World Cup: Tension mounts as quarter-finals loom

World Cup: Tension mounts as quarter-finals loom
Colombia are set to clash with hosts Brazil, a rival they have only beaten twice in 25 meetings.
RIO DE JANEIR: The World Cup resumes after a 48-hour lull in hostilities on Friday with two blockbuster quarter-finals, as France take on old rivals Germany and hosts Brazil clash with Colombia.

France and Germany get the last eight ball rolling at 1600 GMT at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium.

Then up the coast in Fortaleza, Brazil's talismanic poster boy Neymar comes up against Colombia's James Rodriguez, the Monaco playmaker who tops the World Cup scoring chart with five goals.

Germany coach Joachim Loew sprang some selectorial surprises, reshuffling his defence by dropping Per Mertesacker and bringing back veteran striker Miroslav Gotze.

With Karim Benzema in top form, France are dreaming of their first World Cup title since their 1998 triumph on home soil.

"There is no apprehension or fear. There is no reason for us to feel any," said manager Didier Deschamps, the 1998 World Cup winning captain.
Friday's match gives France the chance to avenge semi-final defeats to Germany in 1982 and 1986.

The '82 semi-final in Seville produced one of the most controversial World Cup clashes when German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher flattened Patrick Battiston leaving the Frenchman with cracked ribs, two missing teeth and cracked vertebrae.

The winner of Friday's first quarter-final will play either Brazil or Colombia in the semi-finals.

Brazil's build-up has been dominated by 'cry baby' headlines over the cascade of tears from the players at the nervy last 16 penalty defeat of Chile last Saturday.

To ensure his men were in the right state of mind for the battle ahead coach Luiz Felipe Scolari ordered an extra session with the team psychologist this week.

"I had never done anything like it before and I am quite enjoying it," reported Neymar, fully fit despite thigh and knee injuries against Chile.

Captain Thiago Silva insisted the squad were capable of coping with the pressure.

"I think we are good psychologically. We are doing what we love to do," the Paris Saint-Germain defender said.

Scolari, mastermind of Brazil's fifth title in 2002, cut a confident figure at the eve of match press conference.

"Does Brazil continue to have one hand on the trophy? Yes," he said.

"We are going on to the fifth step and there are seven steps."

The fourth step caused 200 million Brazilian hearts to flutter as Chile gave the hosts the fright of their lives in a bruising encounter, only succumbing in the spotkick lottery.

Four eyecatching wins have propelled Colombia to uncharted territory at the World Cup to face a rival they have only beaten twice in 25 meetings.

"We need to play our own game as we have done up to now and try to impose our play on them," Argentine coach Jose Pekerman reflected.

"The key is not to believe there is a favourite."

Friday's games go ahead in the shadow of an overpass collapse in semi-final venue Belo Horizonte which killed two, and an illegal multi-million pound ticketing scandal involving a FIFA individual.

The quarter-final drama continues Saturday when the Netherlands play Costa Rica and Belgium take on Argentina.