Two European rivals clashing. Two South American rivals clashing. World-class talent littering the pitch.
What more could you ask for in a pair of quarterfinal matches?
Not much. With Germany facing France and host Brazil taking on Colombia, the stage was set up for some brilliant soccer. Let's take a look back at the action, updating the Golden Boot watch along the way.
|Team 1||Result||Team 2|
Golden Boot Watch
|Robin van Persie||Netherlands||3|
|Clint Dempsey||United States||2|
|Wilfried Bony||Ivory Coast||2|
|Bryan Ruiz||Costa Rica||2|
|Angel Di Maria||Argentina||1|
|Kevin De Bruyne||Belgium||1|
|Julian Green||United States||1|
|Avdija Vrsajevic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Lee Keun-Ho||South Korea||1|
|Joel Campbell||Costa Rica||1|
|Oscar Duarte||Costa Rica||1|
|Marcos Urena||Costa Rica||1|
|Stefan de Vrij||Netherlands||1|
|Vedad Ibisevic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|John Anthony Brooks||United States||1|
|Edin Dzeko||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Miralem Pjanic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Son Heung Min||South Korea||1|
|Koo Jacheol||South Korea||1|
|Jermaine Jones||United States||1|
|Giovani dos Santos||Mexico||1|
Friday scorers highlighted
The match between Germany and France was summed up by one moment late in the game. With France trailing by a goal in second-half stoppage time, the ball was played through to Karim Benzema on the left side of the box. He took a dribble and found himself with a tight angle toward goal and the choice to shoot himself or play a cross.
Given the tournament he's had thus far, Benzema wasn't about to pass up the shot. And he took a good one, ripping a screamer off his left foot high and tight to the near post. But Manuel Neuer calmly flicked his arm in the air and deflected the ball to safety, never breaking a sweat despite making a difficult save.
That was Germany's performance in a nutshell. Yes, the team gave France a few chances—and no, it wasn't as easy as it looked—but in general its 1-0 win was a sturdy, suffocating affair that never seemed to have the Germans all that worried. Frankly, they seemed to suck the life out of what had been a bright French attack thus far in Brazil.
If the stereotypes suggest German football is efficient and organized, well, the Germans lived up to those stereotypes today. Kyle McCarthy of Fox Sports has more on that front:
Deserved victory for #GER. Good tactical adjustments. In control from the start. Defiant and solid at the back. Hummels excellent.— Kyle McCarthy (@kylejmccarthy) July 4, 2014
Even their goal was German through and through. Toni Kroos swung a tasty free kick into the box, where Mats Hummels—man of the match after returning from illness—muscled Raphael Varane off the ball and flicked a header into the goal.
Watch this beauty for yourselves, via ESPN FC:
In the other contest, it was all about free kicks for Brazil. And it was all about centre-backs, too, as Thiago Silva and David Luiz scored the two goals in the host country's 2-1 win over Colombia.
Silva opened the scoring in the first half:
Luiz made it two in the second 45 with this cracking free kick:
WATCH: David Luiz's remarkable free kick goal. Goal of the tournament status » http://t.co/42nhYjJXn6— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 4, 2014
But after Colombia had earned a penalty, James Rodriguez ensured he would go out of this tournament in style with this take:
Silva and Luiz probably won't be in the running for this year's Golden Boot. Hummels won't be either, though it should be noted that he now has more goals in this tournament (two) than Miroslav Klose (one). And he was excellent against France, as Squawka Football passes along:
But there will be several players in Saturday's quarterfinals smack-dab in the middle of the Golden Boot chase should their country advance, namely Argentina's Lionel Messi and the Dutch pair of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.
Messi in particular almost has to score on Saturday if his team is to advance given the level of "Messidependencia" we've seen from the squad thus far. To his credit, Messi has been up to the challenge, directly contributing to five of Argentina's seven goals (four scores, one assist).
Four years ago Messi was criticised for not contributing enough, and now people say we depend too greatly upon him. It’s not easy. Any team who has a player like Messi in their ranks—he’s the best player in the world—will greatly depend upon him, as a player. But there’s a group of players who support Messi, who make him stronger and make him feel well. I believe that the fact he’s done what he has here is down to the work the team puts in.
The winning goal against the Swiss the other day came about because a forward, Rodrigo Palacio, who was playing in midfield closed down the space and helped us win the ball back. You have to work to create the spaces for players like Messi to thrive. If we hadn’t had Palacio playing against Switzerland, we wouldn’t have scored that goal. Messi wouldn’t have provided that goal (for Angel Di Maria).
Against a Belgium team that will actually attack Argentina rather than play with 10 men behind the ball, we may see Sabella's point. Messi should also find far more room to operate in, and that should mean Argentina might just resemble the dangerous attacking side many pegged it to be before the tournament began.
The Dutch might find the going a little tougher against the defensively-minded Costa Ricans. They've lived on the counterattack for much of this tournament, but they'll need to be the aggressors against Costa Rica. It will be interesting to see if Robben and Van Persie are once again up to the task.
The semifinals are up in the air. The Golden Boot is up in the air. Heck, it's possible no one will catch Rodriguez, who in a way deserves to be remembered in the history books for his performance in Brazil. But we shall see.
Take a deep breath, folks, because the action is only going to get more intense.