RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — One thing for certain on Friday is that a South American team and a European team will secure their spots in the World Cup semifinals.
A pair of 22-year-old forwards who have been among the stand-out players of the tournament go head-to-head when Neymar's Brazil takes on a James Rodriguez-inspired Colombia team that has won all four of its games so far. The host nation is relying on Neymar to deliver again, and keep Brazil on course for a sixth World Cup title.
Germany and France have had some memorable meetings in World Cup matches, and both are former champions. The current French team is vastly less experienced than Germany, which has reached at least the semifinals of each major competition since the 2008 European Championships. France is rebuilding and has not reached any semifinal since its run to the 2006 World Cup final, but is showing glimpses of great promise in Brazil.
What to watch on Friday:
BRAZIL vs. COLOMBIA
Brazil has had an unexpectedly difficult start to the tournament, while Colombia has been a convincing winner in its first four matches and has tallied 11 goals so far — second only to the Netherlands.
Brazil narrowly avoided elimination in the second round, edging Chile in a penalty shootout. Colombia beat Uruguay 2-0 to reach the quarterfinals for the first time. The Brazilians have reached the quarterfinals in six consecutive World Cups, but were eliminated at this stage in the last two and only go into this game as slight favorites due to home-ground advantage.
"It's normal to have people demanding that we play better," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "But it's also normal what we have been seeing in this World Cup so far."
Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez has played an important role in the attack, scoring a tournament-leading five goals and creating many opportunities.
"We're very happy because we are making history," he said. "We want to do even more because this is a team that really wants to win."
Colombia has beaten Brazil only twice — the last time in the 1991 Copa America — but the teams have drawn the last four matches they played.
Neymar has scored half of Brazil's eight goals so far and is the key player for the host nation. He hurt is right knee in the Chile match, but team medical staff say he'll be fit to play.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman has all of his players available, but Scolari will be forced to make changes due to the suspension of defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo. Veteran striker Fred has been struggling so far in the tournament and may lose his place in the starting lineup.
Scolari said the attacking style Colombia will bring to the match should suit his Brazilian lineup, and expects it to unlock more opportunities. Colombia fullback Camilo Zuniga, who will have an important job in trying to contain Neymar, said Pekerman had "helped us believe in ourselves ... He drilled into our heads that a Colombian with the ball should have fun, that he shouldn't have to play with pressure."
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