With a place in the World Cup final now just two games away for each of the eight quarter-finalists, it's time for the cream of international football to rise to the top.
Up until the last 16, Brazil 2014 had been full of drama and surprises, but now only the strongest survive—all eight group winners are safely through.
Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Argentina and Belgium were all heavily tipped to do well before a ball was kicked, only Costa Rica have exceeded expectations.
Heading into a bunch of closely matched quarter-finals, we take a look at who might progress and go on to lift the World Cup in the Estadio Maracana on July 13.
Here are the full quarter-final fixtures and the odds for each outcome, via OddsShark.com.
|World Cup Quarter-Finals Odds And Prediction|
|Match||Odds Home Win||Odds Away Win||Odds Draw||Prediction|
|France v Germany||54/25||37/25||23/10||0-2|
|Brazil v Colombia||5/6||193/50||51/20||1-2|
|Argentina v Belgium||29/25||69/25||12/5||1-2|
|Netherlands v Costa Rica||10/19||133/20||33/100||3-0|
Germany v France
Germany are second favourites to win the entire tournament, behind hosts Brazil, and thus tipped to beat the French.
However, after opening their campaign with a resounding 4-0 win over Portugal, the Germans have had their struggles. Question marks remain over their defence, having conceded three goals in their last three games.
Going forward, however, they have an embarrassment of riches in Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos, even if the trio have misfired slightly so far.
But in Golden Boot contender Thomas Muller, who has scored four goals in as many games, per WhoScored.com, they have a man who can turn, and win, any game.
Brazil v Colombia
Tournament favourites Brazil—at 3/4, per oddsshark.com—are over-reliant on the brilliance of Neymar going forward and although he has delivered, Fred and Oscar have been largely anonymous.
The hosts have struggled against Central and South American opposition—Mexico held Luiz Scolari's team to a 0-0 draw in the group phase, and Chile drew 1-1 in the last 16 before losing the penalty shootout—and Colombia represent their toughest challenge yet.
In James Rodriguez the Colombians have an individual talent that has outshone Neymar—scoring five goals to the Brazilian's four as leader of the race for the Golden Boot.
Even so, the forward's contribution only accounts for 45 percent of the team's attacking output, while Neymar is up at 50 percent, per WhoScored.com. As such, Colombia have the edge at both individual and team level and are great value at around 3/1 for an upset victory.
Argentina v Belgium
So far, this talented Belgian team have answered every question that has been asked of them. Marc Wilmots' side beat Algeria, despite playing the majority of their opener with 10 men. Then they topped the group with three wins from three games.
In the knockout phase, their superior quality eventually saw off the USA, and they have shown a fighting spirit that belies their complete lack of experience at this level.
Their victorious struggles could give them a competitive edge against an Argentina side that have cruised into the quarter-finals without having to be at the absolute best.
The same thing happened to Argentina at the 2010 World Cup when they eased into the last eight unbeaten and then got walloped 4-0 by Germany.
Odds of 69/25, per oddsshark.com, on Belgium to win offers decent value for the upset.
Netherlands v Costa Rica
Costa Rica may have beaten Italy and Uruguay at the finals, but beating a Netherlands team that hammered defending champions Spain 5-1 is surely too much to ask.
The size of their task is reflected in odds of 133-20, per oddsshark.com, to beat a Dutch team that are now expected to repeat their performance in South Africa and reach the World Cup final.
In Manchester United striker Robin van Persie and Bayern Munich forward Arjen Robben, they have two truly world class talents that should prove far too good for Los Ticos.
Predicted Semi-finals: Colombia v Germany, Netherlands v Belgium
Colombia v Germany
The Germans have been eliminated at the semi-finals of the last two World Cups. This year, however, they are expected to go one better and reprise their achievements of Korea/Japan 2002, reaching the final.
Joachim Low's side is packed full of experienced players who have been here before, while Colombia have not qualified for the World Cup since 1998. Even 35-year-old captain Mario Yepes has no previous experience to call upon.
Yet, expectations are high, as Pablo Armero told the Evening Standard:
We're confident we can go head to head with anyone. Can we win it [the World Cup]? If you have faith, everything is possible.
Ambition is one thing, experience is another. Colombia have been one of the most exciting teams at the finals in Brazil, but this should be the end for Jose Pekerman's team.
Prediction: Germany win
Netherlands v Belgium
This Low Countries derby is a tough one to call.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal and his Belgium counterpart Marc Wilmots have both pulled off tactical masterstrokes during the tournament, especially in their use of substitutions.
Van Gaal wasn't afraid to take off star striker Van Persie in the last-16 tie against Mexico and replace him with Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who scored the match winner from the penalty spot.
Similarly, Wilmots threw Romelu Lukaku on against the USA and the goalscoring substitute changed the game.
Once again, it could come down to experience, and Van Gaal has more of it.
Prediction: Netherlands win
Predicted Final: Germany v Netherlands
Germany versus Netherlands is a fierce and longstanding rivalry, initiated through politics and war and continued on the football pitch.
In the 1974 World Cup final, the Dutch 'Total Football' side of Johan Cruyff threw away an early lead and went on to lose 2-1 against the Germans—a result that was considered a shock.
A German win this time around would be no such upset as odds of 127/20, per oddsshark.com, to win the World Cup reflect.
It could be another disappointing final defeat for the Netherlands, who are 69/2, per oddshark.com, to win the tournament.
It will be interesting to see if the early habit of shock results is resumed at this World Cup as we head towards the final, and there should be plenty of goals as the tournament heads towards a record tally.
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