Belgium's Vincent Kompany, Argentina's Lionel Messi, Holland's Arjen Robben and Costa Rica's Joel Campbell head to the pitch for the World Cup quarterfinals on July 5, 2014 to fight for a chance to take their country to the semi-finals in Brazil.
After Saturday's matches, we move on to the epic glory and heartbreak of the World Cupsemi-finals. But before we get ahead of ourselves, there's still a lot more drama and potential upsets to be had, especially with two old guard teams, Argentina and the Netherlands, facing some plucky newcomers in Belgium and Costa Rica.
This is Belgium's first World Cup appearance since 2002. Dormant for 12 years, Belgium's rise has definitely changed the landscape of European soccer given their performance leading up to and at this World Cup.
Group D was labeled a "Group of Death" with England, Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica. But, as it turned out, it wasn't Costa Rica that had the misfortune to land in a group against wise and experienced teams. All those teams landed in a group against Costa Rica, who went undefeated in the group.
Will Belgium and Costa Rica continue to shake up the status quo of soccer as we know it?
Argentina vs. Belgium, 12 p.m. ET
Despite being the tournament dark horse, the Belgians had a fairly underwhelming group stage. But this is the knockout round — nay, the quarterfinals — and previous records in the group stages don't mean much when one loss sends you home.
And after Belgium's match against the U.S. on Tuesday, their group stage past is far behind the squad.
Belgium played their best game against the U.S. With Team USA's midfield playing frantically and lacking confidence, Belgium was able to retain control of the ball and invent some creative plays — notably Romelu Lukaku's effortless goal. It was the type of play everyone had expected from the Belgians.
The standout player in the Belgium-USA match was definitely Kevin de Bruyne (the Prince Harry doppelganger) with one goal and one assist. But he's certainly not the team's only threat. It's been said before, but this Belgium squad has 2010 Germany written all over it — full of superbly talented youngsters who all miraculously rose up at the same time to create some supernatural, fresh monster of a team.
Argentina, on the other hand, has been impressive in so far as Lionel Messi is consistently impressive. You could go so far as to say that every single match Argentina has won is solely the product of Messi being a demigod.
That being said, in their round of 16 match against Switzerland, Argentina seemed less reliant on the super human feats of Messi — though he still ended up with an assist to Angel di Maria for the game winner.
While "Messi-tina" has relied heavily on their godlike player to win on the pitch, it's unfair to say that the team has struggled to find a win because, frankly, any team who had to play against Argentina's opponents would struggle just the same. Nearly every single team — especially Iran — has parked the bus and effectively put 10 men on defense to shut down Messi.
Don't expect Belgium to do that. It's not a play style of winning teams, and when you're in the quarterfinals and that close to the title, every team doesn't just want to win — they need to win.
Netherlands vs. Costa Rica, 4 p.m. ET
Costa Rica is the last true underdog of the tournament, set to face one of the tournament's top dogs: the Netherlands.
But Costa Rica hasn't faltered in the face of legendary teams thus far. Vanquishing Italy and Uruguay in the group stages — with relative ease — the Costa Rican squad has represented the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) well.
But how will they fare against a veteran team in form?
Costa Rica played Uruguay without a benched Suarez, and England and Italy — despite their world class players — were never serious contenders for the Cup. In the round of 16, they played Greece who had never made it to the knockout round in the nation's history. It's a storyline similar to Colombia and France — and one that happens often in the World Cup. There are always those teams that outclass their opponents in the group stages and early bracket play. Their true test of skill always awaits in the quarterfinals.
The Netherlands defeated one of Costa Rica's CONCACAF cohorts (Mexico) on Sunday, albeit in a nail-biter of a game that came down to an infamous dive by Arjen Robben.
Call it what you will. It was a foul and risky defending from Mexico's captain Rafael Marquez, though certainly a minor one with very little contact that Robben convincingly sold. Maybe it was karmic justice for Robben's previous foul in the box that the referee missed in the first half of the game. At the end of the day, that's soccer — love it or hate it.
The Netherlands is a ruthless opponent, not just for their willingness to be opportunistic and secure a win when it matters most. They will relentlessly beat opponents down on the pitch — constantly attacking — and it's lovely to watch. The sheer athleticism from players like Robben and Dirk Kuyt, who was quite literally everywhere on the pitch in the Mexico game, deserves the utmost praise and respect.
While Costa Rica may certainly be able to match that level of speed and stamina, it's safe to say they've never played an opponent like the Netherlands — because they actually never have.
This will be the first time Costa Rica and the Netherlands will meet in history, truly testing Costa Rica's prowess, or lack thereof, at defeating the old guard.
BONUS: World Cup 2014 Highlights (Ultimate Cat Edition)
Tags: ARGENTINA, BELGIUM, COSTA RICA, ENTERTAINMENT, NETHERLANDS, SOCCER, SPORTS, World Cup