Holland v Argentina
Arena Corinthians, São Paulo (9pm, Wednesday)
Right now, Manchester United fans (and myself) cannot wait for Louis van Gaal to get the job started at Old Trafford. I’m sure he’s aware of the challenge ahead after United finished seventh last year in the Premier League.
It’s not a vintage Holland team he’s managing and van Gaal has got them to the brink of a World Cup Final. He’s going to have to perform a similar operation at United after a shocking season in 2013/2014.
Van Gaal can improve United by 20 per cent
Van Gaal seems to have the Midas touch, and with his coaching reputation and vast experience he can bring a lot to the club. He’ll improve last year’s performance by 20/25 per cent, I feel.
As well as the new signings, Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, (and hopefully more to come) he’ll bring more out of the players who are already there. I’m actually really excited about next season.
Van Gaal is not afraid of big decisions, which he showed by bringing on the Newcastle keeper Tim Krul for the Dutch No1 Jasper Cillessen for the penalty shootout against Costa Rica. Krul had only saved two out of last 20 penalties with Newcastle. The evidence did not seem to be there for that big a decision. But whatever Louis van Gaal does, seems to work.
He substituted his captain, Robin van Persie, when Holland were 1-0 down to Mexico, and they came back to win. He seems to have a bit of genius about him, and hopefully can work this magic on United next year.
This game is a shootout
As for Holland and Argentina, I can’t see this game being anything other than a shootout between Arjen Robben and Lionel Messi.
The rest are supporting actors, really. Don’t get me wrong, both Holland and Argentina have great centre-forwards in Gonzalo Higuain and Robin van Persie. But the real match winners are Messi and Robben.
I don’t remember Robben being half as good in the Premier League for Chelsea. Since he went to Bayern Munich he’s grown in stature, and grown unbelievably in the quality of his play. You think, would Chelsea have ever sold him if they knew the type of player he was going to turn out to be? He’s 30 years old and seems quicker than ever. The pace of Robben is frightening.
If Robben can get one-on-one with Martin Demichelis then Holland are in business.
Messi will give the Dutch back four a harder time
Likewise, at the other end, I don’t think Holland have the best defence. Have they really been tested? They let in two against a poor Australian team.
Higuain looked sharper against Belgium, and got that tremendous goal which will give him confidence. Messi is obviously playing well and will certainly give that Dutch back four a tough time.
But for me, whichever of Robben or Messi performs best, their team will win.
Verdict: Holland on penalties. (Take Paul’s tip at 17/2 with Paddy Power)
Germany v Brazil
Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte (9pm, Tuesday)
Think of the great players who have lined out for Brazil – Ronaldo, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho. Aside from Neymar, they’ve nothing like that quality in this tournament.
David Luiz has shown a little bit of flair, but little else has excited me about this team. It is probably the most un-Brazilian I’ve seen in my life.
Germany are a far superior footballing side and, with Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, they have a midfield with greater imagination, which keeps the ball comfortably and creates more chances for Thomas Muller (below) to convert.
You never quite know Muller’s best position but he scores goals. I loved his finish against USA. He’s done it in the last World Cup, and this World Cup – it’s a finishing quality Brazil just don’t have.
Brazil are playing ugly football
Brazil have scraped through games (probably like Germany did a few years ago) without being very good. They seem to be winning pushed on by the massive home advantage. They’re playing ugly football which is not something you associate with a Brazilian team. Against Colombia, for example, Brazil conceded 31 fouls.
Oscar had a promising first game but other than that he hasn’t done much and, despite having a good season at Chelsea, Willian hasn’t emerged as a force in this World Cup. Is this his chance against Germany, in Neymar’s absence?
Germany could have found the perfect team
Germany got a bit of a scare against Algeria, and France suffered as a result in the quarter-final. With 10 or 15 minutes to go in that game I could not believe that lack of French urgency. They froze. Had Per Mertesacker been playing, maybe France would have had a better chance. But he was dropped and Germany discovered on a more solid back four as a result, with Philip Lahm returning to his best position, right back. It made Germany much tighter.
Now, with Sami Khedira’s running power in midfield and the quality on the ball of Ozil, Kroos and Schweinsteiger, Germany could have found the perfect team to take them to the World Cup Final.
Match prediction: 2-0 Germany. I can’t see Brazil scoring without Neymar. (Take Paul’s tip at 12/1 with Paddy Power)
Paul Scholes’ team of the World Cup
I’d love to have this team at Old Trafford next year. Toni Kroos to Real Madrid for £25m? Bargain.
- Do you agree with Paul’s team of the tournament? Let us know your favourite players of the World Cup in the comments section below >