11/2

With Suárez moving to Barcelona, there will be more pressure than ever on the man who finished second in the goalscoring charts in the last campaign. Sturridge looked like the complete forward at times last season, but time will tell whether the exit of his strike partner and the added pressure of Champions League football will take their toll.

 

Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – 18/1

Lukaku became Everton’s record signing after completing his £28m move last night, and will look to build on the 15 goals he scored on loan at the Merseyside club last season. With fellow frontman Arouna Koné returning from injury, Belgian international Lukaku could benefit from not needing to carry goalscoring responsibility all on his own.

 

Roberto Soldado (Tottenham) – 50/1

Much was expected of Soldado when he briefly became Tottenham’s record signing last summer, but the Spaniard struggled in the league under both André Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood. The former Real Madrid youngster will hope this season has more in common with his final year in Spain with Valencia, as new coach Mauricio Pochettino looks to mount a challenge for the top four.

 

Graziano Pellè (Southampton) – 80/1

While much of the talk this summer has surrounded the players leaving Southampton, one of the new arrivals at St Mary’s could make a transitional season a whole lot easier. Italian striker Pellè scored 50 goals in the last two seasons for Feyenoord, and it is no surprise that his Eredivisie coash Ronald Koeman brought the 29-year-old with him to the south coast.

 —

This season Coral has introduced a new way to bet, SuperLive by Metric Gaming. Bet on hundreds of new in-play micro markets such as whether a player will score from the next free-kick, or whether there will be a goal within 60 seconds of the next set piece.

Unfamiliar with fractional odds? Let our odds calculation guide help you out

 

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

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MLS: New England desperate to end losing run

Columbus is chasing a first win at Gillette Stadium since 2011

Columbus is chasing a first win at Gillette Stadium since 2011

This Saturday, New England Revolution will play host to Columbus Crew after being decimated 5-1 by the Galaxy last weekend and 2-0 by FC Dallas in midweek. The blowout loss in California was orchestrated by Robbie Keane who was not only able to end his scoring drought with two goals, but was able to assist Gyasi Zardes for two strikes as well against an increasingly despairing New England team. The Galaxy and FC Dallas loss meant that New England have lost their last seven matches (six in MLS and one in the US Open Cup), their longest streak since 2001.

 

 

While Columbus Crew managed to win their previous game against the Montreal Impact, their record is just as abysmal as the Revolution’s. The 2-1 win against the Impact is their first victory in 8 games, while the game was decided by a Bernando Anor brace, the Venezuelan’s first goals since Opening day. The goals and the win came on the back of another game where the Crew dominated possession and yet still had to settle for long range shots and a David Moyes-esque number of crosses –though they did have Adam Bedell as striker, so that could be understandable. The win is the Crew’s first in league play since late May and though it comes at a relief, it should still be noted that the Impact – dead last in the Eastern Conference standings – aren’t the worthiest of opponents at the moment.

 

New England Revolution v Columbus Crew Betting Odds:

New England win 1.90

Columbus win 3.75

Draw 3.25

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

One problem that both teams seem to share is the lack of a reliable center forward at this moment, though the reasons differ. The Revolution have gone through all of their options in attack, landing at Charlie Davies, who has managed to disappoint as much as those before him. The former United States international, whose top-level career is yet to recover from a serious car accident in 2009, is yet to find the net since moving back to MLS with the Revs in 2013.

As things stand, the team is essentially trapped in a conundrum of either Davies or Teal Bunbury, who has two goals and a listless amount of ineffective and frankly counter-productive games to his name. The Crew, meanwhile, have been victims of their own thinning forward line, which leaves them in the position of starting the aforementioned Bedell, an MLS rookie, as their striker. While Bedell has impressed in his substitute appearances, the last game suggested he may not be ready to be the starting striker, a burden that he should not have had to bear so soon to begin with.

