World Cup hosts Brazil take on the red hot Colombians in an all-South American quarter-final at the Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza, on Saturday, July 5, from 6am (AEST).
This match represents the biggest and, possibly, the most important played thus far in the tournament.
What does the game mean to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos? He’s given all government workers the afternoon off! Colombia has never gone this far in the Cup, but their brash attacking style and never give up determination has put them on a path to create history.
A dramatic penalty shootout saw Brazil through to the last eight, but the samba kings have barely made an impact this tournament. Gone is the dominance of Brazilian football, and in its place a football team that knows how to win ugly. Luiz Gustavo, an important cog in the midfield, is suspended for the match. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his squad will be feeling the heavy burden of expectation in the football crazy nation.
The big issue
Is this Brazilian team good enough to win the World Cup? No, but home soil and fate could play its part.
Sometimes the best team doesn’t win and 2014 could be one of those times.
Millions of Brazilians will watch the game any way they can, through many of the live sites, at their local cafes, or at a neighbour’s house. The entire nation will hold their collective breath as their team take on the surprising Colombians. Fred, Oscar and Hulk have failed to produce thus far, but this game could present their final chance at a home World Cup.
Colombia, along with France, has been the most impressive team of the tournament but face their biggest hurdle in Brazil. On form this team should win, but Brazil is a psychological mountain.
The Colombians haven’t beaten Brazil since 1991 but have managed to draw their last four encounters with the CONMEBOL giants. This includes three 0-0 matches, something no one expects to see on this occasion.
Colombia’s biggest enemy could be themselves, as kick-off nerves and the occasion get to the squad. Brazil will need to take early advantage before their rivals settle.
The game breaker
Neymar and James Rodriguez have been the standouts for the opposing teams but may not have the biggest impact on the match. We saw how the individual heroics of Tim Howard almost put the United States through to the next round, which demonstrates just how important the goalkeeper becomes in the knockout phase of football.
For many, the weakest link of the Brazilian team has been Julio Cesar, although the penalty shootout against Chile may have been his turning point. His emotional investment in this match showed how much representing his nation means to him. The big question is can he produce against the potent Colombian attack?
Prediction: Brazil 3 – 2 Colombia (after extra time)
Disappointments of the first few games will be forgotten after Brazil fall over the line against Colombia in an extra time victory. Rodriguez will continue his goal scoring antics, but it won’t be enough to see his nation through. Hulk and Oscar will finally get their campaign going, and are now a genuine threat to win the world’s biggest sporting event on home soil.