The 2014 World Cup has had a few surprise teams advance so far. However, this is usually the stage in the World Cup where Cinderellas go to die, while the usual soccer blue bloods play for the title. That pattern has held so far in Brazil, despite a few serious threats -- leaving Costa Rica and Belgium as the last Cinderellas standing on July 5.
After countless underdogs barely fell short in the second round, Columbia fell short of knocking out host Brazil on July 4, while France fell to perennial semifinalist Germany. This means that Belgium and Costa Rica are the last two serious underdogs left, as they take on Argentina and the Netherlands in the last two quarterfinals on July 5.
Belgium hasn't been an underdog yet in this World Cup, having gutted its way through four straight wins, including an extra time victory over the United States. But the Belgians are expected to hit their limit today, as they have to face Argentina and Lionel Messi to reach their first semifinal since 1986.
The Argentines haven't cruised completely through the tournament so far, needing very late goals to beat Iran in group play and Switzerland in the second round. In addition, if Belgium can actually keep Messi quiet for 90 or 120+ minutes, Argentina might wind up being a little lost. But it would be an upset if that actually happened, and would announce that Belgium may be ready to join soccer's A-list.
A Belgium victory would still be less shocking than a Costa Rica upset over the Netherlands, however. Costa Rica stunned experts by winning a group that included Italy and Uruguay, then overcame playing with 10 men late to survive Greece in penalty kicks. Now the Costa Ricans are in their first World Cup quarterfinal against the 2010 runners-up.
The Netherlands shouldn't even be here themselves, since they were minutes away from being eliminated by Mexico. Will their lucky breaks propel them towards a long awaited first World Cup crown, or will Costa Rica give them their biggest near miss yet?
The Belgians will get their chance to stun Argentina at noon est on ABC, while the Costa Ricans will try to shock the world and the Dutch at 4 p.m. est on ESPN.