Germany vs. Argentina This is the game to TIVO. In a world where there is no Brazil, this is a game that could be considered the Final. Both teams have looked quite impressive in their run. I had assumed going in that Germany was going to need some home-cookin' to get this far, but they have legitimately outplayed everybody they have faced. Klose, Podolowski, and Lahm (out of the left back position) have been creating havoc for opposing teams defense. The German defense has been lock down tight. I can't remember the last time Lehmann has even really been tested in goal. And to their credit, despite having one of the Most Famous Divers of All Time as their head coach, they haven't gone that route. They've played a more exciting brand of the technical kind of German soccer that we've seen in years past. And they've done it without Ballack carrying them, which again, I think we all thought would be necessary. Ballack hasn't played poorly, but he hasn't been the guy I thought he'd have to be for the Germans to get this far. Argentina has been getting good play from their attackers, too, though not really to the extent I thought they would. They've been winning, and they've looked good, but they haven't really dominated in the way I thought they might. Then again, they were coming out of a psuedo Group of Death (sorry, but Serbia didn't live up to their billing as Giant Killers, and Ghana did) . Riquelme still keys this offense, and I think central midfield is one of the places that Argentina has a clear advantage over Germany. Argentina also boasts a great group of strikers, and they have been very effective as well.
In the end, this game may come down to who's young speedy disrupter is more effective. Lahm starts for Germany. Will Argentina give Messi at least 45 minutes?
It's going to be a great game.
Prediction: Argentina 3, Germany 2 (in extra time)
Italy vs. Ukraine. Ugh. These teams both seemed to be full of such exciting attacking soccer, and they've gotten as far as they have by playing very cynical defense, and pretty cynical offense, too. I think this game will come down to bullshits the referees best, and that's a shame. Unless something very unexpected happens, expect this game to feel like the hangover after the drunken pleasure of the first game. I'm more disappointed in Italy than the Ukraine, which really is a bunch of decent players with one truly super bad-ass in Shevchenko. Italy is a team of fucking superstars, and yet they cheat and whine at every opportunity. To use an American sports analogy, they are a bunch of Larry Birds and Michael Jordans, but they approach the game like a bunch of John Stocktons and Danny Ainges.
Ukraine needs to score first to make this a compelling game. If this goes to PK's, watch out, because Italy has some bad history there. If this game is tied at the end of regulation, and the Ukraine hasn't lost to many players to bullshit red cards, then I think they'll pull it out. If this game ends in regulation, it will be Italy's game.
Prediction: Italy 2, Ukraine 1 (one of Italy's goal will be total bullshit)