Happy Independence Day friends! Unfortunately, we will not get to watch our U.S. team that played their hearts out for the U.S.A. anymore in this world cup, but we do get to watch exceptional teams playing for four nations, one of which helped us win that independence we declared some 238 years ago.
Today two great quarter finals matches are scheduled: The battle for Europe between France and Germany at 9 am, followed by what could be a great South American match up, featuring two stars of this cup with host Brazil going against Colombia at 1 pm.
France vs. Germany, 9am
Two world powers of soccer will match up today as France meet Germany in the quarter finals in Rio de Janero at 9 a.m. pst. Given their success in past World Cups, it is surprising that this is the first time they will meet since 1986 in the competition. France struggled mightily four years ago, but is making their country proud again as this young, rebuilt team, is giving fans of Les Bleus reasons to smile. Former star Thierry Henry on why the French team is succeeding, says: "the fans are falling back in love with the team"... " I don't think people are thinking now that the team can win it ... although happiness is about finally having a good team again...". I can relate.
Germany has been consistent in the World Cup, making its 16th straight appearance in the quarter finals but having missed winning it all since 1990. France made the finals in 2006, and won the championship in 1998 against Brazil with their hero, Zindane, in what was one of the most magnificent play by an individual ever.
Today's match has bad blood behind it as well. Yes, there were a couple of world wars, and a history of border "skirmishes", but there was also one of the ugliest incidents in world cup history ever. France will not forget 1982 and the violent tackle by German goalie Harald Schumacher that took out France's Patrick Battiston:
Battiston would eventually be stretchered from the field and require oxygen after a hit that knocked out two teeth, cracked three ribs, and left the French player with a damaged vertebrae. Battiston didn't regain consciousness for 30 minutes and eventually slipped into a coma."
Of course my Les Bleus are not always angels and, like Bellerophon, I'll take any chance to show this clip:
Both teams had their toughest matches thus far in the knockout round struggling to score against exceptional goalkeeper play. France got here by beating Nigeria in a match that Nigeria seemed to outplay France for most of the game. Les Bleus took their time getting it going against Nigeria. They had one great goal attempt in the first half by Paul Pogba but a great save by Victor Moses spoiled the moment for Pogba. In the 2nd half, Karim Benzema had promising attempt which was cleared off the goal line by Nigerian Victor Moses. It was not until the 70th minute that Les Bleus broke through the incredible work by goalie Vincent Enyeama, when they finally started playing more aggressively. First, Pogba broke the ice by heading it in to an empty net, followed by an own goal to put France ahead 2-0. You can see all of the match highlights here.
Germany had an even more difficult time getting past Algeria, remaining scoreless through 90 minutes. It was not until extra time that Germany finally scored not 1 but 2 goals to advance. The first was (92') Andre Schürrle scored on an incredible finish after a beautiful assist by their top scorer Thomas Müller, the 2nd at the 119th minute by Mesut Ozil. Again, the Algerian goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi had an exceptional game with not one, but two incredible saves at the 35 minute mark. You can see all these highlights here and here.
Germany is known to be a great technical team, with great experience and history. They have been using a strategy of pushing men forward and relying on the goalkeeper to save the day. Will they continue this strategy against an offensively powerful France? Die Mannshaft features Thomas Muller who has been by far Germany's best attacker and should be very difficult for France as he can both create his own shots and assist. There have been rumors that German players are suffering the flu, which Coach Jogi Low quickly dispelled.
France's Karim Benzema has the most shots on goal in this cup (13) but has failed to score in the last two matches. Neither team played their best in their last match and we will see who comes out aggressive today. My guess is they both will as these two teams and nations have a lot to prove and so much history between them. You can see expected line-ups and analyses of this match here.
Brazil vs. Colombia, 1pm
One would expect Brazil to the team putting on the show in this World Cup, but Colombia has been the team with more flair and ability to dominate thus far.
Brazil had their fans on edge as they had to go to penalty kicks to get by Chile. Colombia, on the other hand, breezed past its knockout opponent, Uruguay, with their star James Rodriguez' two exceptional goals to win 2-0. Here are the highlights of the game including James' "goal of the tournament". Unfortunately, one of the announcers keeps saying "James" in with english pronunciation, ugh. Rodriguez is currently the top scorer in the Cup with 5 goals. Brazil, behind its star Neymar, have not lived up to expectations. However Neymar has played well, having scored 4 goals in this World Cup, which you can watch here. You can also watch the highlights of the Chile-Brazil match here.
Today's match-up should feature Rodriguez being his usual magnificent self and Juan Cuadrado on the right wing, who has been fast and creative for Colombia. The Salecao will really be challenged by this Colombian duo. As for Brazil, Neymar has done a great job carrying them so far. Los Cafeteros will also have a difficult time stopping Neymar. This is a match of some superb attackers who put the "beautiful" in the beautiful game. Which defense will succeed at stopping them? You can see expected line ups and more analyses of this match here.
SBN has a cute little video preview of today's action and update of the World Cup here.
With Brazil and France playing on the same day, I am reminded of a bit of history in a great match featuring two all time giants of the game: Zinedine Zidane vs Ronoldo (Luís Nazário de Lima), 1998 World Cup Championship Highlights:
This is your quarterfinal open thread. Enjoy!