At the end of four matches, over the last two days, it is now clear as to who will play whom for semifinal berths in the Brazil World Cup. In Monday’s two matches, France beat Nigeria 2-0 to set up a showdown with Germany, who were less than convincing in their 2-1 victory against Algeria later in the day. France and Germany will meet in Rio di Janeiro on Friday. In Tuesday’s first match, Argentina fought hard against Switzerland before coming through 1-0 in extra-time. In nearly the fashion, the next match went Belgium’s way with a 2-1 victory over USA.
France were severely challenged by the determined Nigerians, who always looked like pulling off a major upset in the tournament. In all their league games, France had looked a powerful side but in Nigeria, they found an able opponent. On countless occasions, seemingly well-made moves were thwarted by Nigerians, who ran tirelessly all over and stole the ball from French forwards time and time again. They created a real scare every time, they mounted the attack on the French territory. In 19th minute, Nigeria appeared to have gone 1-0 ahead but an off-side call saved France. It was a great curling cross, which came to Emmanuel Emenike from Ahmed Musa and Emenike no made no mistake. Emenike tried his luck again, just before the break but his close-range effort was cleared by French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Deschamps sent Mathieu Valbuena to make the French attack more pointed. Valbuena sent a perfect pass to Pogba but his goal-bound scorching volley met with an amazing reflex save by Nigerian goalkeeper Enyeama. Another clever pass from Valbuena was wasted with Mathieu Debuchy shooting wide. Early in the second half, Nigeria lost Ogenyi Onazi, who got injured and had to be stretchered off. The quick-footed Nigerians raided French penalty area in the second half but France managed to ward them off. Finally, in 79th minute, a corner kick flew near Pogba’s head and he lost no time in heading in with Enyeama a little distance away. The French consolidated their lead, when from a tantalizing pass from Valbuena came to Antoine Griezmann, who forced Joseph Yobo to an own goal.
Later on Monday, Germany faced a solid threat from Algeria, who looked every bit a superior side. It started in the eighth minute, when a superb feed from El Arabi Soudani found Islam Slimani, who drew out Manuel Neuer but luckily for Germany, the moment passed off without damage. Algeria continued to mount raid on German penalty area and looked like scoring on several occasions but the 90-minute regulation time remained goalless. In extra-time, a fine strike from Schuerrle put the Germans ahead. With the pace of the match quickening noticeably, there were attacks and counter attacks from both sides. Germans consolidated their lead in 120th minute, when Mesut Ozil found an opening. In the first minute of injury time Algeria’s Abdelmoumene Djabou scored a consolation goal for his side. Finally, Germany scraped through to set up the quarterfinal clash with France.
On Tuesday at Sao Paulo, the area around Arena Corinthians was transformed to look alike a part of Buenos Aires, when Argentina took on Switzerland. Inside the stadium too, barring a few patches of Swiss red, Argentinians fans had a massive presence. Regardless, Argentina were pushed to the hilt by Switzerland and all Argentine moves were foiled by Swiss defenders. Messi was a marked man but he showed his color from time to time. In 15th minute, Messi hammered a volley in but Diego Bengalio was able to punch it away. Despite being covered on both sides, Messi deftly cleared them once and sent a great pass to Angel Di Maria, who couldn’t benefit from the move. For Switzerland, Shaqiri, dribbled past Marcos Rojo before passing the ball to Xhaka, who couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity. Shaqiri made another brilliant move and fed Josip Drmic, who only had the goalkeeper to beat but Drmic hastily scooped the ball into Romero’s waiting hands. The two sides played out the regulation time and finally, in the stoppage time, Argentina got lucky. Lionel Messi created a clever move and on his pass, Angel Di Maria shot past the Swiss goalkeeper. With their 1-0 victory in the match, Argentina’s quarterfinal opponents will be Belgium, who defeated USA in another match on Tuesday.
Later at Salvador, Belgium beat USA 2-1 and played a much better game than any of their three league matches. USA pushed Belgium with their attacking brand of football. After Dempsey’s early attempt was saved by the Belgian goalkeeper a great chance was squandered by Belgium as well. After 20 minutes, Vertonghen had an almost open goal in front but he shot wide. The match remained goalless after 90 minutes and the teams went into extra-time. Belgium thrust ahead in the match after Kevin De Bruyne scored in the 93rd minute and consolidated the lead, when Lukaku also scored in the 105th minute to make it 2-0 for his team. Two minutes later, USA reduced the deficit but couldn’t find the equalizer despite their attempts. Belgium sailed into the quarterfinals to set up a meeting with Argentina.
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