Football365's Guide To The Final Eight

How Colombia can win the World Cup and why Brazil can't - Ian Watson assesses the pros and cons of all the eight remaining contenders...

Last Updated: 03/07/14 at 14:14 Post Comment

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FRANCE
Why they'll win it: Didier Deschamps has the French squad united and pulling in the same direction. They have one of the world's best goalkeepers in Hugo Lloris; Paul Pogba, who is Europe's hottest young talent; and a top-class striker in Karim Benzema who's fit and firing. The support acts are also weighing in, with Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi and Mathieu Valbuena all impressing.

Why they won't: They've kept three clean sheets out of four, but Deschamps' full-backs can be a weak link, while his best centre-half partnership is unclear. Les Bleus will surely no longer persist with Benzema wide left with Olivier Giroud down the middle after the Arsenal striker played his way back onto the bench during the quarter-final win over Nigeria.


GERMANY
Why they'll win it: Joachim Low's Germany combine power and finesse. They have an experienced no-nonsense defence backed up by the world's best goalkeeper, while in attack, Low can call upon some of the most creative talents in Europe to tee-up the deadly Thomas Muller. The German bench is also among the strongest in the tournament.

Why they won't: Mesut Ozil seems to have taken his Arsenal form to Brazil, while Mario Gotze is also yet to impress. Low is refusing to move Philippe Lahm to right-back, so he will persist with a back four made up entirely of central defenders. As Algeria showed, they can be slow on the turn and Benedikt Howedes and Jerome Boateng offer little to the attack.


BRAZIL
Why they'll win it: The Selecao are being inspired by expectation from the home support, rather than being weighed down. Neymar, especially, is thriving, with the playmaker threatening to carry his team over the line in a simliar way to Maradona in 1986. Despite a defence which appeared vulnerable, they have allowed their opposition the fewest number of shots of target.

Why they won't: Neymar is getting little help from the creative players around him, with Hulk yet to find form and Oscar contributing more defensively than in attack. Luis Filipe Scolari has a dearth of centre-forwards, with Fred in the team simply because he is marginally less poor than Jo. The pressure on the hosts will build the closer they get to achieving their dream.


COLOMBIA
Why they'll win it: They have the most in-form and deadly attacking player in James Rodriguez, who leads the way in Brazil with a 62.5% shots-to-goals conversion rate. Juan Cuadrado has weighed in with four assists - a tournament high so far - while the fact they have outscored their opponents so far 11-2 proves that Jose Pekerman has found a way for his side to cope without star striker Radmel Falcao.

Why they won't: Their defence is yet to be really tested, with the Colombians having come through one of the easiest groups before they faced a Uruguay side missing Luis Suarez. Neymar will be a different proposition altogether.


ARGENTINA
Why they'll win it: Lionel Messi.

Why they won't: Alejandro Sabella's defence has been permeable against the relatively poor standard of opposition they have faced up to now. The coach is also yet to find an attacking blend to compliment Messi, with Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain poor so far and Angel di Maria failing to build on his encouraging group-stage form by having a nightmare in the last 16, despite eventually scoring the winner.


BELGIUM
Why they'll win it: The have a top-class goalkeeper behind a solid defence, while up front, Marc Wilmots has a wealth of creative talent. If Eden Hazard decides to show up, Belgium's prospects will be enhanced no end.

Why they won't: The Belgians have been slow starters, having failed to score before the 70-minute mark in any of their matches and the top sides will capitalise on that. Their wastefulness against the USA showed a lack of ruthlessness in attack, with Romelu Lukaku still struggling for form. Any side with Marouane Fellaini plodding around the midfield will come a cropper eventually.


HOLLAND
Why they'll win it: Louis van Gaal has demonstrated his tactical genius to smash the holders and see off highly rated Chile. The departing coach has a squad willing to run through a wall for him and a group who are capable of playing a number of different ways, depending on the challenge they face. Their front three is deadly, with Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie fit and firing, while his goal in the last-16 fightback against Mexico could inspire Wesley Sneijder to up his game.

Why they won't: While they have a world-class attack, it seems only the organisational skills of Van Gaal are keeping their defence together. What might Messi or Neymar do to Ron Vlaar in the semis or final?


COSTA RICA:
Why they'll win it: Jorge Luis Pinto's side have shown they now how to keep out the opposition. They've conceded only two goals in four matches so far, with Kaylor Navas in splendid form. They displayed nerves of steel to see off Greece in a penalty shoot-out and iron lungs to get there with ten men. They surprisingly topped Group D and have built up belief and momentum that won't be easy to stop. Greece and Denmark achieved what many thought was impossible in Europe; why can't the Costa Rica do the same on the world stage?

Why they won't: This team have already achieved their best World Cup finish and they looked spent by the end of the last-16 meeting with Greece. No longer can they rely upon the surprise factor, with Netherlands certain to be prepared for them in the quarter-finals. They are clearly better than many people thought, but they are still a long way off the best teams in the world.


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