Happy Fourth! As our country pauses to celebrate the 238th anniversary of this little experiment called America, I hope you have time off to celebrate and enjoy some soccer, because today is a soccer lovers dream! Two intra-continental matchups, one within UEFA, and the other within CONMEBOL. Three of the teams are former World Cup winners, while the fourth has put together the best four games in the tournament and has the player leading the tournament in goals. Today has Neymar, Rodríguez, Müller, Benzema, and my favorite name in world soccer, SCHWEINSTEIGER! (always yelled, much like LEWIS NEAL!).
I'll go out on a limb and say today is shaping up to be the single best day of the tournament given the high quality of these matches. Plus, these teams know each other, and familiarity breeds contempt--so these games will be even more intense than World Cup quarterfinals normally are.
France vs. Germany
Kickoff Time: 12 noon EDT
Venue: Estádio Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
TV/Streaming: The English-language broadcast is on ESPN2 (that's the deuce, not the mothership), while the Spanish broadcast will be on Univision. Streaming can be found in the usual locations on WatchESPN and Univision Deportes.
Cliff's Notes: There is so much history between these two countries, both on and off the field. Just in the last 100 years, they've fought two world wars, become allies, and then proceeded to become the political and economic engine of the European Union. But today we are talking about something much more important than all that, we are talking World Cup quarterfinals! These teams have played three times in the World Cup over the years (Germany's won twice, and France once), including one of the most famous games in World Cup history during a 1982 semifinal in Spain. If you've never seen this game, watch it now! I remember seeing it as a teenager, and it was unbelievable, with France scoring two goals in extra time to go up 3-1, only to see (West) Germany score two (including a bicycle kick) to tie the game back up and send it to penalties where the Germans won in six rounds (5-4). It also had one of the most famously horrific collisions in World Cup history and is said to be the first game in World Cup finals history to be decided by penalties. Let's hope today's match lives up to its predecessor.
Who Should I Root For? How do you pick between former World Cup champions who are both playing well? Of course, Germany was one of the pre-tournament favorites, and they've played generally well, although putting away Algeria was tougher than expected in their last match. Several German team members are reported to be sick, so we will see how their very deep bench is impacted when lineups are announced before the game. France, on the other hand, was a bit of a wild card entering this tournament given their feast or famine history in the World Cup, but this year the French have been generally superb. It took them to the 79' to finally score against Nigeria in the Round of 16, but this is a team that has 10 goals in 4 matches so far. It's a tough call, but I say pull for Germany since they beat the US and it's never a bad thing to say a team you lost to made it to the semifinals or finals.
Brazil vs. Colombia
Kickoff Time: 4:00 pm EDT
Venue: Arena Castelão, Fortaleza
TV/Streaming: If you are watching in English, make sure you switch back over to ESPN, while the Spanish broadcast will still be on Univision. Streaming can be found in the usual locations on WatchESPN and Univision Deportes.
Cliff's Notes: These countries are neighbors, so expect the stadium to be rocking when they take the field in the second match of the day. As the hosts and the best team historically in World Cup play, the Brazilians expected to be here, but they certainly haven't looked overly comfortable in getting this far. Yes, they beat Croatia with the assistance of a controversial penalty, and yes, they beat a Cameroon side which is the subject of match-fixing allegations. And, their Round of 16 victory can be chalked up more to Chile losing the game than Brazil winning it. But, Brazil's individual talent is incredible, and they still have Neymar, one of the leading goal scorers in the tournament. Colombia, however, has James Rodríguez who is the breakout player of this tournament and currently leads the Golden Boot competition. To put it simply, Colombia has been awesome in this World Cup, going 4-0 and scoring 11 goals (while only conceding 2). They are a joy to watch, and their goal celebrations are equally joyous. But, in a cruel twist of fate, they have to face Brazil in the quarters, and Brazilians just don't lose at home.
Who Should I Root For? Do you want to see the host team continue in the tournament, or do you want to see an entire nation go apoplectic if they lose? Are you a fan of teams playing the most entertaining soccer advancing, or do you want to see Brazil's extraordinary home winning streak continue? There are good arguments on both sides, but Colombia has earned my support in this game by their play on the field.