If the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup are anything like the round of 16, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see some nations suffer from a collective nervous breakdown.
Just about the only team to make it through with its fans' sanity intact was Colombia, who rather comfortably defeated Uruguay 2-0 to earn a spot in the next round. France beat Nigeria 2-0, but they didn't break through until the 79th minute and needed an own goal from Nigeria's Joseph Yobo to seal the deal.
There are some titans of the game set to clash in the quarter-finals, which should guarantee some brilliant soccer is played in the upcoming days.
Here are the dates, times, viewing info and predictions for the quarter-finals fixtures.
|July 4||France vs. Germany||12:00 p.m.||ESPN 2||FRA 3-2 DEU|
|July 4||Brazil vs. Colombia||4:00 p.m.||ESPN||COL 2-1 BRA|
|July 5||Argentina vs. Belgium||12:00 p.m.||ESPN 2||ARG 2-2 BEL (ARG 5-3 penalties)|
|July 5||Netherlands vs. Costa Rica||4:00 p.m.||ESPN||NED 3-1 CRC|
The World Cup draw has the quarter-finals all set to feature some interesting geographic rivalries.
Brazil could be in trouble if Neymar isn't completely fit for the match against Colombia.
The Barcelona star and burgeoning national hero picked up thigh and knee injuries in Brazil's victory on penalties over Chile.
According to BBC Sport, Neymar should be fit for the Colombia match. Brazil spokesman Rodrigo Paiva did acknowledge that the forward's knee is what's "hurting the most" heading into the match, as per BBC Sport.
Neymar has been the engine driving Brazil's attack and the team doesn't have many solid options behind him if he's unable to play a full 90 minutes.
Colombia features a well-balanced attack spearheaded by the fantastic James Rodriguez, who leads the chase for the Golden Boot with five goals in four games. ESPN's Richard Jolly notes he has a chance at making World Cup history with his goal-scoring exploits:
No goal for Messi so James Rodriguez is alone in scoring in every game. No one done it in whole WC since Jairzinho in 1970.— Richard Jolly (@RichJolly) July 1, 2014
Argentina's hopes lie squarely on little Lionel Messi's shoulders. He's been the lone bright spot in the team's tournament run so far, as his attacking cohorts Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero, and Gonzalo Higuain have all played to mixed results and little fanfare.
Argentinians might be losing faith in the squad's overall ability to hold up in this tournament, but Messi showed against Switzerland that he still trusts the players around him. ESPN FC has the clip:
They will take on a Belgian team that finally looked to have its attack sorted out against the United States, only to have their numerous chances stopped time and time again by Tim Howard.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots would be wise to start Romelu Lukaku, who came on late to score the eventual winner in his team's 2-1 victory over the Stars and Stripes. His pace and power proved to be vital to Belgium maintaining possession in extra time.
The Netherlands will look to end Costa Rica's Cinderella run in the quarter-finals—this match could prove to be the most interesting from a tactical standpoint. Dutch coach Louis van Gaal showed he was unafraid to tinker with his team's 5-3-2 formation against Mexico, which led to clearly favorable results.
Dutch soccer writer Elko Born gave his take on Van Gaal after the Mexico match:
The Dutch took control after the switch to 4-3-3. Once again, Van Gaal's tactical tinkering changed the game.— Elko Born (@Elko_B) June 29, 2014
Los Ticos will need a superb game from Joel Campbell. The Arsenal youngster has proven to be vital both leading the line and linking up with his teammates in the center of the pitch.
He may have a little more room to operate than might be expected against a possible 5-3-2, as Goal.com's Stefan Coerts reported that the Oranje will be without a defensive enforcer:
France and Germany will fight in a titanic clash of European powerhouses. France has been in the better overall form during this World Cup, but a German side featuring the likes of Mario Gotze, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil can never be counted out.
German coach Joachim Low insisted after the Algeria victory his team needs to improve to beat France.
"We must be better for the match against the French," said Low, via FIFA.com. "Today was a victory of the will. During the first half we were poor, we gave away a lot of ball, which invited Algeria to counter-attack us."
Which quarter-final fixture are you most looking forward to?
The bracket looks rather imbalanced at this point, with France, Germany, Brazil and Colombia all on the same side. The other four teams in the contest all have very notable weaknesses. Argentina and the Netherlands have shaky defenses, Belgium has had difficulty scoring and Costa Rica features very few players from top domestic leagues.
The winner of the tournament will likely come from the former side of the bracket. Germany's midfield is one of the best in the world, and France has been in some of the best form of the tournament. And of course, Brazil has the host-nation advantage, while Colombia's Rodriguez has been the best player in the tournament so far.