 

The stats for both teams are eerily similar: New England has scored 24 total goals compared to the Crew’s 23 while conceding 31 and 26 goals respectively. The Revolution have had 91 shots on target while Columbus has had 86, taking 186 and 211 total. Though they seem similar in many ways, New England has won the last four out of five meetings between the two teams, though the other resulted in a thrilling 4-3 win for the Crew.

The Crew could continue their rebirth against the Revolution, as they’re coming up against an honestly hopeless team that has showed few signs of ending their losing streak. In the 5-1 loss to LA Galaxy, were it not for a penalty and a few near misses, the scoreline of the game would have been exceedingly worse. Columbus, with their reputation of being able to dominate possession could easily exploit a Revolution team that has to find a way to stop the bleeding quickly.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Columbus Crew to be winning at half-time and full-time is +450 with Intertops.eu

 

BdykNApCQAEQ_-t ZITO MADU (zitov2) is a writer for SBnation, and has written for Surreal Football, LiveBreatheFutbol,  and numerous other sports sites. Follow him on Twitter.

Rosberg and Mercedes look to make history at Hockenheim

After retiring from the British Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg needs a strong result at his home race

Not since 1954 has a German car won a Formula One World Championship German Grand Prix. German drivers have won it – Michael and Ralf Schumacher, and last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel – and cars with German-badged engines have also won, but you have to look back to Juan Manuel Fangio’s win for Mercedes at the old Nurburgring Nordschliefe, once the most feared circuit in the world, to see a German car take the chequered flag. A German driver in a German car? You have to look back to the pre-war era, when German manufacturers Mercedes and Auto Union (the forerunner of Audi) were the dominant forces and employed drivers like Rudolf Caracciola, Bernd Rosemeyer and Hans Stuck Sr.

So no pressure on Nico Rosberg then. He might not necessarily be the most authentic German ever – his father is Finnish and he was brought up in Monaco – but he drives with the German flag on the side of his car, and that is all the records will show if he wins the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim this weekend.

And boy how he needs it. At the British Grand Prix, he looked all set to tighten his grip on the championship. After qualifying on pole with Lewis Hamilton losing out on a drying track, he led the race ahead of his team mate, only to suffer his first mechanical failure of the season. With Hamilton winning the race, Rosberg’s lead in the standings was slashed from 29 points to just four – had his car held out, it would probably have been 36.

 

German Grand Prix Betting Odds:

Lewis Hamilton -167

Nico Rosberg +180

Valtteri Bottas +1600

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Rosberg has now lost the momentum he had been building. In the previous three races, he had finished ahead of Hamilton and looked to be getting the better of his team mate, who was known to be faster but also more likely to make errors. Rosberg was always likely to have to rely on reliability and consistency to win the championship, so to lose 25 points to Hamilton at this stage was an enormous blow, as it puts the 2008 champion within striking distance once again – a win for the Brit here will see him take the championship lead.

 

Adding to the pressure, Rosberg’s record at the German Grand Prix is underwhelming. Since joining Mercedes in 2010, his best finish at the race, which is rotated between Hockenheim and the truncated Nurburgring, is seventh in 2011. In the last race at Hockenheim in 2012, he finished tenth, and last year at the Nurburgring he finished ninth.

It is a surprisingly poor record considering he spent the bulk of his junior career racing in Germany – he won the German Formula BMW series in 2002, followed by two years in the German-centric Formula Three Euro Series, during which time he won two races at Hockenheim. He even won at the circuit during his GP2 championship-winning season. So is it all just down to bad luck or poor machinery?

 

Hamilton, on the other hand, is a former winner at the circuit in F1, having taken a dramatic victory in 2008, carving his way through after a late safety car jumbled the field. However, this is the only time he has even finished on the podium at Hockenheim. In 2012, he retired after his 100th grand prix was ruined by an early puncture. However, he did also win the 2011 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring for McLaren.

The last two German Grands Prix at Hockenheim have been won by Fernando Alonso for Ferrari. The 2010 race was particularly memorable for the use of team orders, with the infamous “Fernando is faster than you” hint to his team mate Felipe Massa. But while Ferrari are off the pace and Alonso is unlikely to extend his winning run at the circuit, Massa may be a dark horse. Williams have shown improved pace in recent races, with Massa taking pole ahead of team mate Valtteri Bottas at the Spielberg circuit in Austria, a similar Hermann Tilke-designed circuit to Hockenheim, while Bottas charged through the field at Silverstone to finish second.

How sweet would it be if four years after being asked to concede a victory to his team mate, Massa ended his victory drought, which stretches back to the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix. Williams too have not tasted success much in recent years, with just one win since the end of 2004, and Bottas is yet to win, so any win for one of the team’s drivers would be popular and emotional. And yet they may be the nearest challengers to the dominant Silver Arrows.

 

As for home favourite Sebastian Vettel, it seems unlikely that he will mount a challenge. Instead, he will just be hoping for a change of luck – and to beat his team mate for once. Amazingly, Vettel is yet to beat his team mate Daniel Ricciardo in a race where both drivers finish, and only picked up a better result than the Australia in Malaysia, where Ricciardo failed to finish. Part of this is down to unreliability, but Vettel also simply hasn’t been as consistent as the youngster, and few would deny that the 28-point lead he has isn’t representative.

Vettel, like Rosberg, has a very patchy record on home soil, his win at the Nurburgring last year ending a poor run of results. The last time he came to Hockenheim, he was penalised by driving off the track while overtaking Jenson Button, dropping him from second to fifth, leaving his best result at the circuit as the third place finish in 2010. Surely it is unlikely that he will finish any higher than that on Sunday.

Instead, the attention at home will be focusing on Rosberg. His father Keke won the world championship via stealth in 1982, winning only one race all season. Nico has employed similar tactics this season, but he has to win races too if he is going to defeat his team mate. Hockenheim is as good a place as any to start.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Nico Rosberg to win the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship is +130 with AllYouBet.ag, and a win this weekend would put him in a great spot to do so.

Unfamiliar with American-style betting odds? Learn how to convert them to decimal or fractional odds with our handy guide

 

Sports blogger JamesJAMES BENNETT (James) is a History MPhil/PhD student, who writes about soccer, Formula 1 and the NFL in his spare time to pay for his studies. He is also a Torquay United fan. He publishes articles in his sports blog, and you can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Germany destroyed Brazil in the World Cup semi-final – can they do the same to Argentina?

Can Germany's Toni Kroos add to the two goals he scored against Brazil?

Can Germany’s Toni Kroos add to the two goals he scored against Brazil?

Back in 2011, former England defender Gary Neville said of David Luiz “He plays football like he’s being controlled by a 10-year-old on a Playstation”. And there were certainly aspects of Playstation-style football on Tuesday put a remarkable seven goals past Brazil, including four in a breathtaking six-minute spell before half-time.

Argentina’s semi-final against the Netherlands couldn’t have been more different, with Alejandro Sabella’s team needing a penalty shoot-out to see off the Oranje. Argentina go into Sunday’s final as underdogs, with Intertops.eu match odds having the Albiceleste at +120 and Germany at +154 (all odds are subject to change).

The margin of victory is unlikely to be anywhere close to the semi-final, with Argentina having played out six tight games so far, but Jogi Löw’s Germany have plenty of firepower. Thomas Müller has already scored five goals for the second World Cup running, and two more will see the Bayern Munich player end the tournament with the Golden Boot. He is +200 for that honor, with Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez (who has six goals, but has been eliminated from the tournament) the -200 favorite.

Will we see a repeat of the 1986 final – when Argentina edged past Germany in a five-goal thriller – or will it be more like the 1990 final when the European side had their revenge with a 1-0 win?

It has been an incredible tournament so far, but a classic final would truly cap it off. Let us know who you think will win in the comments section below.

Germany v Argentina, Sunday, July 13

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tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

Germany vs Argentina: the final that nobody wanted

After struggling through the knockout stages, will this be one game too far for Argentina?

