Friday's matches were fantastic. Saturday's were good, but in a more understated way. A recap of the 1/4 finals:
Netherlands 2-1 Brazil: The shock heard round the world. I thought Brazil played the most sublime opening 45 minutes in this year's World Cup. If not for a wonderful save by Villarreal target Martin Stekelenburg on Kaka, the Orange Machine's comeback would not have been possible. But Julio Cesar made a grievous mistake early in the 2nd half, and the match unbelievably was level. Holland then was in the ascendancy and deservedly took the lead on two headers in the box. A Felipe Melo red card and no super-sub later (anyone else think of Ronaldinho?), and the favorites were out. The best team never to win a World Cup moves on-- to the drumbeat of destiny?
Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (4-2 PK): If Holland is the best team never to win it all, Uruguay is the worst to have won (no offense). But Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez have led the Charruas back to the 1/2 finals for the first time in a half-century. Sulley Muntari, given a chance to start, fired a rocket that tricked Muslera to give the Africans a lead on the stroke of halftime. Unsurprisingly, a sublime Forlan free kick tied the score and led to the final drama. They are calling it a controversy here in America, but as otf noted, Ghana should have to earn it rather than being awarded a goal. Gyan hit the bar, then courageously buried his chance in penalties, but two Muslera saves and an Abreu penalty a la Panenka later, and the Charruas are in the last 4.
Argentina 0-4 Germany: Cue the Maradona vitriol. I thought the Maradona experiment would fail, and finally Argentina met its match. Nigeria, South Korea, Greece, and Mexico was a comfortable road to the 1/4 finals, but Die Mannschaft exposed Argentina's 4 center backs as slow, out of position, and lacking width. Wingers Maxi Rodriguez and Angel di Maria refused to track back, turning the scoreline into a bloodbath. Wait another 4 years to see the best of Lionel Messi on the international stage.
Paraguay 0-1 Spain: Jose Luis Chilavert was right about Guatemalan referee Carlos Batres, but the two missed penalties canceled each other out. The better team won, barely. David Villa is a menace; Fernando Torres, not so much. La Furia Roja better settle on its best XI before Germany comes calling on Wednesday. This game cried out for Santi Cazorla and Salvador Cabanas; alas for Paraguay, its loss was more acute. Unfortunate result for the Guaranies, who should have tied it late but for Saint Iker.
Villarreal watch: 2 winners and 1 loser this round. Diego Godin advanced without featuring in his side's thrilling win in penalties; he may be available against the Netherlands on Tuesday. Joan Capdevila played 90 minutes in his side's workmanlike victory and sent in a few dangerous crosses, though the Spanish attack goes through the opposite flank. Nilmar entered as a late sub with Brazil trailing and down to 10 men; he barely touched the ball. No goals in 4 appearances did little to help his transfer stock.