For the last three weeks sports graduate Ollie Silverton has represented online bookmaker Titan Bet filming videos, blogging and tweeting his experiences and match previews and reports. Here he explains why this tournament has arguably been the best in living memory as well as who is likely to go through to Sunday’s final in Rio.
As I write this I’m suffering from mixed emotions, I’m excited that we’re another step closer to finding the 2014 World Champions but saddened there are only four games left and, that from now on, there is no more than one game on every day. It seemed like yesterday that we had four games a day and were frantically flicking between channels but that luxury has gone as we have well and truly entered the business end of the tournament.
I’ve had an amazing time here thanks to Titan Bet and have been filming, blogging and tweeting about my experiences and my betting for the last three weeks with re than 30,000 views on You Tube. It’s been the experience of a lifetime. But if you think I get excited about the World Cup, take a look at what it means to the Argentinians:
This weekend we discovered the four teams battling it out to lift the trophy on Sunday July 13th: Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Holland, but before I preview what we have in store with those fixtures I want to reflect on what has been an unreal tournament.
I’m aware there have been a plethora of superlatives used to describe the World Cup so far but “splendiferous” must be the most accurate. We’ve been treated to a series of wonder goals, controversy, glittering individual performances and end-to-end, never say die matches from day one. All this combined has secured Brazil 2014 as easily the best tournament in living memory for myself and many football fans. The unpredictable nature of this year’s tournament is what has made it such a special few weeks with the word ’underdog’ becoming almost obsolete as we have witnessed sides such as Costa Rica beat Italy and the likes of Algeria hold Germany to a scoreless draw in the knockout stages – a remarkable achievement.
The beauty of the World Cup is that no matter what country you play for, you have the ability to shine and stand out just before the major transfer window opens and hopefully sign a deal in one of the big European leagues. We have seen this in the past and it has worked with varying success but I would find it very hard not to see a few of the Chile and Colombia players and every member of the Costa Rica squad plying their trade in English football come mid-August.
Onto business now and we have the small matter of finding the new World Champions. The two semi-finals will be Brazil taking on Germany and Argentina against the Netherlands, which on paper, are two superb fixtures.
Brazil, however is a country in mourning at the moment with their star performer, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, or Neymar Jr as he is better known, fracturing a bone in his vertebrae against Colombia and, as a result, he is set to miss the rest of the tournament. It would be fair to say football is not a one man team and it takes the effort of 11 individuals to win a game but the jokes flying around that he injured his back carrying the side are probably not too far off the truth. Neymar has stood head and shoulders above most of his team mates and his absence will surely play on the minds of his compatriots, ahead of the big clash against Germany.
Germany are quite the opposite in both their style of play and their team dynamics. They play a fast passing game in which each player knows exactly where the next pass is going and they are a side of brilliant individuals but without a stand out star. The fact Neymar is out injured will be a huge boost to them even if they don’t admit it. Anyone with his pace and technical ability can cause havoc so seeing him unavailable would have brought a small smile to the faces of centrebacks Hummels and Mertesacker at least. Germany are a side who love to spoil the party and know how to win important football games as they have shown by appearing in their fourth consecutive semi-final but they will want to go one step further and reach their first final since 2002.
The second semi is being played on Wednesday in São Paulo as Argentina face the Dutch in a repeat of the 1978 final. Argentina, similar to Brazil, have not yet fired on all cylinders and that must be a worry for Holland because the boys from Buenos Aires owe a performance and with not long left it has to come sooner rather than later. Lionel Messi has been an integral part of their route to the semi-final and, despite a quiet game against Belgium in the quarters, I expect to see him run rings around Ron Vlaar. Having been in Brazil for the duration of the tournament I believe I have seen the support from most countries and it is safe to say none compare to the Argentinian contingent out here and that includes the hosts. My love and admiration towards them began at the Maracanã during my first game as they took on Bosnia and for 75 minutes they sung and danced like no fans have done before. Since then they have grown in numbers and volume so I can’t wait to see what they have in store when I see them in the semi final.
Holland must be a side of shattered men after playing an intense game in 40 degree heat against Mexico, followed by 120 minutes and penalties against Costa Rica. The Netherlands are often the bridesmaids of the World Cup having been in three finals and losing them all, including 2010, so their fans know the pain all too well and they will be keen to at least have a shot at winning the trophy come next weekend. Louis Van Gaal is clearly a special manager and before he leaves to start a new chapter in the red half of Manchester he is desperate to add the world’s most prized silverware to his already stellar collection. After his tactical genius on Saturday when he brought on second string keeper Krul as a substitute for the shootout, who would want to bet against him doing it again. The Dutch will need to work out a way to keep the potentially potent Argentinian attack quiet and if they can do that then the final will be within reach for the ‘Oranje’.
Trying to predict who will be in the final at this stage is tricky as there is nothing to choose between the sides. None of them have been consistently at their best during the tournament but they’ve all battled their way through to the semis and that’s what counts. The lack of Neymar could prove crucial for Brazil but I hope they have enough strength in Hulk, Oscar and the likes of Luiz to make the final in their home country.
Go to www.titanbet.com and back Brazil at 9/5 to win if you favour the host nation. I have to favour the Germans on this one though. They are the first team to ever get to four semi-finals in a row and they’re strength, resilience and will to win will take them into another World Cup final. Back Joachim Löw’s men to break millions of Brazilian hearts at 17/10 and don’t forget Titan Bet’s great offers for all new players; Bet £25 and get £25 free! Not only that place a £25 bet on who you think will lift the trophy and for every goal they score Titan Bet will credit you with a £5 free bet. The earlier you place your bet, the more fivers you can win!
In the second semi I feel that the toll of two previous physically exhausting knockout games against Mexico and Costa Rica will show and that Argentina will be there to exploit it with the likes of Messi and Higuaín the main goal threats. Back Argentina to win at 7/5 and by a solitary strike in normal time at 7/1 with Titan Bet.
I can’t wait to see it all unfold in the next few days.
To Follow Ollie Silverton’s World Cup Journey