After struggling through the knockout stages, will this be one game too far for Argentina?

Why do we love football? There’s the superficial answer, of course: that perfectly-timed slide tackle from Javier Mascherano, that sublime finish on the bounce from Andre Schurrle, and, yes, that entire German humiliation of Brazil, one not characterised by mere ‘efficiency’, as BBC commentators and pundits erroneously argued in the clichéd and mildly xenophobic tones to which we are accustomed, but by an intoxicating mix of the aesthetic and the ruthless.

Sometimes, that’s good enough. Sometimes, players’ individual brilliance shines through, and that’s sufficient to placate us, the demanding fans. Sometimes, teams simply put on that kind of show, or, in the case of the hosts, collapse entirely, in which case we’re drawn to the spectacle like so many passers-by to a motorway pile-up. In other cases, it isn’t. The second semi-final was a case in point: a dreadful match in which two of the best players in the world, Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben, were for the most part anonymous; an abject 0-0 after an abject 120 minutes. Football can delight like no other sport yet invented, but—let’s face it—sometimes, just sometimes, it can be crap.

 

When that happens, we need something else to sustain our interest. In fact, we need that most annoying of think-piece buzzwords: we need #NARRATIVE. Kevin Keegan wrongly (but wonderfully) framed things geographically when he said that Newcastle fans go to St James’ Park ‘like the people down South go to a theatre.’ His sentiment, however, was sound. It isn’t that ‘goals are overrated’: not since 1974 has a World Cup third-place playoff (a #NARRATIVE-less match if ever there was one) finished with less than three goals, which alone justifies its presence in the tournament. Goals are great. But when there aren’t any goals—what then?

 

Germany v Argentina Betting Odds:

Germany to win the World Cup – 1.65

Argentina to win the World Cup – 2.20

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Nobody wanted this final. Spain aside, perhaps, Germany and Argentina are the strongest two teams in the world, and still nobody wanted this final. Argentina haven’t scored more than once since the group stages, relying on extra time and penalties to sneak through to their fifth World Cup Final. And Germany knocked out Rais M’Bolhi’s Algeria, which is reason enough to will for their demise. With Germany’s demolition of Brazil fresh in the memory, Argentina might well channel the playing style of their neighbours, who resorted to kicking and spoiling in their quarter-final with Colombia. There’s also the small matter of this being the single most important match in every one of these players’ careers, a scenario that inevitably leads to caution.

This would be fine if there were only a #NARRATIVE to cushion the blow, but there isn’t. The best we can come up with is a Battle of the Living Popes, which sounds more like a Syfy B-movie than it does a football match. Continuing the religious theme, there’s the fact that this is the first World Cup held during Ramadan since 1986, when Argentina and Germany also contested the final. And there’s the moral dilemma that the match will throw up for reactionary English football fans, the two countries involved being historical enemies of our Green and Pleasant Land. As one fan so stirringly tweeted (since deleted, strangely): ‘Any British person supporting Argentina should be dragged to the Cenotaph and made to read the names of those who died in the Falklands.’ Right.

 

It didn’t have to be this way. It could’ve been perfect, in fact, the semis giving life to a glorious set of possibilities for the next and final phase, the draw’s branches so nearly extending to two of the biggest rivalries in international football. Oh, for Brazil vs Argentina, at the Maracana, in a World Cup Final: a match in which the brilliant and/or bizarre is almost guaranteed, a rerun of the Italia ’90 knockout game in which the Brazilian Branco claimed to have been given water spiked with tranquilisers by the Argentinian coaching staff. Or for a Germany vs Netherlands, a wartime rivalry that continues to linger: think Gerd Muller putting the kibosh on Total Football in 1974; think Frank Rijkaard’s phlegm; think Ronald Koeman pretending to wipe his backside with the shirt of Olaf Thon, smiling as he goes.

