And then there were eight: World Cup Quarter-Finals preview

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24 teams have fallen, some in dramatic and brutal circumstances. But for the eight countries that remain, the dream of lifting the biggest prize in football is getting closer. Find out all about the last eight ties below…

Friday

France vs Germany – 5pm GMT – Rio de Janeiro

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Two of the most exciting teams from the group stages didn’t quite perform to their best against African opponents in the quarter-finals but still got the win. It will be a close and interesting battle.

The Key Battle: The whole of the French defence vs Thomas Muller

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The French’s superb attack has been well documented at this World Cup, with their 5-2 thrashing of Switzerland proving that.

However their defence has been brought into question a few times at this tournament and Nigeria could easily have gone ahead in their Round of 16 tie had Emanuel Emenike not been ruled offside.

Mamadou Sakho missed that game but should return for the quarter-final clash, which will shore up the defence ahead of their battle with Germany’s creative attack, fronted by Thomas Muller.

It seems the Bayern Munich man will be just given the role to roam as usual and will cause havoc to any part of the defence at his wish. He currently has four goals in the tournament, including a hat-trick in the opening game against Portugal, so he will want to continue to scoring to try and secure his second successive World Cup golden boot.

Team News

France

  • Antoine Griezmann may start against Germany having impressed from the bench against Nigeria.
  • That will see Olivier Giroud drop out of the team and Karim Benzema spearhead the attack.
  • Mamadou Sakho should recover from injury in time to start in place of Laurent Koscielny in what should be Didier Deschamps’ only other change.

Germany

  • Shkodran Mustafi is likely to miss out after pulling up in the 2-1 win over Algeria the past week.
  • Philipp Lahm may be moved back to right-back to give balance to the Germany defence, with Mats Hummels returning to centre-back alongside Per Mertesacker.
  • Sami Khedira may also come into the starting XI at the expense of Jerome Boateng, while Andre Schürrle could feature from the bench again despite scoring on Monday.

Previous Meetings: France wins = 11 / Germany wins = 8 / Draws = 6

Last Meeting: France 1-2 Germany (6th February 2013)

France’s 26-year unbeaten record over Germany has ended as the visitors came from behind to win 2-1 in an entertaining international friendly at the Stade de France.

Mathieu Valbuena opened the scoring following Karim Benzema’s free-kick which cannoned off the bar, before Thomas Muller restored parity soon after the break. Despite the hosts’ dominating, Sami Khedira turned in late to ensure a rare win in the capital for die Mannschaft. All three players who scored are likely to feature in Rio.

Stat of the match

Despite having lost more games to French than they have won against them, Germany have the edge with goals scored in matches between the two, with 42 to France’s 41.

Where can I watch it?: BBC One

My Prediction: France 1-2 Germany

Brazil vs Colombia – 9pm GMT – Fortaleza

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The hosts have failed to really show what they’re about so far and needed a penalty shoot-out to get past Chile in the Round of 16. Colombia in contrast, have been the only team to perform consistently and are turning into dark horses for this tournament. Could they spoil the party in?

The Key Battle: Thiago Silva vs James Rodriguez

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In a Brazil defence that hasn’t been at it’s best at this tournament, captain Thiago Silva has stood-out for his pure ability to succeed in a last ditch tackle and to command the rest of the team.

His side had to overcome a shoot-out in the round of 16, but Silva admitted he did not want to take a penalty and was put last on the list of Brazilian takers behind goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

Was this a cowardly or selfless move? It didn’t turn out to be an issue, but is this the level of confidence you want for your captain.

One man certainly not short of confidence is James Rodriguez, one of the stars of this World Cup. The forward has five goals and four assists in five games, with his strikes against Japan and Uruguay already being considered for goal of the tournament.

If Colombia are to progress any further, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t, Rodriguez, whose first name should be pronounced ‘Hamez’ by the way, will need to be at his magic best. The real battle could be between him and Brazil’s own trickster Neymar.

Team News

Brazil

  • Neymar is expected to be fit having trained this week after suffering from a knee and thigh injury against Chile, but Marcelo may miss out through injury with Maxwell ready to deputise.
  • Luiz Gustavo though is suspended having picked up his second booking of the competition in the penalty shootout win over their South American counterparts.
  • Paulinho is expected to get the nod over Hernanes to start alongside Fernandinho in midfield in what should be Scolari’s only change to the starting XI.

Colombia

  • Colombia have no pressing injury concerns ahead of their quarter-final meeting with Brazil.
  • José Pekerman may opt to name an unchanged starting XI from the side that overcame Uruguay.
  • That would see Victor Ibarbo and Adrian Ramos start from the bench once more.

