So, after a few days off, are you thirsty for me?
Today sees the first pair of quarter finals, with another two to come (and be previewed) tomorrow.
First up is FRANCE vs GERMANY, for me possibly the most exciting game of the round. Both teams are amongst the favourites to win, having been amongst the few to play consistently good football.
It may or may not be a factor that the German manager yesterday announced that seven of the players are suffering from mild ‘flu. Will that be enough to send them out against their fellow Europeans? I chose Germany as title winners in my sweepstakes before the tournament began, (since I couldn’t choose between Brazil and Argentina), so I am sticking with them to go through.
They are also the most in-form team left, being unbeaten in their last fifteen matches, and are looking to be the first team to make four successive World Cup semi-finals.
France, on the other hand, are managed by ex-Marseille star Didier Deschamps, who has bizarrely never lost a World Cup match as either a player or manager!
Whichever way this match swings, let’s just hope that nobody has their neck broken, as happened when the sides met in 1982 thanks to one of the worst ‘tackles’ (if not cases of Grievous Bodily Harm) in sports history.
For the locals, though, that match will be merely the appetiser before the main meal: BRAZIL vs COLOMBIA.
Colombia, featuring some of the star players of the games so far including current top scorer James Rodriguez on five goals, will be no push-overs and Brazil will have to (finally) start playing as people hoped they would: less diving, less terrible passing, less awful strikers, less over-reliance on Neymar Jr. and dubious refereeing decisions, and more Joga Bonita.
For all their disappointing play, Brazil are still unbeaten in 41 home matches, a Mourinho-esque statistic dating back to 2002, when they were last beaten here by Paraguay, (although you have to go back to a ridiculous 1975 for the last competitive loss on home soil).
For the first time in World Cup history, all eight teams who won their groups went through to the Quarter Finals. These are the best the tournament has to offer: let’s hope they perform in the next 48 hours!…