Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

July 8, 2014

World Cup semifinal matches are tough to pick

Velazco, Smith offer their predictions

(Continued)

SCOTT: As a soccer ref myself, forgive me for putting too much emphasis on the man in the center, but FIFA, which usually screws everything up, pulled a doozy by naming Marco Rodriguez the referee for the Brazil-Germany semifinal.

Rodriguez presided over the Italy-Uruguay hackfest in the group stages, and managed to miss Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini. He called an absurd number of fouls in that game, without ever coming close to getting it under control.

So for Brazil, which has moved on in this tournament by fouling the opposition into submission, the ineffective Rodriguez becomes a powerful ally.

Look for Brazil’s midfield goons, Luis Gustavo, Fernandinho and Paulinho, to foul Germany’s skill players in rotation. The best weapon the Germans have to counter is their lightning passing.

Without Neymar, Brazil becomes even more reliant on brute physicality to compete, so it will be interesting to see if they finish with 11 players on the field. I can’t see them scoring against a disciplined, tactically astute German side.

Tough to call, but I’m going to give this one to Germany, 1-0.

HOLLAND VS. ARGENTINA, WEDNESDAY

PEDRO: I’m torn. For 20 years Holland has been my favorite team to watch as their talented attackers, filled with bravado, punch above their weight on the world stage. But Argentina has Lionel Messi, my favorite player to watch of the last several years and a slippery talent that manages to score or get an assist when Argentina needs it.

Argentina haven’t been nearly as dominant as I thought they could be, but they haven’t given up a goal in the last two games. I can’t see Holland missing all the chances they missed in a scoreless quarterfinal win over Costa Rica. They’ll hit the net once at least, so to get through, Argentina have to either score twice, or win in penalties. Argentina has scored only twice against Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Nigeria. Holland wins. Maybe in overtime, or penalties.

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