Who’ll win race for football’s greatest prize?

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First published in Headlines
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Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Witney and West Oxfordshire. Call me on 01865 425483

ENGLAND’S World Cup dream might have long withered away but football fever has not died in Oxfordshire.

The competition has now reached the last four and county residents hope their countries could lift the trophy in Brazil.

Brazil and Germany meet tonight in the first semi-final, before Argentina face the Netherlands tomorrow for a place in the final at the Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

Dutchman Wybo Wiersma, 32, is hoping his country can finally lift the trophy for the first time after losing in the final in 1974, 1978 and 2010.

He praised manager Louis Van Gaal for his “brilliant decision” in bringing on substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul before the penalty shootout against Costa Rica in Saturday’s quarter-final victory, as he saved two spot-kicks to send the Netherlands through.

He said: “It was just what was needed at the right time. Van Gaal is one of the main reasons why we’ve done so well and has made a big difference.

“I’m slightly biased but I do expect the Netherlands to get to the final.

“If we play against Brazil it might be possible to win but Germany would be trickier, although that would be the greater victory as there’s a lasting rivalry between the two countries.”

Argentinian Leo Sagor believes fate will help his country reach the final, where his dream would be to beat arch-rivals Brazil on their own turf.

He said: “I’m going to trust the luck of Argentina rather than be rational. It’s been a World Cup of surprises and disappointments, and I think it could all be set for us to win.”

Brazil-born Michael Maia Schlussel, 35, said he is “proud” of his country’s efforts so far but admits it will be more difficult after losing star striker Neymar to injury.

He said: “Neymar is by far our most talented player so of course he will be a great loss, but we are improving as the competition runs.

“Watching our supporters and players singing the anthem has been the best part of the World Cup and shows to the world our pride of being Brazilian.”

Germany fan Ben Schaper, 25, said: “It has been a great World Cup with many goals and surprises.

“Our performance in the quarter-final against Algeria was worrying but if we get back to our regular form we can reach the final.”

What the fans say: 

  • Michael Maia Schlussel, 35, of Cowley, medical statistician

Oxford Mail:

Michael Maia Schlussel

  • Favourite goal: David Luiz’s 30-yard free-kick against Colombia in our 2-1 quarter-final win.
  • Favourite game: Brazil 2-1 Colombia, our best match.
  • Favourite player: Neymar and David Luiz. Neymar because of the talent and David because of the heart and attitude.
  • Prediction: I think we can beat Germany and make the final.

 

  • Ben Schaper, 25, of Rectory Road, Oxford PhD student in German Literature.

Oxford Mail:

Ben Schaper

  • Favourite goal: Thomas Müller against USA
  • Favourite game: The 4-0 win against Portugal was amazing. There was a great atmosphere.
  • Favourite player: Manuel Neuer
  • Prediction: We will beat Brazil 2-1 and move on to the final.

 

  • Wybo Wiersma, 32, of St Giles College, Oxford

Oxford Mail:

Wybo Wiersma

  • Favourite goal: Wesley Sneijder. His 88th-minute equaliser in the 2-1 victory against Mexico in the last 16.
  • Favourite game: 5-1 opening match victory against Spain. It was a great way to start the tournament.
  • Favourite player: Arjen Robben. He’s just a very good player.
  • Semi-final prediction: Netherlands 2-1 Argentina.

 

  • Leo Sagor, 36, of Oxford, a Spanish tutor

Leo Sagor

  • Favourite goal: Lionel Messi’s free-kick in the 3-2 win over Nigeria in the final group stage match.
  • Favourite game: Argentina v Nigeria was quite thrilling.
  • Favourite player: Lionel Messi – he gives us a great chance of winning the tournament.
  • Prediction: Argentina to win 1-0 or 2-1 in extra-time.

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