It's almost hard to believe the 2014 World Cup Semifinals are just about upon us.
The group stage was extremely tantalizing, but the round of 16 was simply incredible. In eight matches, six were decided by just one goal and two came down to penalty kicks.
With the strongest eight teams now advancing to the quarterfinals, we can expect to see even more breathtaking action.
So, which four teams look poised to move on to the semifinals?
We'll find out soon enough, but as we impatiently await these highly anticipated matches, let's take a look at the full schedule of play and predict how each match is likely to shake out.
|Date||Time (ET)||Fixture||TV Info||Prediction|
|Fri., July 4||12 p.m.||France vs. Germany||ESPN2||Germany, 2-1|
|Fri., July 4||4 p.m.||Brazil vs. Colombia||ESPN||Colombia, 2-1|
|Sat., July 5||12 p.m.||Argentina vs. Belgium||ABC, ESPN2||Belgium, 1-0|
|Sat., July 5||4 p.m.||Netherlands vs. Costa Rica||ESPN||Netherlands, 2-0|
France vs. Germany
This match features two European juggernauts who are no strangers in world football competition.
The Germans enter the match as slight favorites due to their vast experience in the World Cup quarterfinals. This contest will be the country's ninth consecutive appearance in this stage of a World Cup.
Here's another German World Cup fact, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:
By advancing over France on Friday, Germany would be the 1st country to reach 4 straight World Cup semifinals #FRAvsGER— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 3, 2014
Both teams struggled a bit in the round of 16, with Germany looking sluggish early and France unable to find its offense until late in the fixture.
The difference here for these team is up front. While both have talented forwards, Germany has tremendous depth with the recent scoring prowess of Thomas Mueller and the all-time great Miroslav Klose behind him.
Brazil vs. Colombia
Brazil may be the host country, but this team may not have the confidence it was expected to boast heading into this match.
After narrowly escaping with a victory over Chile in a penalty shootout, Brazil faces a difficult test in facing the high-octane Colombian offense.
With 11 goals in this World Cup, Colombia has the second-strongest attack, just behind that of the Netherlands (12 goals).
Midfielder James Rodriguez is the tournament's leading goalscorer, finding the back of the net once in each of his first three games and scoring both of his team's goals against Uruguay in the round of 16.
Brazil has some talent of its own. The team is sound up front, with Neymar totaling four goals so far. However, Fred, Oscar and others need to show up in a bigger way to keep up with Colombia.
Here's a great comparison between James and Neymar so far, via ESPN Stats & Info:
Leading scorer in World Cup is 22-year-old South American, but it's not Brazilian star Neymar. It's James Rodríguez pic.twitter.com/agNwtiDdEf— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 3, 2014
Argentina vs. Belgium
Argentina has one of the best players in the world. Lionel Messi has been brilliant so far in the tournament, scoring four goals over his first three games and coming away with an assist to advance past Switzerland in the round of 16.
With that said, Argentina may need more firepower than Messi to get past Belgium's defense.
Belgium absolutely dominated the United States on both ends of the pitch during the round of 16. After 120 minutes, the Americans only tallied nine shots on goal to Belgium's 27.
Had it not been for the stellar play of American goalkeeper Tim Howard, the match could have been an utter blowout.
Here's a look at Belgium's insane shot chart against the United States, via Squawka Football:
If Argentina can't get more production on the offensive end, it will have an equal amount of trouble getting through Belgium's defenses while the Red Devils fire away on the Argentinian side of the pitch.
Netherlands vs. Costa Rica
Costa Rica surprised everyone getting through the "Group of Champions." However, the team will face its most difficult test against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
The Dutch have been simply stellar throughout the tournament to this point. They lead all teams with a total of 12 goals in their first four matches and are getting production from all over the pitch.
Robin van Persie has looked great during the entire competition, but he has recently been helped by some nice production from both Wesley Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Here's a look back at what Van Persie is capable of, courtesy of Football Vines:
Robin van Persie's header. http://t.co/79WimDzZST— Football Vines (@Vine_Football) June 29, 2014
Costa Rica has struggled to accumulate goals at times, and that will be the team's undoing against the Dutch on Saturday.