Germany vs. Argentina
When » Saturday, 10 a.m.
Where » Cape Town
Player to watch: Lionel Messi, Argentina » He still hasn’t scored in South Africa, but he remains the conductor of the Albiceleste offense. With the Germans preferring to absorb pressure and counterattack, Messi’s going to have the ball at his feet. Where he makes it go will determine whether Argentina can break through and get to its first semifinal since 1990.
Compelling storyline » Under former coach Jose Pekerman in the 2006 World Cup, the Argentines were a tactical disaster and went out to Germany via penalties in the quarterfinals, proving to be one of the biggest disappointments of the tournament. They also came to blows in a fight after the match. Revenge will whet the appetite, indeed.
X-factor » It’s been a challenge to find the right place on the keyboard to spell the names of Thomas Müller and Mesut Özil and equally to keep them in check on the field. Despite being age 20 and 21, respectively, they’ve played like veterans. They need to keep doing so for the Germans to pull the upset.
The Examiner predicts » The Germans’ round of 16 win over England was dominant, but their form in South Africa has been inconsistent. The Argentines are confident and haven’t been held back by coach Diego Maradona’s antics. Messi and Carlos Tevez keep them rolling with a 3-1 victory.
Spain vs. Paraguay
When » Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Where » Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Player to watch: Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, Spain » The unmatched quality in the Spanish midfield centers on this duo, who have held down the same place at Barcelona for most of the last decade. They are as interchangeable as they are similar in stature — both 5-foot-7 — and Paraguay’s biggest task will be to limit their influence.
Compelling storyline » Having been hardened by Liverpool, Fernando Torres was Spain’s difference-maker in the rough and tumble 2008 European championships. But the 2010 World Cup is all about La Liga strikers. Atletico Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente is one you may not know, but he proved against Portugal that he should start for the Spaniards and could hold the key to winning it all.
X-factor » Having advanced this far, the Paraguayans are playing with house money. If they can translate it into an attacking mentality — anything would be better than their awful shootout win over Japan — they could rekindle the Spaniards’ historical self-doubt.
The Examiner predicts » The conclusion of this quarterfinal is more foregone than any other. Spain’s possession will be overwhelming, and its defense simply won’t be broken down. David Villa strikes again and will run away with the World Cup golden boot. Spain 2-0.