Previous Meetings: Brazil wins = 15 / Colombia wins = 2 / Draws = 8

Last Meeting: Brazil 1-1 Colombia (14th November 2012)

In Brazil’s landmark 1000th international, Neymar scored a wonderful equalizer before missing a penalty in a tight and entertaining contest against a much-improved Colombia side who went ahead through Juan Cuadrado’s goal just before half-time.

Stat of the Match

The last four meetings between these two sides have ended in a draw – with just two goals scored in that time.

Where can I watch it?: ITV

My Prediction: Brazil 2-3 Colombia (aet)

Friday

Argentina vs Belgium – 5pm GMT – Brasilia

Nigeria v Argentina: Group F - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Both teams needed extra time to get past stubborn opposition in the Round of 16, but now we will see how possibly the world’s best player faces against a selection of the Premier League’s finest.

The Key Battle: Angel Di Maria vs Jan Vertonghen

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Angel Di Maria was the worst player on the pitch by some way in Argentina’s Round of 16 game against Switzerland, but it was him who smashed in the only goal of the game in the 118th minute to send Alejandro Sabella’s to the quarter-finals.

Nothing went right for him up until that point or indeed after it, with the Real Madrid man getting book almost directly after his goal.

He started the game on the left against the Swiss but finished it on the right, and if that is where he starts against Belgium, Jan Vertonghen will be his direct opponent, a man who has played all but half an hour of the Red Devils’s World Cup campaign.

The Tottenham man is part of a water-tight defence which has conceded just two goals in the whole tournament – the join best record out of the teams left.

He has managed to get on the scoresheet against South Korea in the last group match, firing home after 77 minutes to ensure Belgium finished top of Group H.

Team News

Argentina

  • First choice left-back Marcos Rojo is suspended having picked up his second booking of the tournament and Argentina don’t really have any natural cover.
  • Hugo Campagnaro and José Basanta are the players most likely to come into contention, with the latter perhaps favoured due to the fact that he is left-footed.
  • Sergio Agüero is still a doubt with a muscle injury but his poor performances would likely have seen his place come under threat either way, with Lavezzi and Palacio in competition to start.

Belgium

  • With a fit and suspension free squad to choose from Marc Wilmots’ main selection dilemma may well be who to start up front, with Lukaku scoring from the bench after an impressive opening 90 minutes from Divock Origi last time out.
  • Elsewhere the likes of Mousa Dembele and Kevin Mirallas will hope to start after abject displays from Fellaini and Mertens respectively against the US.

Previous Meetings: Argentina wins = 2 / Belgium wins = 1 / Draws = 0

Last Meeting: Argentina 2-0 Belgium (25th June 1986)

After knocking out England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup with a brace, Diego Maradona scored two again in the semi-finals against Belgium and the South American nation went on to win the tournament in Mexico.

Stat of the Match

Belgium’s earliest goal in this World Cup has come in the 70th minute – Marouane Fellaini’s header against Algeria.

Where can I watch it?: ITV

My Prediction: Argentina 2-0 Belgium

Netherlands vs Costa Rica – 9pm GMT – Salvador

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The finalists of four years ago have excelled again but had to come from behind in the round of 16. They come up against the surprise team of the tournament, Costa Rica, who are competing in their first ever quarter-final and don’t want the dream to end.

The Key Battle: Jasper Cillessen vs Joel Campbell

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On the whole, Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen has been on good form, being beaten just four times. Twice from the penalty spot, whilst there was nothing he could do about the spectacular efforts of Tim Cahill and Giovanni Dos Santos respectively.

With a tight defence in front of him, the Ajax man rarely gets beaten from inside his own box, with Costa Rica’s chances of scoring likely to be increase if they shoot from outside the area. Then Cillessen could come across some problems.

It will be nothing new to Joel Campbell, who loves to shoot from outside the box and has done so several times throughout the tournament. His only goal in Brazil however, has come from inside the box against Uruguay.

After spending three seasons out on loan, he will return to Arsenal this summer and Arsene Wenger has already been impressed with his tournament performances saying he is “maturing well” and that “he will definitely come back to us for pre-season”.

Team News

Netherlands

  • Louis van Gaal has confirmed that Nigel de Jong will miss the remainder of the World Cup due to a groin injury.
  • Daryl Janmaat may replace Paul Verhaegh at right wing-back, with Blind moved forward into midfield and Martins Indi returning to the back three.
  • Georginio Wijnaldum and Jonathan De Guzman are in competition to start in the middle of the park.

Costa Rica

  • Oscar Duarte will miss out having been sent off in the round of 16 clash against Greece, so Roy Miller and Johnny Acosta are in competition to start at the back.
  • Elsewhere the starting XI should remain unchanged.

Previous Meetings: N/A

Last Meeting

This is the first official meeting of the two sides

Stat of the Match:

The Netherlands have not lost a competitive game since the 2010 World Cup final.

Where can I watch it?: BBC One

My Prediction: Netherlands 3-1 Costa Rica

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