Jon Dunham – This football festival will only get better

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
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And so, we are down to the final eight.

Those of you who are like me and love your football will all appreciate just how good this World Cup has been.

Goals galore, controversy, penalty shoot-outs – we have had it all and there is still plenty of time to go.

Not even England’s miserable efforts have taken anything away from what has been and will continue to be a proper festival of football.

The quarter-finals get under way this evening (Friday) and, like many, I am finding it hard to pick a winner out of the eight that remain. But let’s have some fun and see if I can predict who will make it through to the last four.

The clash between France and Germany today is a real blockbuster and has the potential to be one of the best games of the tournament.

The French have surprised me somewhat. A country (as far as football is concerned) that was in ruins four years ago has bounced back in impressive style and they really haven’t shown many weaknesses thus far.

It was obvious the Germans would have a good tournament, they always do. But they were given a real examination by Algeria in the last 16 and will need to improve if they are to get past the French.

Brazil take on Colombia in the late game today and many expect the hosts to go on and win it. I can understand why, home advantage is massive and, in Neymar, they have a player who can take a game away from the opposition in a split second.

But Colombia have been one of the teams I have enjoyed watching the most. The climate has been right for them and when it has come to the big occasion, they have put it together in seriously good style.

James Rodriguez is an incredible talent and his goal to open the scoring against Uruguay was one of the best I have ever seen (honestly, it was that good).

I can see this clash going all the way but Brazil just seem to have that extra momentum with them and they have shown they can handle the pressure of an expectant nation.

The Netherlands have, in general, been very good so far. They have big-game players and a manager who knows what it takes to win (Manchester United fans should be feeling very happy about that).

Is there any doubt that they will get past Costa Rica tomorrow? No, not really. I expect the Dutch to get the job done.

That’s not to take anything away from Costa Rica, however. They have been a breath of fresh air right from the moment they saw off Uruguay in their opening group game.

They came through a group that no-one saw them getting out of and held their nerve to defeat Greece on penalties. It’s been a great run but it ends here.

Like the Brazil v Colombia match, the quarter-final between Argentina and Belgium is another hard one to call.

Belgium were the undoubted ‘dark horses’ coming into the tournament. A squad packed full of exciting young players, they have worked their way through to this stage and were involved in a cracking finish against the unfortunate Americans in the last round.

Argentina intrigue me. You get the feeling there is more in the tank from them and so there should be, they have some wonderful footballers in their ranks.

At the moment though, they have only just done enough to get through. If they find an extra gear and Lionel Messi continues to have the influence he is having then I believe they will take some stopping.

And, more to the point, I have them in the office sweepstake!

It’s been a fantastic tournament so far and I genuinely think it will only get better over the next week or so.

I will be enjoying it, I hope you all do as well.

Predictions for semi-final line-up: Brazil v France, Netherlands v Argentina.