Germany - Argentina
The outstanding team of the tournament thus far meets the shockingly attractive and not as spineless as everyone would've had you believe a month ago hosts. Man for man, system for system, coach for coach, Argentina are the clear favourites here.
For Germany, quite clearly, the best hope is that Frings can go some way to nullifying the massive threat posed by Riquelme just in front of a German backline that doesn't appear altogether comfortable with flighted or threaded balls through the middle. Equally, if Ballack can keep Mascherano and Cambiasso tied down in the centre of the field then the German wingers can pose a distinct threat to the Argentine full backs. Podolski and Klose will have their work cut out against Ayala and Heinze, but if either can steal a march on a still not fully fit Heinze, or Germany can overload on the Argentine defence, there's the potential for trouble there.
Having said all that, though, I still can't see Argentina not progressing. They're such a terrifyingly strong side, and their attacking resources are simply to die for. Even more so than Brazil's. It might take extra time, but Argentina to win 2-1.
Italy - Ukraine
Surely the two least deserving quarter finalists. Ukraine profited from a weak group, Italy from a massively fortuitous last 16 victory. Without De Rossi in the centre, Italy look a little bit gutless. Even Gattuso seems to have lost his crunching, all-action style a little. Totti has, once again, disappointed. Toni looks like a striker who'd struggle for 30 goals in the Ryman league, let alone Serie A.
For Ukraine, however, Italy may be exactly the team for them not to play. Relying on service to Shevchenko and Voronin and the clever running of Rebrov, Ukraine need to be able to find gaps in flat back fours. And the Italian defence doesn't provide a great deal of space for anybody. Even if you do get past two of the greatest centre-halves in world football, you've got to face down probably the greatest 'keeper on the planet.
The only real hope for Ukraine is that Italy do what Italy do best, and completely fail to turn up. A quarter-final against the least fancied of the remaining teams seems, on paper, to be a more or less forgone conclusion. Should Italy treat it as such, Ukraine may just come out with a victory. They'll have to fight hard though. Still - Italy to win 1-0 or 2-0.
England - Portugal
The curse of Big Phil. Hmm. He's undoubtedly a fantastic coach with brilliant positional analysis and supreme motivational skills. He doesn't, however, have quite the squad that England can boast. Moreoever, he doesn't have the single player upon whom Portugal have relied for the majority of his tenure. And he doesn't have a world class striker. Or a particularly good defence.
In fact, much like England, the Portuguese strength is in midfield. Except their two first choice midfielders are missing. Perhaps it's patriotism, or even disgust at the way this English World Cup campaign has panned out, but I just don't see how to call this one. Though both head and heart say England, that small, nagging doubt that this squad can play as a team makes me fear for this match.
Brazil - France
As Spain - and I - have begun to learn, one can never bet against France. Finally playing the game that their first team has been promising for so long, France looked, for the first time, like the true successors to their '98-'00 success story. With Zidane waking up again, Ribery remembering what it is to play football, Vieira looking like his old, giant self and Barthez displaying the better side of his character, France may not have looked complete. But they looked a damn sight better than they have done for quite some time.
Brazil, like France, have looked to be in a stupor since the beginning of the tournament. Ronaldinho is either drained from his Barcelona season, or incapable of playing a midfield role. Kaka has only shown glimpses of his spectacular ability. Ze Roberto looks like a nobody keeping a somebody - Juninho - out of a deserving starting position. But, in spite of all this, and Ronaldo's awful start to the tournament, they've just kept on getting results.
If one team really turns it on, there's little doubt that they'll emerge victorious. Should both teams do so, this could be one of the games of the tournament. Watch for Malouda, Ribery and Zidane all coming central and swamping Emerson in the hole. Should France win, it may well be the shearing of their wings that holds the key. France to win, 3-1.
I could stay if you asked me,
So for God's sake don't ask me to stay