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Liverpool: World Cup Quarter-Finals Round-Up

Fortunes proved mixed for the Liverpool stars involved in the World Cup quarter-finals. Want-away Javier Mascherano and winger Maxi Rodriguez will be packing their bags after a 4-0 thrashing by Germany, a result that looks set to lead to the resignation of coach Diego Maradona. However Dutch midfielders Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel should be in a more celebratory mood after the Oranje booked their place in the semis, courtesy of a 2-1 victory over customary favourites Brazil. And Spain’s narrow 1-0 defeat of Paraguay ensured that there will at least one European team in the final, as David Villa’s fifth goal of the tournament set up a mouth-watering semi against in-form Germany. Villa may have scored the winner, but the headlines are again dominated by another goal-free game for Fernando Torres.

Although Ryan Babel has been unable to get a game for the Netherlands, something which will perhaps further convince the twenty-three-year-old that his future lies away from the Red’s substitute bench, the story couldn’t be more different for Dirk Kuyt who is shaping up to be Liverpool’s star of South Africa. Kuyt, who has played the full ninety minutes for the Dutch in four out of their five fixtures, and scored against Denmark in the group stages, has formed a formidable partnership with Wesley Sneijder. A pull-back against Slovakia allowed Sneijder to stroke the ball home and seal a 2-1 victory, whilst even more crucially, it was Kuyt’s flick on that enabled the Inter Milan midfielder to head home the winner against Brazil.

Kuyt has also linked up well with Rafael Van der Vaart, one of Liverpool’s top transfer targets, and the thought of having the two Dutch midfielders occupying the right and left flanks of the team will be a tantalizing prospect for many Reds. The semi-finals draw has paired them against Uruguay, the only remaining South American side, and Kuyt and the Netherlands will really fancy their chances of getting to their first final since 1978, especially as Oscar Tabarez’s side will be without star player Luis Suarez. The three-goal forward will be serving a ban for his controversial last gasp hand-ball against Ghana.

None of the World Cup’s predicted superstars, with the exception of Villa and Snejider, lived up to their billing, and perhaps without the exploits of Villa, whose goal tally looks set to earn him the golden boot,  Fernando Torres would be joining fellow non-scorers Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi on the plane home. However, Torres’ poor showing may prove a blessing in disguise for Liverpool as an outstanding tournament would have made his move away from Anfield all but certain. This morning Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque declared himself unconcerned about Torres’ poor goal-scoring form, stating that

‘we are satisfied with his work and his attitude and we are hoping for the best of him in our next matches.’

It should not be forgotten that by this point in Euro 2008, Torres had scored only once but ended up winning the tournament for Spain with his goal against Germany. Torres is getting fitter every game, after being sidelined for six weeks at the end of last season, and should Spain reach the World Cup final for the first time in their history, it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s a repeat of 2008.

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who has yet to play for Spain in South Africa, also came in for great praise from first choice stopper Iker Casillas after Reina reportedly told him where Oscar Cardozo would place his penalty, having faced the Benfica striker in last season’s Europa League. In what proved to be a few minutes of madness, Paraguay were awarded and missed a penalty, seconds later Spain were given one of their own and former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso to be forced to retake his well placed spot-kick. His second effort was comfortably saved by Justo Villar, who then appeared to foul Cesc Fabregas but Spain’s pleas for a second penalty were waved away by  referee Carlos Batres.

The team going out of the quarters with their reputation most in tatters is Argentina. Germany had already put four past Australia and a disorganised England, but no one could have predicted they would outplay a side, touted as potential champions, in such a masterful way. Captain Mascherano, although always ready to tough tackle, failed, along with the back four, to quell the attacking prowess of Klose and Lukas Podolski, and lost the midfield battle against the outstanding Bastian Schweinsteiger. Maxi, who hasn’t had a particularly strong tournament, also struggled in midfield and although he had creative ideas throughout Argentina’s matches, was not able to translate this into any goals. First on the agenda when Mascherano arrives back in Liverpool will to be to sort out his future. This looks increasingly likely to be at Barcelona, especially with Manchester City signing defensive midfielder Yaya Toure from the Catalan side. Meanwhile Maxi, after starting all five games for Argentina, will be looking to impress new manager Roy Hodgson and cement his place in the Red’s starting eleven.

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