Two days without World Cup football is excruciating. The World Cup comes once in four years and the two games on Saturday morning should be a feast for football fans around the world.
Germany is set to take on France in the first quarterfinal match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro while home nation Brazil is set to face high-flying South American side Colombia at the Estadio Castelao at Fortaleza.
Writing previews for both these matches was tough because all four sides have what it takes to win this tournament. Nevertheless, here is my assessment of how the teams will fare in the quarterfinals.
Germany vs France
I’m really looking forward to this battle. Just like the song Battle Cry by Imagine Dragons, the hearts of the players will be thumping knowing that a coveted semi-final spot is at stake.
Both sides have been a joy to watch but have their weakness as well. Let’s start with the Die Manschafft.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry will be able to identify what their problem is and that is slow centre-backs! Against Algeria, Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng were caught off-guard numerous times by Les Fennecs’ strikers. Thankfully they had to thank Manuel “Beckenbauer” Neuer in the sweeper-keeper role.
Neuer can’t play like that against players like Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann, however, who to me should start ahead of Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema.
Joachim Loew should also demand one of his pivots to stay and assist his defenders. Philip Lahm is able to do so and he will surely have his hands full playing against the tricky French.
Thomas Mueller, who has scored four goals so far in the tournament, will not want another slip-up and I’m expecting him to cause problems for Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny. If that doesn’t work, veteran fox-in-the-box Miroslav Klose will surely be called on to get the goals.
And if he scores in this game, he will break the World Cup record for goals scored!.
For Les Bleus, Didier Deschamps would surely have given extra coaching lessons for his wing-backs. Playing against a quick counter-attacking side like Germany, Deschamps will want Patrice Evra and Mathieu Debuchy to stick like an elephant glue when marking Mesut Ozil and Mario Goetze.
If that doesn't happen, expect Yohan Cabaye to stop the flow of creativity from Germany and be the dirty man for France. Many expected Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba to perform defensive duties but Cabaye has fit into the hardman role pretty well.
Pogba on the other hand, is the best midfielder in the world right now. Expect him to star in this game and Germany will have to find a way to stop the French genius.
The result? Well, it might go on till extra-time. However, based on resilience, tactics and mindset, Germany has the edge so I’m saying 3-2 to Germany.
Brazil vs Colombia
Will we see the Selecao dancing to the Brazilian samba or the Los Cafeteros singing adios amigos to the home side?
One thing is for sure – pressure is high for Luiz Felipe Scolari and his players. On Thursday night, he told his media critics to “go to hell” and that Brazil will go into the quarter-final with “one hand on the trophy”.
That’s not confidence, that’s pressure right there. When you’ve got a suspect defence and two target men who don’t strike in the hearts of defences, I’d be worried.
Thiago Silva on his day, is one of the best centre-backs in world football but partnering him with David Luiz is a huge gamble.
Upfront, Fred and Jo are just not in their element. In the Confederations Cup last year, Fred was good. However, after recovering from his thigh injury, he has looked out of his depth.
If I were the manager, I would put Hulk upfront and Neymar and either Willian or Bernard on the wings. Mobility is what Brazil need if they don’t want a repeat of the Chile game.
As for Colombia, all eyes will be on James Rodriguez. He has set the tournament alight with five goals and his brilliant runs, probing passes and work-rate. He will surely be tightly-guarded by his Ligue 1 opponent Silva.
If that happens, however, focus will be on Juan Cuadrado and Jackson Martinez. If you want to see what a target-man is really like, watch Martinez play.This is a tough one to call but I think this game will go into extra time. The scoreline? Brazil to win 2-1 and go all the way to the final.