History repeats itself again in the World Cup when Argentina and Germany collide in the World Cup Final for a third time. For Argentina, the journey to their fifth World Cup final was a long and difficult one, requiring a nerve-wracking semifinal victory over a stubborn Netherlands team, winning on penalty kicks, 4-2, on a drizzly evening in Sao Paulo.
Maxi Rodriguez, Argentina’s third and final substitute, provided the winning penalty kick against the Netherlands to set up yet another showdown with Germany.
Argentina is back in the World Cup final for the first time since 1990, when it lost to Germany on penalty kicks. In the only other World Cup final meeting against Germany, Argentina won, 3-2, in Mexico City in 1986, led by Diego Maradona.
Argentina, which has not lost in five World Cup semifinals, is 2-2 in World Cup finals. Argentina won its other World Cup in 1978, defeating the Netherlands, 3-1, in Buenos Aires.
The final against Germany figures to be dominated by two of the top scorers in the game, Lionel Messi of Argentina and Germany’s Thomas Muller.
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For Colombia and Brazil, the World Cup games get bigger, the stakes get higher, the pressure rises and two superstars are simply taking off like rockets. Colombia goes up against host Brazil in a World Cup quarterfinal showdown that matches two of the most electrifying players in the global competition – James Rodriguez of Colombia and Neymar of Brazil.
Rodriguez has been a revelation and he has scored in all four of Colombia’s matches. The 22-year-old, who has put Colombia’s in its second quarterfinal since 1990, has a World Cup-leading five goals and Colombia has outscored its opponents by an overwhelming margin of 11-2.
Rodriguez has scored or assisted on seven of the goals and he is easily the new, breakout star of the World Cup.
Neymar is also just 22 and he has scored four goals while carrying the heavy burden of responsibility as the face of Brazil as the World Cup host country. Brazil is looking for its sixth World Cup title and Neymar is generally acknowledged as the one who must make it happen.
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Argentina’s World Cup dream is alive and well. Argentina and Belgium, who both worked late for their victories in the Knockout Round, have a date to meet in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Better late than never, Argentina scored the second-latest goal in World Cup history to knock out stubborn Switzerland and move on to face Belgium in the quarterfinals. Belgium scored twice in extra time to defeat the U.S., 2-1.
Argentina was a heavy favorite against Switzerland, so the only real surprise was that Lionel Messi didn’t score the winning goal.
Angel Di Maria scored in the 118th minute and Argentina took a 1-0 victory in Sao Paulo in the Round of 16, ending a match that seemed destined to end with penalty kicks. But after a Swiss turnover, Messi outmaneuvered the defense, saw Di Maria on the right side and sent him a pass that Di Maria planted in the left corner of the net.
Messi attracted Swiss defenders all day, on many occasions three at once. And although Messi did not score for the first time in four World Cup matches, he was responsible for the winning goal.
Argentina has now won each of its four World Cup matches by a total by a one-goal margin. Messi has scored four of Argentina’s seven goals.
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It’s Argentina and Switzerland in the knockout round, but there could be another subtext to this Round of 16? Maybe. If there really is anyone who worried about Argentina for having to dig deep and work some bugs out of its approach, such as scoring late to win, there are once again two words to consider: Lionel Messi.
Argentina defeated Nigeria, 3-2, to close out Group F unbeaten, then waited to find out its next opponent in the Round of 16. Switzerland jumped up claimed it as the runner-up behind France in Group E and that puts the Swiss directly in Argentina’s path.
So it’s Switzerland’s turn to worry about Messi.
Argentina’s biggest star scored two more goals against Nigeria – he now has four – and almost single-handedly propelled Argentina into the knockout round on Tuesday in Sao Paulo.
But it’s true Argentina has had some close-calls, beating both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran by one goal, both low-scoring games – 2-1 and 1-0. The other characteristic? Messi scored a goal in them both. He tied with Brazil’s superstar, Neymar and Germany’s scoring machine, Thomas Muller, with a World Cup high of four goals.
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Now that Colombia is in the Round of 16 at the World Cup, what’s the ceiling for Los Cafeteros? Look up. It could be that the sky is the limit. Colombia dominated Group C, winning all three of its games, racking up nine points, scored nine goals while allowing only two, and demonstrating that it is one of the top teams in the world.
Uruguay, the runner-up in Group D, is Colombia’s opponent in the knockout round, and they will meet Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. Chances are that Uruguay may have its hands full.
A new batch of stars is emerging for Colombia, featuring the electrifying James Rodriquez and also Juan Guillermo Cuadrado. Rodriguez, better known simply as James, is making up for the absence of the injured Radamel Falcao, his teammate on the French club, AS Monaco.
At 22, James may be the best young player in the World Cup. And if Colombia is going to advance further than its best previous World Cup finish – the quarterfinals in 1990 – James could very well make the difference.
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Argentina’s march through the World Cup continues with its final Group F match, against Nigeria, in Port Alegre, Brazil.
But you can be sure that Argentina is already looking ahead to the Round of 16, a ticket that Argentina has already punched with a 1-0 victory over Iran. And yet the race is not yet over. Argentina has six points and leads Group F, but Nigeria can say something about that and remains in the conversation with four points. While Argentina was edging Iran, Nigeria was doing the same with a 1-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
So the top two teams in Group F collide, a meeting of Argentina scoring star Lionel Messi and the team-oriented defensive front of Nigerian Coach Stephen Keshi. Messi has scored a goal in both Argentina games while Nigeria has not allowed a goal in its two previous games.
Looking ahead to the knockout round, the Group F winner would play the second-place team from Group E, and that spot is far from decided, either France, Ecuador or Switzerland. And that Group F runner-up will play the Group F winner – France now leads.
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Colombia added to its rich soccer history, reaching the World Cup knockout round with a 2-1 victory over the Ivory Coast – combined with some good fortune. When Japan and Greece played to a scoreless draw in Natal, Brazil, it meant Colombia would advance from Group C to the round of 16 for only the second time in its World Cup history and for the first time in 14 years.
The pitch in Brasilia, Brazil, was littered with good news for Colombia. For the first time in its five appearances in the World Cup – 1962, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2014, Colombia won two matches. And it’s the first time Colombia has reached the round of 16 since 1990.
But it wasn’t easy against a challenging Ivory Coast team. It took goals from two left-footed kickers to put Colombia on the right foot. The victory required second-half goals from Juan Quintero and the eventual game-winner from James Rodriguez to move on.
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With a 3-0 victory over Greece and a second success over the difficult Ivory Coast, Colombia is ready to take on the rest of the world.
He’s the world’s best player and he’s Argentina’s brightest star, but that doesn’t mean Lionel Messi doesn’t have anything to worry about. Because he does. Messi is still in the shadow of the great Maradona, who almost single-handedly delivered a World Cup victory for Argentina in 1986. Messi needs a World Cup to prove his status on the biggest stage in football. He just moved a step closer.
“I know I have a responsibility, especially as captain, to the people of Argentina, but I try not to let the pressure get to me,” Messi said recently.
But the pressure is real. Argentina flamed out in the quarterfinals in the last two World Cups, in 2006 and 2010, and they desperately need the 26-year-old Messi, their goal-scoring machine, to come through. Messi scored only one goal in those two disappointing World Cups, but scoring hasn’t been much of problem for him – at least in qualifying. He had 10 goals in 14 games leading up to the World Cup.
And Messi did not disappoint from his position in the spotlight in Argentina’s World Cup Group F opener against Bosnia-Herzegovina, scoring what turned out to be the winning goal in the 65th minute of a 2-1 Argentine victory.
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