Betting Blog: Semifinals
The years may change but the teams remain pretty much the same it seems. Brazil and Argentina, as expected, have made it to the last four of the World Cup, along with Germany and Netherlands, two of the most consistent sides in the competition's history.
Hosts Brazil take on Germany on Tuesday night and the Dutch face Argentina the following night -- both matches promise to be tight, tense affairs but I have a feeling the Brazil fans are going to be crying long into the night.
The loss of Neymar through injury for the rest of the tournament is a massive setback. He's the only man who's looked capable of opening up defences and when they've had the odd bad moment in matches, he's the one they've looked to in order to get back on track. Without him -- and even with him -- this is an average Brazil side by their lofty standards and they could find Germany very, very hard to handle.
The Germans did what they needed to do against France in the quarterfinals and they have the pedigree, organisation, management, experience and desire to ruin the host's dreams. Brazil may not have lost a competitive match at home in 39 years but they are likely to be stretched to breaking point. Bet365 are no mugs, of course, and make Germany the slight favourites at 7/4 to Brazil's 9/5 but I think that's a good price on Germany to win it in 90 minutes. Better still, though, is the price of 10/11 on Germany to qualify with Bet365 which of course includes extra time and penalties, each of which is more than possible.
Netherlands and Argentina bring back memories of the 1978 final and for the slightly younger fans, of 1998 and that stunning goal by Dennis Bergkamp to win it in the dying minutes. The Dutch survived a penalty shoot-out to get past Costa Rica but I don't think the extra tension of that match will affect them against Argentina. They know they will have to give everything.
With the exception of a few brilliant Lionel Messi goals, Argentina have not been impressive at all throughout the tournament but here they are in the semifinals for the fourth time in their history. Messi is going to cause Netherlands all sorts of problems, Gonzalo Higuain is playing well and the return to fitness of Sergio Aguero can only help their cause. They have experience all over the pitch and even if they are not playing the most fluent of football at the moment, they know how to get it done.
We tipped Argentina initially but something about this tournament tells me the Dutch may just pinch this one. Louis van Gaal claims to have predicted everything that's happened to his team so far and you have to say he's planned things well. He may well have something up his sleeve for the semis and at 11/10 to qualify, Netherlands are the pick.