I'm bringing back the Earning the (re)cap series for the remainder of the World Cup. Here are quick breakdowns of the quarterfinal games. I'll do another breakdown of the semifinal matches Wednesday evening and then recap the final on Monday. Each match will also be previewed the day before.
The Netherlands - Brazil
Score: 2-1, NED
My prediction: 2-1, BRA
I figured this would be a close one, but I wasn't expecting the Dutch to be able to come away with a win. It's interesting how this match turned out, though; it featured two sides that have historically been known more for their attacking efforts than their solid defence, but both Brazil under Dunga and the Netherlands under Bert van Marwijk have focused on improving their sides' defensive performances. As Richard Williams of The Guardian pointed out, it was largely that defensive intensity that allowed the Netherlands to come away with the win against Brazil. The South Americans dominated the early going and took the lead in the 10th minute from a Robinho goal that was brilliantly set up by Felipe Melo, but the Dutch were able to contain the damage and strike back in the second half. An own goal from Melo tied the score before Wesley Sneijder headed the Netherlands into the lead, and Melo soon doomed the Brazilians' chances of a comeback by being sent off [The Globe and Mail] for stamping on Arjen Robben. It wasn't a pretty win for the Dutch, but substance has taken them farther in this World Cup than style did over the last couple of decades.
Uruguay - Ghana
Score: 1-1, URU won on penalties
My prediction: 2-0, URU
This was the zaniest game of the World Cup so far, in my mind. Uruguay looked solidly dominant for most of the match, but conceded a goal just before the half [FIFA.com] on a curving 35-yard blast from Sulley Muntari. Diego Forlan struck back with a beautiful free kick in the 55th minute, and the Uruguayans had several good chances to take the lead, but the match almost ended with a Ghanaian victory. Ghana put on pressure in the dying moments of extra time and earned a free kick. That was sent in and punched clear by Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera, but he took himself out of the play in the process. The ball fell to Ghana's Stephen Appiah, who blasted a shot towards the empty net, but it was blocked on the line by a surprising source, Uruguay's star forward Luis Suarez. The ball then bounced to Dominic Adiyiah, whose header was headed into the empty net before Suarez reached up and swatted it with his hand, earning perhaps the smartest red card in World Cup history. Asamoah Gyan stepped up to take the resulting penalty, but smashed it off the crossbar, and Ghana went on to lose in the shootout. It was a bizarre result, but also a deserved one in my mind; Uruguay were the better team on the day. Thanks to losses by Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, the Uruguayans are now the sole surviving South American side. Not bad for a team that Peter Pattakos deservedly called "the Cleveland Browns of international football."
Argentina - Germany
Score: 4-0, GER
My prediction: 2-1, GER
This was a rarity for this tournament; a hyped matchup that lived up to its billing. I got up at 6:40 and ducked out of the campsite to a local bar to watch this, and it was well worth it. The score isn't entirely fair, as Argentina were in it for most of the match, but they were outclassed by the Germans. Argentina displayed brief flashes of brilliance, but they finally faced an opponent where talent alone would not get them through. This German side has plenty of talent of its own, especially with the likes of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mezut Ozil. They defended clinically, denying Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez space to work, but they were even better in attack, especially on the counteroffensive. One of Schweinsteiger's runs through the Argentine defence evoked memories of Diego Maradona, who was less than amused on the sidelines as he watched his team get destroyed by Germany's superb talents. Questions can be raised about Maradona's management, for sure, and the Germans were certainly better prepared and better tactically. However, this isn't all Maradona's fault; to my mind, most of it's just that his squad ran into a better team.
Spain - Paraguay
Score: 1-0, ESP
My prediction: 3-0, ESP
This game featured an expected result, but it came in a rather unexpected way [Richard Farley, SB Nation]. The Spanish narrowly came out on top in an encounter that was much closer than many, including myself, expected. Both Spain and Paraguay had penalty kicks saved, which in itself is highly unusual, and both also had plenty of opportunities to score from the run of play. Paraguay's best chance may have been Roque Santa Cruz's late attempt to equalize, but they were very much in this game. Still, Spain came away with a deserved win considering the way they dominated the possession [Behind The Net. They haven't been overly impressive for much of this tournament, but they're through to the semifinals and they still have a chance to win it all. I doubt they'll be complaining too much, except maybe about the late Paraguayan boot to the head of Sergio Ramos [Carter Daly, Dirty Tackle]