World Cup 2014: Ranking the Matches from the Quarter-Final Stage on Excitement
For the first time in World Cup history, the eight group winners were the eight sides to contest the quarter-finals of the competition.
Unlike the group stages, though, the knockout stages have seen the goals dry up and the action become far more tactical. Indeed, the quarter-final stage was the joint lowest-scoring of any World Cup in history, as per Dave Phillips:
There were no upsets, there were only five goals; but there was still plenty to discuss, controversial moments, one high-profile injury and a dramatic penalty shootout.
Here, we rank the four quarter-finals for their excitement.
4. Argentina 1-0 Belgium
Far from a classic, this match was lit only by the odd piece of brilliance from Lionel Messi.
The Argentine's through ball for Angel di Maria was one of the most impressive passes you're ever likely to see.
Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal of the game with a well-taken finish after the ball somewhat fortuitously fell to him.
Belgium, whom many people tipped to excel at this World Cup, were again pretty poor—they managed just six goals despite a squad brimming with attacking talent. Of that attacking force, their main talent, Eden Hazard, failed to show up at the tournament.
3. France 0-1 Germany
Much like the aforementioned Argentina match, this all-European encounter was anticipated to be a thriller. Instead, it was pretty lacklustre.
Mats Hummels' headed goal early on gave Germany a comfortable victory, with France failing to impress in order to at least equalise.
As with many games in the knockout stages, the final hurrah was much of "too little, too late" for the French.
Thankfully that's the last of the early starts. Most of the games with a 1 o'clock local Kickoff have produced lethargic, pedestrian dross!— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 5, 2014
2. Brazil 2-1 Colombia
OK, so this game was better than the previous two—at least it had action. Three goals, numerous debatable decisions, Neymar's injury, the brutal treatment of James Rodriguez and the referee's failure to control the game.
Rodriguez was kicked and targeted by a very un-Brazilian side throughout, so it was perhaps ironic that Brazil's wonder boy Neymar eventually fell foul to a challenge that was akin to the tactics of his own side. Had the referee actually controlled the game and booked Brazilian players earlier on, then perhaps Juan Zuniga's challenge on Neymar would not have occurred.
Alas, this match will be remembered more for that injury than Thiago Silva's flicked goal early on and David Luiz's impressive free-kick.
Nonetheless, Brazilian—regular the neutral's favourite—aren't exactly a side making the neutral get too excited.
1. Netherlands 0-0 Costa Rica (4-3 on Penalties)
90 minutes of pretty unexciting action made way for a thrilling 30 minutes of extra time, the highlight being Keylor Navas' performance in goal for Costa Rica.
Until penalties, when Louis Van Gaal's controversial decision to replace Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul for the shootout. Krul saved two to provide one of the most dramatic and memorable moments of this tournament.
Before the penalties, we'd seen Wesley Sneijder hit the woodwork twice, Robin van Persie hit the bar and miss an absolute sitter, while Yeltsin Tejeda diverted a goalmouth scramble off the line and onto the bar.
Costa Rica also posed a threat on the counter-attack and had a penalty appeal turned down as the match was brought into life.
In the end, the Dutch progressed and, much like the second round, all the favourites progressed again.