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Liverpool at the World Cup: Onto the Quarterfinals

With all eight quarterfinal teams cemented, we've still got a few to watch.

The 1-0 win for Spain over Portugal finishes off the Round of 16 matches, and we can expect to see Liverpool's representatives in three of the quarterfinal matches. The losses for England and Slovakia, to Germany (because I know you haven't read anything about that match) and Holland respectively, mean that four Liverpool internationals are now on vacation. The club started with 12 players on duty, an impressive number by any stretch, but now we're down to half that.

Here's who to watch for:

Netherlands v. Brazil, July 2

Dirk Kuyt and the Dutch worked past Slovakia and Martin Skrtel in the Round of 16, and it was a match that Holland never looked like losing. Kuyt again played a full 90 and was largely responsible for Wesley Sneijder's goal---Kuyt calmly headed to himself, controlled, and rolled it into the path of the onrushing Sneijder. Plenty was made of Kuyt's lack of technical ability prior to the start of the tournament, at least in comparison to the other attacking talent in the Dutch side. But, much like his time at Liverpool, he's proven integral to the success of the Oranje and will no doubt find himself with a part to play in the glamor match-up with Brazil in the quarterfinals. One face we won't be seeing is Ryan Babel, despite his assertions that the Dutch will be flying high against the Brazilians. Maybe on FIFA for you, Ryan.

Germany v. Argentina, July 3

Both Javier Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez were on the pitch for the Argetine's 3-1 victory over Mexico in the Round of 16, with the former playing a full 90 and the latter subbed off in the 87th minute. It wasn't a spectacular effort from either man, or the squad on the whole despite the scoreline. They'll have their work cut out for them against an impressive Germany side, who advanced via a 4-1 dismantling of England. But Germany doesn't have Diego Maradona, who has looked simultaneously like the worst tactician in modern football and the most ingenious manager to grace the touchline. We know we'll likely see both Masch and Maxi in the starting eleven, and we know that Lionel Messi has to score sometime, right?

Spain v. Paraguay, July 3

As mentioned, Spain advance to the quarterfinals after a somewhat difficult 1-0 win over Portugal. Fernando Torres was subbed off in the 59th minute for Fernando Llorente, and I think it's a clear indication of the impatience that del Bosque is feeling for Liverpool's number 9. On the one hand I can understand it, as the World Cup isn't the time to be nursing someone back to form and fitness. On the other, we've seen time and again that Torres can pop up with a bit of magic despite relative anonymity. But in this Spain side, there's David Villa, Andres Iniesta, etc. etc., and waiting for Torres to find his stride might not be the plan against Paraguay. I expect to see him in some capacity, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's off the bench. We did get to see the shiny dome of Pepe Reina, who was among the frontrunners to meet David Villa after the match winner.

As for actual news about Liverpool, it continues to be few and far between. I've heard just as many rumblings as you about the next manager, and I'm hesitant to bite on the reports in the past few days about the potential announcement of Roy Hodgson. In all honesty, I don't know how to feel about that possibility---he's been fantastic for Fulham and has a wealth of experience in England and on the continent, and by all accounts he's a great player's manager.

But I'm still leery of reports from unnamed sources close to Anfield. The tumultuousness of the 2009-2010 season hasn't completely faded for me, and until there's something concrete I'm not biting. Part of the joy I've felt watching the World Cup has been that it's provided a requiem from the recent disquiet around Liverpool, and while I'm excited to see what the new season brings with it, I also feel a sort of nervousness that I've not felt in my years as a Liverpool supporter.

Anyhow, let's hope we're treated to a fantastic finish to the World Cup, because calm before the storm and all that nonsense.

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