France and Germany square off
The glamour clash of the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is undoubtedly the meeting of European giants France and Germany at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Friday. Both sides have been impressive in the tournament so far. The Germans have been clinical in their efficiency during their campaign to date.
Joachim Low has created a team that is well drilled in executing their roles, but the team lacks a start player, who can turn their fortunes around should their game plan fail to work in 90 minutes. That point was exposed as they struggled to break down Algeria in 90 minutes as their round-of-16 tie went into extra time, which they eventually won 2-1.
This lack of an out-and-out striker could also come back to punish them, especially at such a crucial stage of the tournament. Miroslav Klose may have a record 15 World Cup goals but at the age of 36, he cannot be expected to carry the bulk of the German goal scoring burden. Low needs the likes of Mario Goetze and Andre Schurrle to step up in the attack if they are to reach their first semi-final since 2006.
While for France, four years on from the disastrous World Cup appearances in South Africa, their players are finally clicking on the pitch, causing many to believe that they may be real contenders for the title.
Their greatest strength lies in attack, where they have striker Karim Benzema and midfielder Antoine Griezmann leading the charge. The individual brilliance of these players, along with the midfielder maestro Paul Pogba should give Les Blues the advantage as they have the game changers that Germany lacks.
In defence, they also look assured, with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and defenders Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho proving to be assured in their performances. That foundation of a strong backline, with an on-form strike force means Les Blues head into the match as slight favourites.
My pick: France to win 2-1 in extra time, with Benzema amongst the goal scorers.
The second quarterfinal will see host Brazil take on Colombia at the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza. I believe that after four matches of riding on local support to give them that extra push in the tournament, Brazil will finally get found out and, most importantly, get knocked out. James Rodriquez has proven to be quite the find during this tournament and his great form will prove too much to handle for a Brazilian side that lacks creativity when Neymar is not involved in the game.
My pick: 3-1 to Colombia. Neymar will open the scoring but the Los Cafeteros will come back to claim a spot in the semi-final.
Tholakele Mnganga is an EWN sports reporter and producer.
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