Football wouldn’t be football without such moments, illogical and indefensible as they are. Football isn’t all slide tackles, or goals, or complete performances. Football is #NARRATIVE, whether we like it or not: it’s cheating, it’s fighting, it’s spitting in another man’s hair—twice. Only one avenue remains open to us, then, if we are to spare ourselves Sunday’s coming boredom: we milk the Battle of the Living Popes, and we milk it for all it’s worth.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Germany to win with less than 2.5 goals in the game is 3.37 with Intertops.eu.

Unsure about how decimal odds work? Let our free odds calculation guide do the work for you.

Kieran avatar KIERAN DODDS (kierandodds) is a history student and writer. He has written about sport, politics and  current affairs for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Africa is a Country, When Saturday Comes, IBWM and  others. Follow Kieran on Twitter or Google+.

Knack of the Bet: Spies, Salsa and Shaky Defences in the World Cup Quarter Finals

Will Brazil be celebrating again after their quarter final?

Will Brazil be celebrating again after their quarter final against Colombia?

 

Paul Watson of Back of the Net gives his not altogether serious previews of the World Cup quarter-finals. The odds are real but the logic behind the bets may be a little far fetched.

France v Germany Betting Odds:

France to qualify – 2.15

Germany to qualify – 1.67

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

France were relieved to avoid an awkward, politically charged clash with Algeria, instead they line up against Germany – a nation they have never had any problems with. Thoughts will inevitably turn to 1982 and the infamous foul from German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher on French defender Patrick Battiston, which knocked him unconscious. Fortunately there’s unlikely to be any repeat as current German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer’s standard position is on the halfway line – a position from which he could easily open the scoring.

Expect a tense, brutal encounter that may need extra time to decide, again a first for clashes between these countries.

Key Clash – Griezmann v Mertesacker

Antoine Griezmann energised France when he came on as a substitute against Nigeria and his pace could worry Per Mertesacker whose fastest recorded time over 50 metres is more than six minutes.

 

Brazil v Colombia Betting Odds:

Brazil to qualify – 1.40

Colombia to qualify – 2.90

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Home advantage is a massive factor in World Cups. Brazil have already benefited from their right as hosts to win any penalty shootout and may try and make Colombia feel awkward by repeatedly mentioning how much effort they have gone to in putting on the World Cup.

Neymar is already challenging Pele’s reputation in Brazil and Luiz Felipe Scolari is likely to stick with Neymar given Pele’s poor scoring form over the last 26 years. Colombia’s danger man James Rodriguez could trouble Brazil’s back line. The press have nicknamed him James Bond, partly due to his anglicised name and partly for his tendency to survive attempts on his life before bedding glamorous yet ultimately dangerous women.

Back Rodriguez to score in 90 minutes (a goal that is), but the Colombians are unlikely to commit the faux pas of putting the hosts out.

Key Clash – Neymar v Fred

Neymar will look to continue his lethal form and looks a good bet for first scorer, but he will have to contend with Fred, who has shown he is capable of shutting down wave after wave of Brazilian attacks.

Betting Instinct tip – James Rodriguez to score at any time is 4.00 with Intertops.eu

 

Argentina v Belgium Betting Odds:

Argentina to qualify – 1.53

Belgium to qualify – 2.45

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Tipped as dark horses ahead of the competition, Belgium are looking ever more equine, but they come up against a massive test in Argentina. Inspired by Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, who averages a goal from every 100 chances, Argentina aren’t short of attacking threat, but they can look exposed at the back.

Argentina’s defence has looked shaky from set pieces, when teams run at them at pace, when teams pass it around slowly and during the national anthem, so backing both teams to score may be sensible.

The last time these two sides met at a competition was in 1986 when Argentina won 2-0 en route to glory, but very few of the players involved are expected to start, so little can be gauged from that.

Key Clash – Di Maria v Di Maria

Angel Di Maria could make all the difference for Argentina with his tireless runs from deep positions and his willingness to take defences on, but his efforts could be in vain if Angel Di Maria proves as profligate as he did for long periods against Switzerland.

