Eight teams remain in contention for the 2014 World Cup, and Friday's quarter-final fixtures feature four of the absolute favourites for the title in what could be two of the best matches we've seen yet.
Neymar and James Rodriguez will go head-to-head in a battle of attacking prowess, while European powerhouses France and Germany will put their overall quality and depth to the test in one of international football's best rivalries.
There are no easy matches remaining at this stage of the competition—you either win or you go home—and each and every one of these teams will have its eyes set on a date at the Maracana Stadium on July 13.
Here's the full schedule for Friday's action, including TV coverage and live stream info, as well as predictions for the first two quarter-final matches of the 2014 World Cup.
|Time (BST)||Time (ET)||Match||TV Info||Live Stream|
|5 p.m.||12 p.m.||France v Germany||BBC1/ESPN2||BBC iPlayer/WatchESPN|
|9 p.m.||4 p.m.||Brazil v Colombia||ITV/ESPN||ITV Player/WatchESPN|
France's Quality Out Wide Will Test Germany's Full-Backs
Die Mannschaft came into the tournament as one of the heavy favourites for the title, and they showed their quality during the group stages and a round-of-16 win over a strong Algerian team, but questions surrounding their full-backs remain.
Like fellow quarter-finalists Belgium, Germany have elected to field natural centre-backs at the position, and their lack of pace and mobility was badly exposed against an athletic Algerian attack.
Philipp Lahm immediately improved the unit when he switched back to his natural position out wide to cover for the injured Shkodran Mustafi, and given France's prowess out wide, Joachim Low could elect to keep the Bayern Munich man on the back line for this match.
Mathieu Valbuena has been one of the top players during this World Cup so far, while Antoine Griezmann could enter Les Bleus' starting XI to take further advantage of the matchups on the wing.
The French might have come into the tournament flying under the radar, but no one is overlooking the team at this point. Via the Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter, stopper Hugo Lloris told the media he and his teammates are confident about their chances:
Per BBC Sport, Les Bleus' athleticism could shine even brighter in this match following the news the German team has been hit with a flu virus:
Seven Germany players are suffering mild flu symptoms ahead of the @FIFAWorldCup quarter-final against France on Friday— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) July 3, 2014
Unlike any of the opponents Germany have faced so far, France have the quality in the centre of the pitch to rival Die Mannschaft for possession of the ball. With Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi doing their thing in front of the defence, Les Bleus will have the opportunity to attack the Germans out wide early and often.
The Germans are close to unbeatable when they're at their best, but against France and their speed and quickness in the wide areas, they will be tested like never before.
Defence Will Decide Clash in Fortaleza
It's very simple to turn the match between hosts Brazil and Colombia into a head-to-head battle between Neymar and James Rodriguez, two of the brightest young stars of the World Cup. Both teams like to play open, attacking football, and at their best, neither usually struggles for goal.
Juan Cuadrado, Jackson Martinez, Oscar, Hulk—the amount of attacking talent on the pitch will be truly remarkable on Friday. But people expecting a wide-open, all-out goal fest could be sorely mistaken.
The best way to describe Brazil's World Cup so far might be best done with one word: nervous. They haven't looked like the dominant force people were expecting, and with the weight of a nation on their shoulders, it's perhaps understandable Luiz Felipe Scolari has opted for a careful approach to every match so far.
Colombia have never made it this far during a World Cup before, and they know exactly how deadly Brazil can be on the counter. For all of the attention Rodriguez has gotten from the press these last few weeks, the defence led by Mario Yepes has been quietly excellent.
BBC's Jonathan Overend agrees:
For all the talk of James, how about another medal for 38 yr old Mario Yepes? Masterful positional sense again.— Jonathan Overend (@jsoverend) June 28, 2014
While neither team is going to come out with a defensive mindset, it'd be naive to think that both teams will just commit men forward and not worry about the repercussions. With so much speed on the pitch, conceding first could effectively be a death sentence.
"Cautious" will be the keyword in this match, and players like Yepes and Thiago Silva will play bigger roles in it than people may expect.