Tony Snow assesses Friday’s quarter finals
France v Germany
World Cup Quarter final
Kick off: 5pm
This one will be close. Both teams have shown fleeting glimpses of brilliance but have largely progressed by means of good organisation and solid performances. Expect a tactical rather than open game with no obvious winner standing out.
There are all kinds of match-ups across the pitch which poses interesting questions. Which midfield trio will gain the edge? Can France take advantage of the defensive weaknesses that the Germans showed against Algeria? Will Germany’s possession play prove decisive in the heat of Fortaleza?
The coaches may shake up their teams to address tactical concerns. France relied on set-pieces for the goals to see of a rugged Nigeria and their initial flourish of goals in the first two group games seems to have flattered to deceive.
This could spell trouble for Oliver Giroud, who started against Nigeria but was disappointing. Replacing the Arsenal forward could allow France’s main threat, Karim Benzema to start in his preferred position as the team’s central striker instead of operating on the left wing.
Germany have injury worries primarily at the back – where they may once again be required to play centre backs in full back positions in the guise of Jerome Boateng and Philip Lahm.
A hatful of goals are unlikely. 1-1 or 2-1 either way at 90 minutes are a good call. If extra time or penalties come into play, options off the bench may be telling. France offer slightly more offensively so this may help them edge it.
Brazil v Colombia
World Cup Quarter final
Kick off: 9pm
Who would have thought it – Brazil are being out-Brazilled on their own doorstep! Their status as World Cup entertainers is under serious threat with the emergence of Colombia and more significantly, so too are the host’s chances of progression.
The pretenders have their entertainer primed and raring to go. James Rodriguez is fully fit and in the form of his life. Against Uruguay he scored strong contenders for both individual and team goals of the tournament as took his tally so far to five.
But for Brazil, there are serious doubts over the condition of their match-winner Neymar, who they remain worryingly reliant upon. He picked up a knock to the thigh early in the game against Chile, but so vital is he to the five times champions that he played the full 120 minutes nonetheless.
You have to question whether Brazil would actually be regarded as favourites if this match was not being played on home turf and in the iconic Maracana Stadium?
Brazil have already overcome stiff South American opposition in the guise of Chile, who performed well against Brazil, but perhaps lacked a touch of belief to punish their opponents.
Colombia cannot afford to do the same, but seem to be playing unburdened by the sense of occasion. The test will be whether they can continue to do so or finally get stage fright as the scale of the task fully dawns on them.
What the knock out stage has shown so far is that, while the difference between the teams has sometimes been very slight, it has been the old guard that has tended to show the grit and determination to fashion a victory at the death. And if this one remains tightly contested, then the pressure may ramp up on the underdog once again and self doubt will inevitably set in.
If Colombia are to progress, then they will probably do so narrowly in 90 minutes. Both teams have goals in them so 2-1 is a possibility. A draw at full time, 1-1 or 2-2 will probably spells an extra time victory for Brazil. It would be a travesty of this one was decided by a penalty shoot out.
By Tony Snow