And then there were four.
After a grueling group stage, a round of 16 laden with down-to-the-wire finishes and a quarterfinals which featured a bevy of early-match scoring, only Brazil, Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands survive.
One of these four teams will come away with the 2014 World Cup title, but first things first: Each must compete in what's sure to be a thrilling semifinals.
As we anxiously await these two contests, let's take a look at the updated tournament bracket, semifinals schedule and predict how each match is likely to unfold.
The full World Cup bracket can be viewed at FIFA.com.
|Date||Fixture||Time (ET)||TV Info|
|Tue., July 8||Brazil vs. Germany||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|Wed., July 9||Netherlands vs. Argentina||4 p.m.||ESPN|
Brazil 0-2 Germany
It's been quite a run for the host country, however, the odds are stacked against it in the semifinals.
Not only is Brazil set to face a dominant Germany team, but it is without two of its best players.
Captain Thiago Silva will miss this match against the Germans after picking up his second yellow card against Colombia in Brazil's quarterfinal contest:
Out of all the 40 fouls, Thiago Silva gets booked for blocking the keeper's punt. And now he'll miss the next match. Captain.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 4, 2014
To make matters worse, Neymar suffered a terrible back injury in the same match and will miss the remainder of the World Cup, according to SportsCenter:
BREAKING: Neymar has been ruled out of World Cup w/ a fractured vertebra. » pic.twitter.com/QOJxe89q2h— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 4, 2014
That's not exactly encouraging—especially against a German team that has not lost a match yet during this World Cup.
Germany has received some great production from Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose, but the return of Mats Hummels propelled the team against a very talented French squad.
Simply take a look at Hummels' stats against France to realize his impact on the match:
Brazil's had a phenomenal run to this point, but with its top player and captain out against a dangerous German team, the host country will exit the tournament in the semifinals.
Netherlands 1-2 Argentina
Each of these teams produced dramatic victories on Saturday in entirely different ways. While Argentina struck early and maintained its lead to defeat Belgium, the Netherlands were forced into penalty kicks by Costa Rica.
Both squads are extremely well-rounded, as Netherlands and Argentina feature solid defense and an exciting attack.
Argentina has only given up three goals so far during this World Cup, with Sergio Romero looking sharp in goal. Meanwhile, the team has accumulated eight goals, with much of the thanks to the outstanding play of Lionel Messi.
Here's a good look at compelling evidence that Messi does much more than just score goals:
The Argentinians will be at a slight disadvantage heading into the semifinals, as it was announced midfielder Angel di Maria would miss the remainder of the tournament:
Even though his absence will be felt, this is a very deep team capable of thriving without its top lineup.
The Dutch have been one of the best attacking teams in the World Cup so far, however, stout defense by Costa Rica exposed their offense despite controlling the ball for 64 percent of the match.
There's plenty of talent on this Netherlands team, including Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but if Argentina was able to contain Belgium nicely in the quarterfinals, it should be able to find similar success in the semifinals.
Expect an exciting fixture, but with Messi commanding so much attention from opposing defenses, scoring opportunities will be more plentiful for the Argentinians—and they'll take full advantage.