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World Cup Quarter-Finals: Where the Fighting Really Begins

It's never wise to discount the Brazilians; plenty of talent to win its sixth world title. AP Photo/Andre Penner

As the quarter-finalists look forward to the sado-masochistic ritual that is the pain or pleasure of the World Cup's late stages, you can feel the friction from a thousand paces.

Yet in each case the fight features many, varied protagonists.

For Brazil, it is the fight between its management and its players against the press.

For Dunga, Brazil's coach, it is something he is used to.

What he is less used to is Brazil's most powerful media outlet, Globo, referring to him merely as "Brazil's coach".

Dunga declined to give Globo the unfettered ability to stick its microphones beyond where the shining sun might feel comfortable.

In Brazil, journalists think it's OK to talk to players during games. And not even during stoppages in play. So he is punished for his affrontery.

Kaka, Brazil's extremely pretty but fragile midfielder, is objecting to a columnist criticizing the way that Kaka uses football to push his religious views.

Kaka is a member of the Reborn in Christ Church, which was founded in 1986 by Estevam and Sonia Hernandes.

The Hernandes are an interesting couple who seem to have been in trouble with the US authorities for illegal cash smuggling and the Brazilian authorities for money laundering and fraud.

Still, the team itself appears relatively united and must face a Dutch squad that is almost ritually said to be relatively disunited.

The Dutch somehow experience their fighting within their own ranks. Each individual claims to know better than the next with the result that no one is right.

This time around they're trying to project harmony, with a coach in Bert van Marwijk who attempts to offer stability in the face of what Dutch legend Johann Cruyff described as "a kind of arrogance."

He meant the destructive kind, the one that covers up for splendid insecurities.

Mostly the Dutch have projected harmony. That is, until Robin van Persie pitched just the slightest of hissies when removed from the last game with Slovakia.

Most expect Brazil to waft through to the final with some ease. But this might be their toughest game of the whole competition.

Going forward so far, Brazil has played with all the arrogance of a rich man for whom the eye of a needle is twelve feet wide.

The forwards seem to believe they can walk the ball straight through the middle with little touch passes and triangles, while the opposition stands, admires and asks for an autograph or two.

The Dutch might be arrogant enough not to acquiesce.

In the end, even without the elegant Elano, Brazil should have just a little more imagination and a far sturdier defense. But no one should be surprised if Kaka and friends fight their fates after this one.

One can't accuse Germany of having a sturdy defense.

Even writing that feels like accusing Einstein of illiteracy.

So, in the other clash between the traditionally powerful footballing nations, a very different Germany must face a very typical Argentina.

The two are about as fond of each other as Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. Perhaps they are even as fond of each other as Michael Bay and Megan Fox.

Germany has, at times during this World Cup, played some of the most fluent and engaging football.

On the other hand, it has done this against the likes of second-level teams such as Australia and England.

The Germans are not secure defensively, even managing to look brittle for at least 54 seconds against the English.

Argentina not only have the stronger defense, but also, arguably, the greater motivation.

Twice these two have met before at the World Cup.

Firstly, in the 1990 final, in which German fakery encouraged the referee to offer considerable blind prejudice against the Argentines.

In 2006, Germany won on penalties and the branches of friction between the two have already been rubbed together by Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger.

He offered that the Argentinians were "whingers".

Failing to suddenly retreat into shyness, he added: "It starts before the match. You see their body language, how they gesticulate, how they try to influence the referee. That is not part of the game. That is a lack of respect. They are like that. We should not be provoked by them. I hope the referee will pick this up."

He even accused Argentinian fans of stealing the seats that were rightfully those of Mexico supporters during their last 16 matchup.

There are two points of conflict in this affair. One between Argentina's deeply, nastily combative Javier Mascherano and perhaps the most impressive player of the World Cup so far, Mesut Ozil.

The remaining point of conflict will be between the other ten players on either side, the coaches, the referees, the fans and, who knows, perhaps even the fitness trainers.

This promises to be a game in which cheating, faking, foollng, niggling, pinching, shirt-tugging, and, why not, biting might supercede any of the football being played.

Diego Maradona's pleasantly emotional approach to coaching his team is almost bound to spill over into highly expressive moments of both high art and low artifice. Both on his part and that of his players.

You should make a game time decision about whether kids under 13 should watch this stuff.

Indeed, this may well turn out to be the game that Quentin Tarrantino will immediately offer to remake.

Somehow, the remaining two quarter-finals offer more subtle, more subdued forms of conflict.

For Ghana, it is the one between its injuries, its lack of injured national rock, Michael Essien and the hope and expectation of a whole forgotten continent, Africa.

No African team has ever made the semi-finals.

Ghana has every chance against a Uruguay team which is adjacent to Argentina in so many ways, save for extravagant skills.

Uruguay will fight against its own inferiority complex, now that it has reached a stage of this championship of which it never dreamed.

While Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan have impressed, perhaps the emotions of the evening might swing in favor of the Ghanaians.

The last game sees Spain again having to confront an opponent in Paraguay that will surely play just as defensively as did Portugal in the last 16.

Defensive play is so much not in the Spanish nature that one can only hope it manages to somehow perform bypass surgery on the Paraguayans early, so that the game might feel slightly more enjoyable than waiting for your loved one to undergo a heart transplant.

In its last round against Japan, Paraguay was more content to settle for penalties, so its own conflict will surely reside in not being tempted to attack too much.

On the other hand, no Paraguayan can be unaware that highly impactful lingerie model, Larissa Riquelme has promised to run through the streets of Asuncion with her naked body painted in the national team's colors.

So who will survive this round of punches to play once again?

Oh, let's say Brazil, Germany, Ghana and Spain. Though, for some strange reason, I may still see cheery Dutch faces in my dreams.

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