 

Netherlands v Costa Rica Betting Odds:

Netherlands to qualify – 1.22

Costa Rica to qualify – 4.20

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

The Netherlands would appear to be overwhelming favourites to reach the semi-finals, but you underestimate Costa Rica at your peril unless you have an unusually high opinion of Costa Rica, in which case you’re pretty much spot on.

Despite having a population of just 42, half of whom are in the World Cup squad, Costa Rica overcame Greece on penalties when Greece were no longer able to prevent shots being had on goal. Led by Bryan Ruiz, who appears to have been transformed from the pleasantly ineffectual player Fulham fans knew to a lethal goal getter, Costa Rica will look to reach the last four and force fans to finally look up where it is on a map.

Much of the Dutch attacking threat will come from Arjen Robben and his tested tactic of running into the box and allowing a stiff breeze to knock him over could be decisive.

Key Clash – Proto-Surrealism v Salsa Lizano

The Dutch will look to unsettle Costa Rica with fantastical imagery illustrating religious concepts and narratives, but expect Costa Rica to fight back with liberal lashings of a rich vegetable sauce with a tangy, spicy flavour.

Betting Instinct tip The Netherlands to win in regulation time is 1.50 with AllYouBet.ag.

Unfamiliar with decimal odds? Let our odds calculation guide help you out.

Paul avatar PAUL WATSON (paolowatson) is the other half of Back of the Net, alongside fellow Betting Instinct  blogger John Foster. Paul wrote the book Up Pohnpei, and you can follow Back of the Net on FacebookTwitter or  Google+.

The World Cup has already spoilt fans, but there is plenty more to come

Can surprise package Costa Rica keep their incredible run going against the Netherlands?

Can surprise package Costa Rica keep their incredible run going against the Netherlands?

 

For the first time in World Cup history, the last eight is compromised entirely of nations who topped their groups at the group stage.

It’s a fitting quarter-final line up for a tournament that has—for the most part—mercilessly punished mediocrity and compromise wherever it has reared up. Spain’s complacency saw them dumped out of the running early on while the cracks within England’s and Italy’s game plans were quickly exposed and exploited to send them home before the knockout rounds. The likes of Cameroon, Portugal and Russia have been outfought, outclassed and nonchalantly tossed to the wayside by better teams filled with real courage and conviction.

 

Few would deny that the World Cup has already spoilt its global audience with the action that it has produced so far, but now it’s time attention turned to the so-called “business end” of proceedings, where the names of stages are mounted with the suffix of “final” and honours are ultimately decided.

That all sounds very sobering and serious however, the fun isn’t over just yet. With the final scheduled to take place at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday July 13, the following four quarter-final fixtures look set to lay the foundations for a grandstand finale worthy of the exhilarating momentum of the early rounds.

 

Friday July 4th, 5 pm (GMT): France vs. Germany – an Old World battle for authenticity

For many, the loss of Franck Ribery to injury and the exiling of Samir Nasri after a season-long personal renaissance with Manchester City cast doubt on France’s credentials heading into the tournament. Yet Didier Deschamps’ side now stands relatively tall amongst the narrowing field of nations still in the competition as one of the few teams not carrying any obvious fatal flaw, having thrashed Honduras and Switzerland and beaten Nigeria 2-0 in normal time.

Germany on the other hand jetted off to Brazil hyped up on the recent successes of the Bundesliga and their intimidating roster of matured stars and exciting young prospects. However, Jogi Löw’s team looked less than convincing against Algeria and Ghana, with his decision to persist with Philipp Lahm in midfield amid diminished options at full-back looking rather self-consciously contrarian and stubbornly pretentious rather than brave or bold.

They struggled to assert themselves in front of goal against the USA, and their brittle back line consisting of four centre-backs looked vulnerable to the pace and determination of Algeria, who were unfortunate not to covert a stream of chances over 120 minutes of normal and extra time. Even their 4-0 win over Portugal felt more like a brutal exposé of the Iberians’ failings than a testament to the victors’ quality and intent.

