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World Cup Quarterfinals Set to Begin


After 19 straight days of matches in the first and second rounds at the World Cup in Germany there were two days off Wednesday and Thursday. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is in Berlin and takes a look at what's in store for the quarterfinals Friday and Saturday.

Of the eight teams that remain, six are from Europe and two from South America, and all are ranked in the top 20 in the world except Ukraine, which is 45th.

First up is the game here in Berlin Friday between host Germany and Argentina.

Head of the German organizing committee Franz Beckenbauer, the only man to have won the World Cup as a player (1974) and a coach (l990), offered his thoughts on the game.

"It's going to be an interesting match, because both teams are at the same level, and perhaps the home advantage can make a difference, because there is enthusiasm carrying the German team," said Franz Beckenbauer. "But I'm quite confident the German team will make it to the semifinals."

In Friday's second match, Italy plays Ukraine in Hamburg.

Ukraine, in its first-ever World Cup, reached the final eight by getting past Switzerland in a penalty kick shootout (3-0) following a scoreless draw.

Ukrainian coach Oleg Blokin, said he knows his team faces a difficult challenge against Italy.

"We have proceeded so far in this tournament that it's almost like a dream," said Oleg Blokin. "I think all the teams really play very good football that have proceeded so far, and the Italian lineup is a very good, a very solid lineup. They're very dangerous too and it's hard to create chances against Italy."

The first World Cup quarterfinal on Saturday features England versus Portugal in Gelsenkirchen, then reigning champion Brazil goes against 1998 champion France in Frankfurt.

Portugal advanced with a foul-plagued 1-0 win over the Netherlands in which a World Cup record was tied for the number of yellow cards issued with 16, and a record four players were sent off. Two were Portuguese starters, Costinha and Deco (one name for each), who will have to sit out the England match.

But Portugal's Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, said he expects his team to rise to the challenge.

"Obviously we're going to have to change one or two things given that we can't use two players," said Luiz Felipe Scolari. "We have players sufficient on the bench. I'm not concerned in that sense. I had 23 players. I have 21 now, with a will that I've never seen in a Portuguese team, and sometimes the will overcomes the quality that England has."

Brazil heads into its quarterfinal against France having allowed only one goal in four World Cup games while scoring ten. But the Brazilians have received criticism from some that their style of play has not been up to expectations.

Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, said that is the least of his worries.

"Why do we have to play beautiful football and the others don't? If we can, we will," said Carlos Alberto Parreira. "Obviously we would like to play beautiful football. We like the beautiful game. But more than that, we want to be champions. The historical records register champions, not beautiful games. We have five world championships under our belly and we want to fight for the sixth."

Brazil's opponent France is looking for its second World Cup after winning as host eight years ago.