France v Germany – 5.00pm Friday, 4 July
Kicking off the Quarter Final games in the 2014 World Cup is France versus Germany- a mouth watering tie. Both sides sailed through the group stages, impressing throughout, but looked less convincing as they progressed past the first knockout stage against sides they were expected to register comfortable victories.
Germany have been their usual conventional self, which has proven to be ruthless in front of goal all tournament, although this rigid style almost came unstuck against an excellent Algeria side, who were only just beaten in extra time. France looked equally toothless for some time against Nigeria, as Didier Dechamps gambled with a formation changed which failed to deliver.
France have not played a team anywhere near the quality of Germany in Brazil yet, while Germany have already faced decent sides of USA, Ghana, Portugal and Algeria.
Against Portugal, the Germans opted to sit deep and counter when necessary which worked well, we may see this employed again. Germany found it difficult to get behind the defensive line of Algeria, until Andre Schurrle was brought on, which changed the pattern of the game. We may see the Chelsea man brought in for Gotze from the start to add penetration and pace to the German front line.
A concern for France is they don’t have the depth of squad to alter games, when changes were made against Ecuador, a dreadful 0-0 was played out. Second striker Giroud has failed to impress and in the midfield, France have similar players which don’t offer much else. Germany have many more options to turn to.
Germany will have concerns at full back, Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann will be out wide for France and have had excellent tournaments, they will be looking to attack down these flanks. Germany have had a number of players at both left back and right back and in this area they have had problems. Benedikt Howedes had a very questionable performance on the left against Ghana and verses Algeria both full backs bombed on so much, it exposed Mertersacker and Boateng in the middle which allowed Algerian striker Slimani to get behind the defence.
The other problem is Mesut Ozil, who is deployed wider, but does not contribute defensively and the flanks are an area I expect France to target. A change in personnel is likely to see Giroud dropped from the starting XI after a poor display against Nigeria, which will allow Griezmann to come in out wide with Benzema pushed up top. Algeria only failed to go one step further against Germany, because they failed to take their chances, Benzema is unlikely to be as forgiving.
The interesting battle in this tie will be between the managers. After weaknesses were highlighted in their last games, both Didier Dechamps and Joachim Low will know they have an important job to both expose the opposition as well as make tactical repairs to their own systems. It is difficult to see either side playing much of the beautiful game, and it could be scrappy at times, as they look to nullify. Both managers will feel they can make inroads out wide though, and this is where I am expecting this match to be won or lost.
Advised Bet – HT Draw – Evens SkyBet
Brazil v Colombia – 9.00pm Friday, 4 July
The host country will come to a standstill once more, when their side take on Colombia in the evening kick off. Colombia and particularly James Rodriguez has wowed the world with strong performances and many now believe that this exciting side could go all the way. Brazil have just done enough to complete the job required in each game, grinding out performances which may not wow the fans but victories at this stage is all that matters.
Brazil quite simply haven’t been great yet. There hasn’t been one game where they have looked like future World Cup winners, but they have done just enough. The hosts have struggled to look dangerous in possession and quite frankly they rely far too much on Neymar to perform. Fred offers very little and the dismal display against Chile leaves us struggling to think of a worse performer at this World Cup.
James Rodriguez has been a revelation and Juan Cuadrado has gone under the radar but has proved to be one of the best dribblers in the world. Colombia have looked at ease in every game they have had so far and apart from the last twenty minutes against Ivory Coast, Jose Pekerman’s side have not been pushed at all. We are likely to discover the true capabilities of this team, and so far they have shown nothing to lead us to believe they cannot match Brazil
Brazil have been pretty solid defensively it has to be said, and set pieces have been an area where they have prosper. David Luiz forced a goal against Chile and Brazil have looked dangerous from corners all tournament, particularly Thiago Silva, who continues to have chances.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side have turned into somewhat of a long ball outfit, and against Chile this stopped the opposition winning the ball and playing in dangerous areas. Despite a lack of positives for the tournament favourites it won’t matter if they continue to grind out wins. Against Chile, in their toughest game Scolari’s team not only took the lead but matched Chile for fitness and intensity which has to be admired.
Colombia also have a similar problem to Brazil at the top of their team, Fred has not performed and both Jackson Martinez and Teo Gutierrez have not added anything significant to their side. The aforementioned Neymar is a menace and caused Francisco Silva problems all game at the weekend. Finding himself taking on Juan Zuniga here, I expect another one sided affair.
The key battles are clear. Brazil will look to get the ball to Neymar as often as possible as well as Hulk and look to attack the full backs. This is usually the plan and should not change. The dangerous Rodriguez and Cuadrado are the match winners for Colombia and will certainly create problems by getting in between the lines. Gustavo versus Rodriguez will be an encounter to keep an eye on. Individual match ups are likely to decide this game but I will be surprised if we see a clean sheet considering the areas where both sides can take advantage.
Advised Bet – Both teams to score – 11/10 Betfair