Blunt in attack and pedestrian in defence, Germany may not be able to live with France’s attacking power, which could yet be enhanced further should Deschamps finally decide to start Antoine Griezmann over Olivier Giroud. The Real Sociedad forward’s movement and magic on the ball off the bench saw him put the game against Nigeria beyond doubt, and alongside Mathieu Valbuena he could be too clever and cunning for Low’s four-man central defence to handle.

Betting Instinct tip France to win in 90 minutes is +200 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Friday July 4, 9 pm (GMT): Brazil vs. Colombia – the work in progress or the accidental master plan?

Where would Brazil be without Neymar? Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team look utterly dependent on their one true star as they struggle towards what they believe to be their destiny: a chance to right the wrongs of 1950 when they lost in the final of their first home World Cup to Uruguay. If the rumours over his failing fitness prove to be true then that dream is as good as dead.

Colombia lost their own talisman before the summer even began when Radamel Falcao was cut down by injury and ruled out of the World Cup. Yet his absence has lead Jose Pekerman to create arguably a more well-rounded side who look like the team Scolari wishes he could create with Brazil.

Regardless of how you say his name, James Rodriguez has been one of the players of the tournament, supported by a cast of diligent co-stars who look solid if not always spectacular. To call Colombia functional is not to insult them. They have produced some wonderful moments already in Brazil yet the solidity of the foundations Pekerman has put together cannot be overstated.

Their quarter-final opponents didn’t take too well to facing off against South American opponents ready and willing to outclass and outfight them in the round of 16 against Chile, with the World Cup hosts getting overly physical with Arturo Vidal & co. at times. Don’t be surprised if tempers boil over in the sweltering heat of Forteleza if things don’t go Brazil’s way and Colombia gain the upper hand.

It will take a brave referee to show the red card to a Brazilian player, but given the instability and intensity of the emotions surrounding their tournament, a dismissal is a real possibility.

Betting Instinct tip a red card to be shown in regular time is +250 with Intertops.eu

 

Saturday July 5, 5 pm (GMT): Argentina vs. Belgium – the unexpected snooze fest

Lionel Messi’s showdown with the pre-tournament dark horses would have been touted as one of the ties of the round on paper had such a game been proposed back in May, but given both teams’ struggles to match their billing and to light up  the tournament, it could well prove to be the most underwhelming quarter-final on offer.

Belgium’s lack of full-backs has led them to look all-too-staid going forwards, while injuries and uncertain form have lead to Alejandro Sabella switching up his formations and team selections to hamper the fluidity of his side.

Even with their formidable rosters of attacking talent, both nations required late, late goals to overcome their round of 16 opponents and punters could be in for another stodgy, rigid anti-spectacle as Argentina go through the motions against a group of dark horses who have so far looked more like beige donkeys.

Betting Instincct Tip: No goals in standard time is +700 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Saturday July 5, 9 pm (GMT): Netherlands vs. Costa Rica – a quarter played on the counter

He who daren’t, wins could well be the mantra by which victory is secured in Salvador as The Netherlands and Costa Rica both look to continue to succeed by catching each other out on the break with three-man defences and spontaneous attackers.

All logic and reason dictates that the Dutch should outclass their cross-Atlantic opponents, but as shown by Uruguay, Italy, England and Greece, underrating the chances of the Central Americans is a somewhat perilous exercise.

Louis van Gaal’s team will undoubtedly be the best opposition the Costa Ricans have faced yet however, and if Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben are on form, it’s hard not to assume the Oranje should progress, and with a rather handsome margin of victory.

Having said that, it’s hard to say whether it’d even be a surprise anymore if the underdogs somehow claimed the scalp of yet another Goliath to barge their way into the semi-finals.

Betting Instinct tip – Robin van Persie to score two or more goals is +275 with Intertops.eu

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Greg avatar GREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to  FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football  blog and podcast. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.