City quartet chase final glory
- 07 July 2014 12:18
- Posted by @porter_mcfc
Four City stars remain in contention for a World Cup winners’ medal as we reach the semi-final stage of Brazil 2014.
Fernandinho’s Brazil will face off against Germany on Tuesday night, while our Argentinian trio of Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta and Sergio Aguero are all in contention to take on the Netherlands in the second of two mouthwatering clashes on Wednesday.
Both sides overcame strong opposition by a single goal margin in the quarter finals to reach the last four, and now aim to take one step further and book a place at the showpiece finale at the Maracanã on Sunday.
Brazil have coped admirably so far with the weight of a large nation’s expectations heaped on their narrow shoulders, and appeared to shrug off any lingering nerves against Colombia with an early lead courtesy of captain Thiago Silva.
A spectacular second half free kick from former Chelsea man, David Luiz seemed to spell an end to the contest, but the Selecao were forced to see off a late rally from Colombia after James Rodriguez halved the deficit from the penalty spot.
Fernandinho has forced his way into the starting XI for the knockout stages, and was again influential in protecting the backline from a Colombian onslaught.
Speaking before the showdown on Friday night, Fernandinho said: "We have worked on the psychological side and there is no need to do any of that now. What matters now is to show what we can do on the pitch.
"We have a very big responsibility representing a country of 200 million people who hope for happiness and better days through football.”
The Londrina-born midfielder will be hoping he has done enough to justify his selection against Germany, when he is likely to come up against former Blue, Jerome Boateng.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s 1-0 quarter final victory ensured their progression at the expense of Belgium, and heartbreak for Red Devils captain Vincent Kompany.
Sergio Aguero did not recover from injury in time to face his City teammate, but Pablo Zabaleta was his usual commanding self at right back and Martin Demichelis won a first start of the tournament.
La Albiceleste’s back line soaked up considerable plaudits for an imposing display, while Kompany marshalled a Belgium defence that prevented the majestic Lionel Messi from adding to his World Cup account of four goals in five games.
A single strike from Gonzalo Higuain was enough to settle a tight encounter, and Zabaleta was proud of the way his team’s defences refused to be breached.
He reflected: “Defensively we were excellent. We knew Belgium were a very tough team physically but we defended set pieces very well. They put a lot of long balls into the box at the end but we coped brilliantly.”
Kompany told Sky Sports: “I have to say congratulations to the whole (Belgium) team.
“We have some margins to improve and we will be a tough team to play against in the years to come.”
When asked who he wanted to lift the trophy, he revealed: “Any one of the City players! I think there are four left now.
“Brazil-Argentina would seem like a good final to me.”
But Zabaleta countered: “It’s a huge mistake if we start thinking about Brazil-Argentina in the final.
"We have to play one more game, so we just need to keep the feet on the ground.”
Argentina take on the Netherlands in Sao Paulo, including the familiar face of Nigel de Jong. The Dutch required penalties – and an unusual last-minute goalkeeper change – to overcome the tournament’s surprise package, Costa Rica in their quarter final.
Manager Louis van Gaal, who takes over at Manchester United on conclusion of the tournament, made his final substitution after 120 minutes to put Tim Krul between the sticks for the spot kicks and give the Newcastle stopper his first taste of match action in Brazil.
The gamble paid off as Krul saved two penalties to ensure the Oranje survived into the final week of the competition.
Zabaleta will expect to retain his place for the crucial clash, while Aguero looks to be ready to make his return to a side which has struggled for produce its familiar attacking verve in the last two matches.
The Argentina team doctor has reportedly said: "Sergio has practised three times. He's ready to play."
With a coveted final berth at stake, all four City stars will be keen to showcase their considerable talent and secure a date in the Brazilian capital on Sunday.
We’ll have coverage of both games on twitter, as well as full match reports shortly after the final whistles blow right here on mcfc.co.uk
Semi final schedule
Brazil v Germany (9.00pm BST) - Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
Netherlands v Argentina (9.00pm BST) - Arena Corinthians, São Paulo