It's a sad but true statement: The World Cup is nearing the end of it's month long reign over the world. In one week the last four matches will have been played, and the champion will be crowned in the middle of the Maracana. Just who it will be and why they will win it has yet to be determined, but we can definitely appreciate the glory of the last four matches in the quarter finals, with another set of 3 On / 3Off
ON: Lionel Messi--The midfield maestro has slowed his goal scoring role, much to the delight of his fellow Argentine strikers. But let's not miss the message...every play runs through Messi, he controls the ball, he controls the distribution, he controls the build up, he IS the most important player who will walk out for the final four. And he is easily the best player left.
OFF: Neymar--Fractured vertabrae...I just...I mean, what the heck do you do with that? (I mean other than hit those who call soccer players "soft" upside the head?). It wasn't a rough play or a violent one, and it's no one's fault but clearly this is a blow to Neymar now, and may be a blow to him for months (and perhaps years to come)
ON: Louis Van Gaal--I'm very much of the mindset that "Coaching Geniuses" are anything but (witness my tireless mockery of Fabio Capello), but I've got to admit, van Gaal might just make me a believer. The last second swap of keepers JUST for penalty kicks takes a certain amount of brash self-belief, and willingness to be totally pilloried if it goes wrong...when it goes right that's cool, but just making the call is nice to see.
OFF: Marc Wilmots--Wilmots is undoubtedly a good manager, he's seen a little lowland nation rise up into a top 8 team, and a serious threat for continental supremacy. But he's awfully slow to make adjustments. 90 minutes of lackluster American play was redeemed by an unimaginative Red Devils squad. Argentina's regularly squandering of chances was excused by a Belgian inability to navigate an occasionally porous back line. A team that scraped through their group and into the quarter finals was good...but not nearly as good as we wanted them to be.
ON: Fine German Engineering--How do you solve the group of death? Precision passing and tireless work (even against a faster, more motivated, near miss Ghana) How do you beat the unflappable Algerians who wore down Korean and Russian squads that try to emulate you? Be even less flappable and wear them down. How do you unnerve the edgy attack of France? JUST BE GERMAN. It works.
OFF: Miroslav Klose--Lets take nothing away from Klose, the sniper of so many German attacks is still a threat anywhere within 30 yards of the goal, but his uninspiring performance against France confirmed that this is certainly the twilight of his career and that the Germans will be more likely to excel through teamwork and collaboration than 30 passes and one thunderous Klose smash.