Your daily World Cup tip sheet for who's playing when, and what to watch for. We'll deliver a new briefing the evening before every game day, setting up the matches and pinpointing the underlying storylines.
France vs. Germany
Though France has never faced a unified Germany at the World Cup, this quarter-final matchup nonetheless brings back recollections of a pair of back-to-back semi-final meetings between France and the-then West Germany in the 1982 and 1986 tournaments. No Frenchman needs reminding how the first one ended, when the hip of German goalkeeper Toni Schumacher infamously proved more persuasive than either the face of Frenchman Patrick Battiston or the referee’s attention, and the contest ultimately came down to the first World Cup shootout, won by the ever-efficient Germans. The second contest was far less dramatic, with Germany cruising to its second straight World Cup final.
As the only all-European quarter-final this time around, one of these two former champions will fall by the wayside, but it’s anybody’s guess who it will be. Having reached a record 16th straight World Cup quarter-final, the Germans are certainly more than familiar with this stage of the tournament. They emerged rather comfortably from this year’s so-called “Group of Death,” highlighted by the 4-0 thrashing of 10-man Portugal in their opener, but struggled to put away those upstarts from Algeria in the last 16, requiring extra time to do so. France coach Didier Deschamps has forged together an admirable team spirit in the wake of some-less-than-sterling tournament efforts in recent years, but while the French largely cruised through their own group, especially in a 5-2 waltz past Switzerland, they too struggled against African ambition in the last 16 before a 79th-minute Paul Pogba goal set them on the way to a 2-0 win over Nigeria.
Brazil vs. Colombia
With two of South America’s most flamboyant teams preparing to shake their tail feathers, the offensive talent on display in this quarter-final purports to be of the scintillating variety. The likes of Neymar and Hulk in the canary yellow of Brazil will be more than equally offset by the likes of James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez in the Colombian togs.
Having emerged visibly shaken from the penalty shootout win over Chile in the last 16, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari may have to put on his best sports psychologist hat to pick his players up for what is likely to be a far more dicey encounter. The narrow escape may have stirred something within the hosts, however, and they would do well to recount just how close – the breadth of a crossbar in fact – they had been to sitting the rest of the tournament out. With five goals in just four games – tops in the tournament - Rodriguez will be the biggest threat Brazil has seen to its hopes of a sixth world crown, and the Selecao know that playing close attention to the Colombia playmaker will be the only way it stands a chance of advancing to a first World Cup semi-final in 12 years. As midfielder Fernandinho stated matter-of-factly: “The less space he gets against us, the better it will be for Brazil."
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