Hosts Brazil barely made it out of Belo Horizonte alive, needing penalty kicks to get past Chile. They were beaten up and emotionally drained, evidenced by their tears after winning the shootout, and now they have to face a high-flying Colombian side. Led by James Rodriguez and his five goals, Colombia have been the most exciting team in the tournament. They will look to take the game to the Brazilians when the two teams meet in Fortaleza on Friday afternoon.
STRUG-A-LING ALONG: Brazil has been less than impressive so far in the World Cup. While their defense has mostly held strong, allowing just three goals in four games, the team’s attack has been unable to possess the ball consistently and create quality chances. Up top, Fred has been unable to find his Confederations Cup form, and Oscar has only shown flashes of brilliance. Luiz Felipe Scolari will need to get those two clicking alongside Neymar and Hulk (or anybody else) if he hopes to take his team any further.
THE NEW KING JAMES: James Rodriguez’ spectacular goal against Uruguay cemented his place at the top of the Golden Ball race through the Round of 16. The 22-year-old has led his team to the quarterfinals for the first time in their history and comes into this game looking to create a legacy as one of the top World Cup performers of all-time. The most amazing part? He’s doing all this without Radamel Falcao leading the line in front of him.
UNPRECEDENTED HEIGHTS: This will undoubtedly be the biggest game ever for the Colombian national team. They will be bidding to improve what is already their best World Cup performance while trying to beat Brazil for the first time since 1991. And the game just so happens to be in Brazil. The home side might be a little more nervous, as they would let down a whole country if they are unable to win the World Cup on home soil.
PSYCH EXAM: The pressure is getting so intense on the Brazilians that Scolari has had to schedule an extra appointment with the psychologist for his team. Neymar, Júlio César, David Luiz and Thiago Silva all were overcome by the moment after Brazil ousted Chile, breaking down into tears. How will they handle the quarterfinal pressure when they return to the field?
Neymar crying after winning in penalties: pic.twitter.com/JF6zpLlL9J— 2014 World Cup (@TheWorIdCup) June 28, 2014
MLS RETURNS?: Júlio César was the hero of the Chile game, stopping two of the Chileans penalties. He played in seven MLS matches with Toronto FC but looks unlikely to return to the team after the World Cup if Queens Park Rangers want him to return. On the other side of the field, the Philadelphia Union are trying to get Carlos Valdés to return after spending the last year-and-a-half on loan. He is unlikely to start after appearing in only one game so far, but Jim Curtin wouldn’t be too broken up about it.
Hail César! Brazil survives. pic.twitter.com/nk4wlZCBxK— ESPN (@espn) June 28, 2014
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- James Rodriguez, midfielder, Colombia – He’s been everything for Los Cafeteros so far and will probably need to be again on Friday afternoon.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Fernandinho, midfielder, Brazil – With Luiz Gustavo out due to yellow card accumulation, look for the Manchester City player to make an even bigger impact than he did against Chile.