Elite Eight chock full of power
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
PRETORIA -- In any recent World Cup year, a Germany-Argentina or Brazil-Netherlands matchup would be something you might predict for the final.
Instead, these four world powerhouses will be involved much earlier in South Africa 2010, facing off in the quarterfinals which kick off later this week.
With victories by Paraguay and Spain in the Round of 16 Tuesday, the Elite Eight have now been established as the tournament hits the stretch drive.
In Brazil (1), Spain (2), The Netherlands (4), Germany (6) and Argentina (7), this World Cup still features five of the top seven ranked clubs in the world, a turn of events which should make all the soccer purists happy.
At the same time, there are some surprises.
Before the tournament, few predicted that Uruguay (16), Paraguay (31) and Ghana (32) would make it this far. But all three are worthy of their spots in the quarters, earning their respective ways into this part of the tournament by grinding through opponents.
With Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay all having qualified, half the remaining field comes from South America. Europe has three representatives while Ghana will carry the hopes of this entire continent.
Brazil and the Netherlands will lock up in Port Elizabeth on Friday after combining for seven wins and a draw in eight starts of this tournament. Ghana and Uruguay will go head-to-head on that day, too, with the respective winners meeting in a semifinal in Cape Town on July 6.
On Saturday, the Germans and Argentines meet in a clash that has become one of the better grudge matches at recent World Cups. Diego Maradona's side beat Germany in the World Cup final in 1986, but fell 1-0 to Der Mannschaft for the championship four years later.
On that same day, heavily-favoured Spain will try to dispose of Paraguay, a scenario that, if played out, would see a Spain-Argentina or Spain-Germany match in the semis July 7 in Durban.
Whatever way it plays out, things are beginning to get interesting here.