Well fútbol fans, it was a fun ride while it lasted, but Belgium’s dreams of World Cup trophies ended yesterday with a 1-0 loss to Argentina. That means this will be the last Belgian Waffles post… or will it? MUAHAHAHAHA!!!
Going Out with a Whimper
Sorry about that. Let’s talk about the game. There wasn’t much of one, actually. Possession was split just about evenly between the two teams, but the same side that had managed 34 shots against the USA barely broke double figures this time around. Argentina played a cautious, wait-and-see game (as they’ve done throughout the tournament), especially after a lucky bounce and some timely finishing from Gonzalo “Pipita” Higuaín opened (and closed) the scoring nine minutes into the game. The Rioplatenses hung on to that advantage by throttling Belgium from the midfield forward and working the hell out of the offside trap. The Belgian attackers were caught forward six times, generally acting as if this was a new rule enacted minutes before the game.
There’s not really that much more to say. Belgium was a mere shadow of the dynamic attacking side that pummeled the USMNT a few days ago, returning to the tentative team we saw in the group stage. Maybe they felt the weight of a World Cup quarterfinal. Maybe they were still recovering from the 120 minutes of non-stop effort in their last game. Or perhaps Jurgen Klinsmann’s defense can make a lot of teams look unstoppable (they did it for Ghana for a good chunk of their first game). Whatever the reason, Belgium was unable to create much of a threat for Argentina’s defense. Even their substitutes, usually Marc Wilmot’s ace in the hole, didn’t amount to much, and so Belgium is going home.
This is what it sounds like when doves cry. (Getty Images)
But don’t cry for them, Argentina (sorry…). For a team on their first major international campaign, being among the world’s best eight teams is nothing to sneeze at. This wasn’t some aging squad hoping for one last shot at glory (no offense, Spain and Uruguay). This is a young team. Here’s a list of team members that will still be under 30 when the next World Cup comes around: Courtois (22), Alderweireld (25), Witsel (25), De Bruyne (22), Lukaku (21), Hazard (23), Mignolet (25), Origi (19), Janujaz (19), and Chadli (24). Several other key pieces, like Kompany, Fellaini, Mirallas, Vertonghen, Mertens, and Defour, are 28 or younger. And that doesn’t even include the injured Christian Benteke, who at 24 years old is considered their biggest attacking threat. They should have many more opportunities to make their mark, starting with the 2016 European championship. So here’s to Belgium’s run through this tournament, and to seeing them on the big stage again soon.
The Usual Suspects
The quarter finals have come and gone, and despite all the feel-good stories about fresh blood and Cinderella runs, the final four looks a lot like any other World Cup final four. Gone are Colombia, Belgium, and Costa Rica. After barely eliminating the Ticos in penalty kicks, Netherlands will be the slacker during the final Cup weekend: they’ve only made three finals, and they haven’t even won a Cup yet! Here’s what the combined history of Brazil, Argentina, Germany and the Dutch looks like: 10 championships, 21 finals appearances, and 34 total semifinal berths (counting the ones for this tournament). There’s no shortage of pedigree here; hopefully the quality of play will live up to the participants’ reputations, even with Neymar (fractured vertebrae) and Ángel Di María (torn ligament) out for good.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’ll take a bite on the shoulder over this any day of the week. (Getty Images)
Here are some additional quick thoughts about the round of eight:
- How about Louis Van Gaal pulling off the ultimate head-scratcher by pulling his starting goalie in the last minute of overtime? The gamble paid off when substitute Tim Krul stopped two out of five Costa Rican shots, handing the Dutch a ticket to the semifinals. Looks like Manchester United will be in good hands, as Louis is set to take over as coach there after the Cup ends. Seriously, who does that?
- Colombia may have lost, but James Rodríguez added yet another goal to his personal total despite nearly being devoured alive by a monstrous grasshopper, and still has a chance to win the Golden Boot, especially with Neymar out. Ha-mez has a two goal lead on Lionel Messi and Thomas Müller, so he must hope that neither finds the net more than once in the next two matches.
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