RIO DE JANEIRO: France take on Germany in a World Cup classic while Colombia hotshot James Rodriguez will be aiming to make Brazil’s stars cry in desperation as the last eight countries start their battle for the title on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Didier Deschamps’ France play Joachim Loew’s Germany in Rio de Janeiro’s historic Maracana Stadium at 1600 GMT, renewing one of the most acute World Cup rivalries. Brazil take on Colombia in Fortaleza at 2000 GMT having lost only two of their last 25 encounters, but with doubts in the air.
Seven German players had influenza symptoms going into Friday’s test of the two biggest European names still in contention. Most are expected to be fit however.
Germany would normally be considered favorites, but after beating Portugal 4-0, including a Thomas Mueller hat-trick, the German machine has slowed. A gruelling extra-time win over Algeria got them a ticket to the last eight.
Loew said he does not listen to critics, but also acknowledged on Thursday that: “We have not yet delivered our best possible performances, that is to come still.”
France, on the other hand, have been one of the most powerful qualifiers, scoring 10 goals in four games, three from Karim Benzema. Coach Deschamps says his side have “no apprehension or fear”.
Their last three matches at the World Cup have produced 17 goals—Germany have won the last two.
Their 1982 semifinals produced one of the most controversial World Cup clashes when German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher challenged Patrick Battiston leaving the Frenchman with cracked ribs, two missing teeth and cracked vertebrae. Battiston said this week he still did not think he could be friends with the German.
Brazil go into their game against Colombia—appearing in the quarterfinals for the first time—with coach Luiz Felipe Scolari still insisting that his team will win the World Cup, while also defending the tears they have been shedding.
Star striker Neymar cried when the national anthem was played in the opening game against Croatia and after his side scored a penalty shootout win against Chile in the last 16 this week.
The tournament favorites had a session with the team psychologist this week as comments such the cry of “Enough!” by former captain Carlos Alberto rang out.
Colombia have let the goals of 22-year-old James Rodriguez do the talking at this World Cup—five in four matches that the South Americans have convincingly won.
His volley against Uruguay was one of the goals of the tournament, while Argentine coach Jose Pekerman has built up a quiet confidence around his squad, barely speaking at press conferences.
“We believe in what we are doing and that’s very important in a team,” said Mario Yepes, the 38-year-old captain of a team tipped by few before the tournament.
Neymar has also scored four goals however and Colombia know they face a football mountain in Fortaleza.
They have never won in Brazil and their last victory against the continental giants was in 1991 in the group stages of the Copa America.
Scolari still says his pre-tournament vow of a sixth World Cup win for Brazil will come true.
“There are seven steps and we are going onto the fifth,” he said. Brazil’s supporters “want us to show them how we are going to win it.”
Netherlands play Costa Rica and Belgium take on Argentina in the last quarter finals on Saturday.