56 matches have been played in the 2006 World Cup and now there are just eight teams (and eight matches) left. Everybody is off until Friday when there will be two matches and then two more on Saturday. The semifinals will be next Tuesday and Wednesday and the championship on Sunday July 9. (The third place game will be July 8.)
After the 2002 World Cup saw interlopers like the USA, Korea, and Turkey make the final eight (and two of them made it to the Final Four), this year it's pretty much the chalk who has moved on. The only surprises of any kind in the quaterfinals are: Ukraine, which looked awful in its opener and really hasn't looked much better since, but at least they can make penalty kicks; and France, which looked pretty bad in its opener (a scoreless draw against the Swiss) but pulled off a mild surprise in beating Spain 3-1.
There are six European sides left and two South American ones. The eight remaining teams have won a combined 15 World Cups and every nation that has won a World Cup is still playing, with the exception of Uruguay, which didn't make the tournament (and Penarol1916 has a good chance of winning the Griddle contest!)
The quarterfinal everyone is looking forward to is the Germany-Argentina matchup on Friday in Berlin. The two nations have combined to win five World Cups and they've combined to finish second five times. Both teams have been exciting to watch and one can only hope that this match lives up to its billing.
Most likely fewer people are awaiting the matchup between the flopping Italians and the sluggish Ukranians. Italy tends to win matches like these, the 2002 results notwithstanding. Expect a bad call late in the game to give Italy the win.
England faces Portugal on the other side of the draw and the team that gets to wear red jerseys will have the advantage because the blood that will be spilled during this one won't show up as much. The winner will be the team that survive a battle of attrition similar to the Battle of the Somme.
Finally, the last team to beat Brazil in the World Cup, France, gives it another try on Saturday. Brazil's fans remind me of Yankees fans. Even when they win, they aren't happy. The margin wasn't big enough. They team didn't show enough style. A-Rod/Ronaldinho can't come through in the clutch! The only difference is that Brazilians have samba music during the game while the Yankees have to put up with "God Bless America" every day..