World Cup - Richard Hercock: Two dull quarter-finals put spoke in wheel of Brazil’s festival

Dutch players celebrate after the Netherlands defeated Costa Rica 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out.

Dutch players celebrate after the Netherlands defeated Costa Rica 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out.

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After an enthralling World Cup which has produced some stunning football, Saturday night saw it all come to a shuddering halt.

Maybe we had been spoiled with the breathtaking Tour de France whizzing through the streets of Yorkshire, but I found Saturday’s two quarter-finals a huge let-down.

First, Argentina once more failed to impress. Yet another 1-0 win saw them sneak past Belgium – a side who offered little ambition – and it was efficient rather than flamboyant from the South Americans, who surprisingly had not reached the semi-finals since 1990.

Next up was Holland, with two of the tournament’s top performers in Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.

Surely this Dutch double would have sufficient firepower to see off Costa Rica – who have been one of my favourite teams this summer.

The result? A stalemate which failed to find a goal in 120 minutes, both sides failing to reproduce some of the fine football from earlier rounds.

It meant a penalty shoot-out and I loved the move from Holland to send on Newcastle United goalkeeper Tim Krul just for the spot-kicks.

Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana saw their efforts saved by Krul while the Dutch converted all of their attempts.

It was like American Football, where a side brings on a goal-kicker just to boot the ball before scooting off, his work done.

Holland will face Argentina in the semi-finals, and we can only hope this game returns to the usual standard we have come to rely on over in Brazil. With no Neymar, I am expecting Germany to end the host nation’s interest in the second semi-final.

Germany’s 1-0 defeat of France was not the most exciting of matches, although at least those watching the BBC’s coverage of the quarter-final had a chuckle beforehand.

On the panel speaking ahead of the game were Ruud Gullit and Alan Shearer, who the Dutchman famously dropped when Newcastle manager for the derby defeat to Sunderland in 1999.

Gullit left the job after the 2-1 loss and the striker later said if he had not resigned, he would have been pushed.

Tensions remained in the years that followed but those emotions have clearly now been put to bed.

In praising Germany coach Joachim Low for his bravery in dropping players, host Gary Lineker asked whether Gullit had ever left a big player out of the starting line-up.

“Yes, I did it with him,” he said, pointing at Shearer as laughter broke out in the studio.”

“And look what happened,” the former England forward said. “Best friends now, aren’t we?” as the pair shook hands.

Expect to see Germany back to full-strength for the semi-final tomorrow against Brazil.

It means we have an intriguing pair of games, with the prospect of an all-European final next Sunday, or an all-South American clash.

Putting my neck on the line, I am going for an Argentina versus Germany final.

I think the loss of Neymar and captain Thiago Silva – who is suspended after picking up two bookings – tomorrow will be too much to overcome.

There has not been one outstanding team, but I just believe this is Lionel Messi’s tournament for the taking and his individual magic can carry Alex Sabella’s team to glory come next Sunday evening.

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