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When and Where
4 PM ET, Estadio Castelão, Fortaleza, Brazil
Last Match: 1-1 vs Chile (advanced 3-2 on penalties)
To say that the soccer Gods were smiling on Brazil this match would be a slight understatement. It was a fairly even contest, but Chile saw a shot off the foot of Mauricio Pinilla strike the crossbar late in extra time. Pure elation for the Brazilian fans, but a sheer excruciating miss for Chileans. So near, that Pinilla celebrated it with a tattoo.
Shortly after that shot attempt, they went to penalties. Brazil had a 3-2 advantage going into Chile's final attempt. That attempt was taken by Gonzalo Jara, who subsequently struck the post. Brazil was onto the quarterfinals. More elation for Brazil and utter heartbreak for Chile. Rough way to exit for the Chileans.
Key Player: Neymar
All eyes will be on Neymar. The whole country of Brazil is being carried on his slender frame. Recently, he has been the cause of some concern for Brazilians, as his fitness for this match has seemed iffy. All indications are that he is recovering well and should be good to go for this epic South American battle, which is good news. Neymar has been as good as advertised this World Cup, especially when it mattered most against Chile. That was easily his most complete game, even though he did not score, but he did bury what proved to be the game-winning penalty.
Why They Will Win
They are the home team and are heavy favorites to beat Colombia according to Soccer Power Index and have a 40% chance of winning the World Cup. Those are just numbers though. Brazil has to back them up with their best game of the tournament if they want to move on. Neymar has been spectacular and I expect more of the same from him. Thiago Silva and David Luiz have been great as well. However, they need some of their periphery players, like Fred and Hulk, to step up. Fred has been invisible, which obviously isn't good, and Hulk has had flashes, but needs to be more involved like he was against Chile. Neymar is great, but he can't do it all. If they win, that means they got contributions elsewhere.
Last Match: 2-0 win vs Uruguay
Coming off the heels of the Suarez controversy, Uruguay just did not look ready to play. I say that with all due respect to Colombia, because they played outstanding and have been doing so all tournament. I'm not even sure Uruguay was that good though. Take away that win they had against England, where Suarez had two goals, and Uruguay does not go through. Anyway, kudos to Colombia for stifling Uruguay all match. James Rodriguez scored both goals and now leads the World Cup in goals with 5. More on him in a second.
Key Player: James Rodriguez
Remember when I called Thomas Müller the man on fire? If not, good. If you did, well, I misspoke. James Rodriguez - pronounced "Hamez Rod-reeg-ez" - has taken that honor away with gusto, as he scored the goal of the World Cup against Uruguay. Just incredible. And after watching it, listen to this Colombian announcer go nuts. Epic. And he's only 22. What a career "James" has in store.
Why They Will Win
They have outscored their opponents 11-2. James Rodriguez has lit up the World Cup with his amazing goals and they have played all around solid football. The case could be made that they haven't played a top opponent yet, but outscoring your opponent by 9 goals in 4 games is impressive. This is the World Cup. Every team is pretty good. One of this team's biggest attributes is its team speed. They have been all over the pitch and their counter ability is scary. They don't control the ball much, but they move it up the pitch with an attitude and put defenses on their toes.
Who You Should Root For
Honestly, you can't go wrong rooting for either. Brazil is home and they have Neymar and seeing the home country win the World Cup would be neat. It hasn't happened since France won in 1998. But, by the slimmest of margins, root for Colombia. Here's why:
- James Rodriguez has been the breakout star of the World Cup.
- Colombia hasn't made the World Cup since 1998. This is their first trip to the quarterfinals.
- They are statistically huge underdogs to Brazil. We all like underdogs, right?
- They dance.
Colombia wins 1-0
Colombia has been outshot in every game and out-possessed in three of the four. Brazil has outshot their opponent in every game and only lost possession to Chile 51%-49%. Possession is key in football and might be the biggest key in this one. If Brazil can hold onto the ball and stop the Colombians from having effective counters, then they have a shot. However, I see Colombia pulling the upset. Brazil hash't looked great and they just haven't produced much, besides Neymar. Colombia, on the other hand, has been über dangerous when they have the ball and Rodriguez has had the golden touch. This should be an incredible match. If you thought Chile/Brazil was exciting, just wait for this one. It should be an electrifying affair.
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