FIFA World Cup: Lionel Messi Test for Belgium as Last-Eight Looms
Both Argentina and Belgium sealed their places with victories in extra-time against Switzerland and the United States respectively, though, the South American giants' performance left plenty question marks hanging over whether they can add to their two World Cup trophies.
Four-time footballer of the year Lionel Messi's misfiring Argentina and Belgium completed the line-up for the World Cup quarterfinals and will face each other in a repeat of the 1986 World Cup semifinal.
Their qualification on Tuesday leaves the make-up of the quarterfinals evenly balanced with four Latin American sides and four Europeans, giving the 'old continent' a good chance of finally triumphing in a World Cup hosted in the Americas.
Both the Argentinians and Belgium sealed their places with victories in extra-time against Switzerland and the United States respectively, though, the South American giants' performance left plenty question marks hanging over whether they can add to their two World Cup trophies. (Messi, as Always Expected, Rescues Argentina)
The last one came in 1986, when like the present team, they relied on the genius of one player, in the volatile Diego Maradona, who all but singlehandedly drove them to victory.
This time around the Belgians will be hoping they cope better with the wizardry of Messi than their predecessors did with Maradona, whose double in the 2-0 defeat dashed their dreams of a first ever final appearance.
The Belgian-Argentinia clash on Saturday in Brasilia is not the only one of the quarterfinals that evokes memories of a glorious past in terms of previous match-ups.
For on Friday two European titans, Germany and France, face each other in the appropriately historic setting of the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro with the French bidding to erase memories of two semifinal defeats in the 1980's at the hands of what was then West Germany. (FIFA World Cup 2014: Vital Statistics)
However, it is the 1982 semifinal that still rankles with many in France, not only because they let a 3-1 lead slip in extra-time to go out on penalties, but also due to the infamous incident when German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher's shoulder charge left Patrick Battison unconscious on the pitch.
Schumacher, himself, persists in his defence that it was unintentional although his one regret is he did not attend to the prone Battiston immediately after the incident.
Indeed the 60-year-old said he feared that a similar incident could happen in Friday's game given the penchant of present German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to rush from his area to clear the ball.
"If one looks at yesterday's match (Germany's 2-1 win over Algeria on Monday) and how many times Neuer came out of his goal.....he can always be unlucky and arrive too late and something like what happened (in 1982) can occur."
The French camp like the German one is solely focussed on the future and not the past as coach Didier Deschamps, who was 14 at the time of the 1982 match, explained.
"They (his players) weren't even born then, what would I speak to them about?" he said.
"Joachim Loew (Germany coach) is completely right. Have respect for former players and what's taken place but we're not playing against old rivals."
Belgian coach Marc Wilmots -- who arrived on the international scene as a player after the 1986 World Cup -- is also focussed solely on beating the present crop of Argentinians.
There were signs of hope for the 'Red Devils' in Messi's mood on Tuesday as the 27-year-old was stifled for the majority of the match by Swiss hardman Valon Behrami and took out his frustration at one point by shoving his opponent.