Berlin, June 28 :
The World Cup takes a well-deserved breather on Wednesday and Thursday allowing the eight remaining teams time to gather their forces for the final push. The quarter-final line-up was completed in spectacular fashion on Tuesday night with two late goals from Patrick Vieira and Zinedine Zidane driving France past much-fancied Spain 3-1.
Franceâ€™s reward for their effort is a quarter-final tie against Brazil in Frankfurt on Saturday. The Brazilians stepped up into another gear in demolishing Ghana 3-0 in Dortmund with striker Ronaldo back in the spotlight with his third goal of the tournament which gave him the all-time World Cup goal-scoring record of 15.
But coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has warned that his side must still play better if they are to successfully defend their title in Berlin on July 9. In particular he wants more from playmaker Ronaldinho who has been suprisingly subdued since the start of the tournament.
â€œHe can always improve slightly and I hope that happens in the quarter-final and semi-final and final,â€ said Parreira. His concern ahead of the France game is justified as the Braziliansâ€™ last win over France dates back to 1992 and they have lost to them the last two times they met at the World Cup â€” on penalties in the last eight in 1986 and 3-0 in the 1998 final in Paris.
The bookies though believe that losing run will come to an end as they are predicting a first ever Brazil-Argentina final.
The Brazilians are 9/4 with Ladbrokes in England, Argentina are second favourites at 7/2, and England are third at 5/1, the same as Germany.
The Brazil v France game is one for the purists and fans alike but in Germany it is a mere sideshow to the looming clash of the titans in Berlin. In a classic World Cup, Europe vs South America showdown, Germans have eyes only for their blossoming team going up against the multi-talented Argentina on Friday in Berlinâ€™s Olympic Stadium.
Four-wins-in-a-row Germany believe a fourth World Cup title is possible. â€œArgentina are a great team but we can compete with them and I am sure we can beat them,â€ German coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. â€œFrom what I have seen of the other countries in this tournament we do not need to hide from anyone.â€ The two other quarter-finals see Italy take on Ukraine in Hamburg on Friday and England up against Portugal in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday.