After a set of tense fixtures in the second round, every side that won their group in the first round has reached the quarter-finals. Some tasty matches have been served up and in this article we analyse each contest and offer our predictions for the outcome of Friday’s matches.
France vs Germany: Friday 5pm
This is an all-European encounter between two sides that were arguably the most impressive teams during the group stages; however, both stumbled through their last-16 matches. Germany needed extra time to defeat little-fancied Algeria and France were less than impressive against the plucky Nigerians, scoring twice late on to secure their passage to the next round. It is possible that both sides were complacent going into their last matches and hopefully they have both got the kick-up the backside needed to reach their best levels once more. If they do return to the form they displayed in the group stages then we could be set for a brilliant match. One thing that will improve the French performance will be replacing the lumbering Giroud with Griezmann and moving Benzema back to the centre. Benzema looked lost on the wings and failed to link up with Giroud effectively during the match whereas Griezmann and Benzema seem to have a strong understanding that makes the French attack infinitely more potent. In addition to this, Mertesacker and Hummels are two defenders who are strong in the air but not the quickest across the turf so the mobility of Valbuena and Griezmann will be far more dangerous than Giroud’s hold up play. Deschamps should have realised this and it would be a surprise if that change were not implemented.
Whilst France have been impressive, I think the Germans will come out on top. They are a more experienced side when it comes to deep progression in international competitions and just have a knack of raising their game when it really matters. It will be close and could require extra time once more but expect the Germans to be lining up in the semi-finals.
Prediction: France 2-3 Germany
Brazil vs Colombia: Friday 9pm
Colombia have been the form side of the competition (https://originalfooty.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/can-colombia-win-the-world-cup/) and were the only side to win their last-16 match convincingly. Question marks remain, however, as they are yet to face real top quality opposition. Cue Brazil. They were one of the favourites of the tournament who have progressed unspectacularly, requiring penalties to beat Chile, but are still the toughest opponents to face the Colombians so far. People have spoken at length at how impressive the Colombian defence has been so far but they have not faced a forward at the peak of their powers in the way that Neymar is and he will no doubt pose a whole new test of their capabilities. Despite the Colombians not meeting top class opposition thus far, they will head in to the game with great confidence and they have reason to do so. First, Brazil have been giving away silly goals and, at times, lose concentration at the back. Second, James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado are in a rich vein of form and will be confident of capitalising on any sniff of an opportunity that the Brazilians allow them. Finally, there is a sense of togetherness and camaraderie amongst the side that will spur them on to fight until the last second to achieve victory.
Having said this, and whilst expecting a magnificent competition, I still fancy Brazil to edge out the Colombians. Brazil may have scraped their way through the World Cup so far but they possess so much individual quality in their ranks that I think a moment of magic from a player such as Neymar, Oscar, Hulk or even Dani Alves will grab a last-gasp victory and propel them through to the semi-finals.
Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Colombia