MATCHDAY PREVIEW – The quest for semi-final spots concludes at Brazil 2014 with a pair of tournament favourites looking to pull rank in their respective ties against a dark horse and the competition's surprise package.
Argentina will be the traditional power in Brasilia, though they share one win apiece with opponents Belgium on the FIFA World Cup™ stage. Les Diables Rouges claimed first blood in a 1-0 success at Spain 1982, before Argentina avenged that loss with a 2-0 victory four years later.
It would be simplistic to view their latest encounter as a tussle between Lionel Messi and Eden Hazard, but the gifted duo remain crucial to their teams. Messi lies at the heart of everything La Albiceleste do well, setting the tempo, scoring goals, serving up assists and generally injecting life into a side that has tended to look uninspired at times. As for Hazard, his sublime touch and explosive accelerations can wreak havoc in front of goal. He has yet to produce a moment of magic worthy of the game's true greats, but a quarter-final against Argentina would be the perfect time to deliver.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, have already defied expectations by progressing this far. Los Ticos have been anything but lucky, however, upsetting the apple cart in Group D by downing former World Cup winners Uruguay and Italy, and drawing with 1966 champions England. They then continued in the same vein by edging out UEFA EURO 2004 victors Greece on penalties, giving further substance to the view of Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez, who remarked: "I don't know what Costa Rica's limit is."
The CONCACAF contenders will also feel more at home in Brazil's humid conditions than the Netherlands, who had to work supremely hard to see off Mexico 2-1 in the last round. With Arjen Robben in hungry mood, the Oranje are nonetheless desperate to shed their tag as World Cup bridesmaids, and their 12 goals thus far suggest they have what it takes to prevail. This will be their first ever meeting with Costa Rica, who will take heart from the fact they have conceded just twice along the way.
* The matches*
Argentina- Belgium, Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, 13.00 (local time)
Netherlands-Costa Rica, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, 17.00 (local time)
Did you know?
*CONCACAF pride: *Costa Rica will be the fourth CONCACAF side to dispute a World Cup quarter-final after USA (1930, 2002), Cuba (1938) and Mexico (1970, 1986). The Stars and Stripes are the only team from the confederation to have advanced further, reaching the semi-finals in 1930.
Dutch target: Netherlands duo Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder have both racked up six World Cup goals so far in their careers. The Dutch record belongs to Johnny Rep, who managed seven.
Bête noire: Argentina will be keen to prove they have no fear when it comes to facing European teams. La Albiceleste have lost three times at the last-eight stage to rivals from the Old Continent, going down 4-0 to Germany in 2010, losing to the same opponents on penalties in 2006 and suffering a 2-1 defeat by the Netherlands in 1998. Add in their 3-2 Round of 16 reverse at the hands of Romania in 1994, plus the 1-0 Final loss to West Germany in 1990, and Argentina have a point to prove in Brasilia.
Matching Maradona: Lionel Messi will draw level with Diego Maradona on 91 caps when he faces Belgium, with his current haul of 42 goals comparing favourably to the former Napoli legend's 34. Both men made their debuts against Hungary, Messi taking his first steps on the international stage in 2005 and Maradona beginning his journey in 1977. *El Pibe de Oro then topped the scoring charts for his side with five efforts at Mexico 1986, where he was named player of the tournament. Eager to make the same impact, Messi has mustered four in four games so far at Brazil 2014, being voted Budweiser Man of the Match in each.
Oscar Duarte (CRC)
Marcos Rojo (ARG)
*Treading the tightrope
*Stefan de Vrij, Daley Blind, Jonathan de Guzman (NED)
Yeltsin Tejeda, Esteban Granados, Jose Cubero, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruiz (CRC)
Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Garay (ARG)
Toby Alderweireld, Axel Witsel, Jan Vertonghen, Moussa Dembele, Vincent Kompany (BEL)
* Check it outBelgium's most searing World Cup memories are inextricably linked to games against Argentina. Read *FIFA.com's exclusive interviews and watch highlights from 1982 and 1986 to find out why.
FIFA.com also sat down with Arjen Robben to get his thoughts ahead of the Netherlands' last-eight tie with Costa Rica. "Mentally, I feel really good and, physically, I feel very strong," said the Oranje dynamo, a serious candidate for the adidas Golden Ball. "I can play my football and I'm really happy that I can help the team."
Just Fontaine certainly helped his team back in 1958, hitting 13 goals for France on Swedish soil to set a World Cup record that may never be surpassed. The 80-year-old legend retains crystal-clear recollections of the tournament, and he recently regaled FIFA.com with tales from that magical summer.
On this day
Italy supporters of a certain vintage will never forget 5 July 1982, otherwise known as the 'Miracle of Sarria'. La Nazionale had travelled to Spain under something of a cloud, with coach Enzo Bearzot criticised for selecting Juventus striker Paolo Rossi, who had only just served a two-year suspension following a betting scandal. As expected by many back home, Rossi was almost invisible during Italy's first three outings, and he disappointed again when they overcame Argentina 2-1 in their first game of the second round. Then, out of the blue, something clicked for the *Juve *marksman, and on 5 July he helped himself to a hat-trick against Brazil. Rossi was not done there either, hitting a double as Poland were dispatched 2-0 in the semi-finals and opening the scoring in the 3-1 showpiece success against West Germany. Top scorer and named best player to boot, Rossi returned home to a hero's welcome, having previously been regarded as a national pariah.
Play and win
With the last-eight ties drawing to a close, it is time to tinker with your McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy team ahead of the semi-finals! A mere four games will remain after today's contests, with each offering you the chance to modify your line-up and win some fantastic prizes. So take your place in the dugout and collect as many points as possible!
— BelgianRedDevils (@BelRedDevils) July 4, 2014