You can't ask for much better games than you'll get on Friday at the World Cup. Two European superpowers and rivals clashing. Two South American rivals with quite different World Cup histories clashing (and two of the game's brightest stars, too).
It's going to be something to see.
Below, you'll find all the information you need for these key quarterfinal clashes, along with a breakdown of each game. An epic World Cup is about to get a lot more fun, folks.
|Day 23 Fixtures|
|France vs. Germany||Friday, July 4||Noon||ESPN2||WatchESPN||GER win, 2-1|
|Brazil vs. Colombia||Friday, July 4||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN||COL win, 3-2|
Before we get started, let's turn to the Men in Blazers and the cupcakes:
How much fun is Colombia vs. Brazil going to be? Both teams have vibrant superstars in James Rodriguez and Neymar, respectively. Both teams are wildly athletic, attacking sides (only the Dutch have scored more goals than the Colombians in this tournament). Both have played relatively stingy defense.
But that's where the similarities end. Colombia are brimming with talented strikers. Brazil are stuck with the underachieving Fred and Jo. Colombia have nothing to lose. Brazil are under immense pressure. Colombia have already had their most successful World Cup ever. Brazil is the most successful country in World Cup history.
On the pitch, finding a way to stifle the bright and lively Rodriguez will be the key for Brazil, as Rodriguez doesn't just lead this World Cup in scoring, he has also been Colombia's most dangerous playmaker. It's something no other team at this World Cup has been able to do.
"Football needs players of his characteristics for this spectacle," Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez told Santiago Torrado of the Associated Press, via ABC News.
"For the moment, he's the best player at this World Cup."
But Colombia is no one-man team. Far from it. They are a true team, with parts that seem to fit well together to form a wonderful final product. Where Brazil at times have looked shaky and mismatched, relying too heavily on Neymar to create, Colombia have been smooth and positive.
And at some point, the pressure the Brazilians are under seems likely to see them burst at the seams. It will be painful for Brazil to lose on home soil, especially to a South American team, but Colombia will be the end of the line for them in what might be the most entertaining World Cup matchup in years.
In the other game, the France and Germany matchup may come down to Germany's weaknesses as much as anything else. The German defense has been in a bit of a state of disarray at this tournament, battling both injuries and the lack of true full-backs, since Philipp Lahm is a midfielder now.
Sure, they've given up just three goals in four games, but two of them came against Ghana, Portugal were a man down for much of that match, and were it not for Manuel Neuer playing all four defensive positions and keeper against Algeria, the African side might have scored more than one.
A similar performance against France would be trouble for the Germans, given that players like Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann and Mathieu Valbuena are far better than anything Algeria could throw at them. In fact, the French side has looked like one of the most dangerous teams on the counter-attack thus far in this tournament.
And with box-to-box midfielder Paul Pogba looking every bit the prodigy he is against Nigeria, Germany could be in serious trouble here.
On the other hand, the Germans are extremely talented in the attack themselves and have the players to neutralize France's strong midfield trio of Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye. This game will probably be a bit more open than people expect, with both teams really going after one another.
Germany will need another strong game from Muller, and BBC analyst Chris Waddle broke down his game for Christopher Clarey of The New York Times:
Muller’s not a player who’s going to pick the ball up and dribble past two players and put one in the top corner. Muller’s a player who’s honest and genuine and keeps getting in there and keeps arriving on the scene. He gets his chances because of his honesty and endeavor. If you make 20 runs, you might get one chance, and he’ll make every one of those 20 runs.
He's going to give France's defense headaches, no doubt, as will Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, the team's chief playmaker who operates from the left for this German team but will interchange and overlap with Muller frequently. You can bet the French defense will have just as many issues with the German attackers as the German defenders will with the French attackers.
It's a tough game to call. On form alone, France would be the pick. But Germany didn't lose a game in its vastly superior group and has arguably more depth and balance than any other team in the tournament.
Germany will win, 2-1, but it will be one heck of a match.
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