The second quarterfinal features hosts Brazil and surprising Colombia. Despite failing to impress so far, the Brazilians will still be favorites in front of their home crowd. Their South American neighbors, meanwhile, have been the best side in the Cup, with the best player in young James (“HA-mace”) Rodriguez. The world will be watching the matchup between James (pictured above) and Brazil’s own young star Neymar.
What’s At Stake
This is Brazil’s sixth straight quarterfinal. It’s Colombia’s first. If you think that puts plenty of pressure on Brazil to win today, you’re right. Other sources of pressure? Brazil are the hosts. Brazil have won a record five World Cups. Brazilian star Neymar is often compared to the legendary Pele. Some Brazilians consider the failure last time Brazil hosted the Cup a national disaster on par with Hiroshima.
The samba boys of a seleção can qualify for the semifinals today for the first time since winning the Cup in 2002. If they don’t, they have only to ask Brazil’s 1950 goalkeeper about his later life to find out how their country will receive them.
Colombia, meanwhile, may have exceeded expectations already, but that doesn’t mean they’re not feeling the pressure. When an ESPN analyst referred to 43-year-old goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón as the “only survivor from Colombia’s 1994 World Cup team,” he was probably speaking more literally than he meant: the 1994 murder of Andrés Escobar is widely believed to have been a result of his own goal in that Cup.
Colombia play 4-2-3-1 with plenty of width from attacking fullbacks (Juan Zuñiga and Pablo Armero) and wingers (Juan Cuadrado and Jackson Martinez). The Colombians are blessed with the most important ingredient for playing 4-2-3-1 effectively: a real, natural “number ten” to play in the center of the “3.” James Rodriguez can score, create for teammates, and influence the game by his movement and awareness of space. Watch how the Colombian attack uses the whole field, and especially how James decides where the ball needs to be. Today Victor Ibarbo takes the place of Martinez, but the Colombian style and shape won’t change.
While James has fit perfectly with the tactics and other ten players of Colombia, Neymar seems to swing between looking lost and scoring wonderful goals. The usually steady Brazilian coach Felipe Scolari keeps changing Brazil’s game plan and personnel, which may be contributing to the lack of fluency in his team’s play. We’ve seen nothing of the confident team play we’re used to from the greatest soccer country in the world. It’ll be 4-2-3-1 from Brazil today with Paulinho and Fernandinho as the “2,” but expect the young Brazilian duo of Neymar and Oscar to take turns playing at the center of the “3” as they try to find a shape that works.
Players to Watch
Brazil: Neymar. Sorry.
Colombia: James. Again, what did you expect?
Ian Darke and Steve McManaman, my favorite team. Enjoy!
Match-specific Drinking Games
Mano a mano: Take a shot whenever an ESPN analyst oversimplifies this match into a Neymar vs. James showdown. How drunk? I’m legally obligated to ask you not to include Taylor Twellman in this game.
Beleza: Take a sip whenever the camera shows a beautiful Brazilian in the crowd. How drunk? Dead, but it’ll be nice. You won’t notice the transition into seeing actual angels.
Brazil: Caipirinha. Mind the sugar hangover.
Colombia: Aguardiente. Likely to induce more of a shame hangover.
– Read my general World Cup watching guide.
– Check out Zonal Marking, my favorite tactics website.
– See a commentary schedule or a review of each commentator.
– See where I’m getting my national drink recommendations.
– Check out other match previews involving these teams: Colombia vs. Uruguay, Brazil vs. Chile, Colombia vs. Ivory Coast, Brazil vs. Mexico, Colombia vs. Greece, Brazil vs. Croatia
Picture credit: arbiternews.com