So then, it's really getting down to the serious stuff now. Quarter finals time and today should theoretically be awesome, there's storylines aplenty and there should be plenty of quality. These couple of days off have seen some more scandalous, if predictable stories raise their heads, tickets given to head honchos being sold on the black market, suggestions of match fixing, now we get to go back to the football.
First up, at 12 eastern, it's an Olde Worlde battle with all the political and sporting rivalry and intrigue you could ask for. France vs Germany. In footballing terms, Battiston is the name that immediately springs to mind, which is perhaps a bit unfair to two consecutive very good semi finals in 82 and 86, both of which saw the (West) Germans win then go on to lose in the final. It's probably easiest not to go into the politics/war stories and metaphors that could be drawn upon.
My instinct in this case is to immediately cast Germany as the favourites for a variety of reasons, but none of those reasons have anything to do with what we've seen so far in Brazil. Aside from a wonderfully entertaining first half crushing of Portugal, they haven't really looked impressive. Ghana came close to beating them, they did just about enough to beat the US to clinch first place in their tough group, but then made very hard work of beating Algeria, needing extra time and even then just scraping a win. France on the other hand cruised through an admittedly easier group, and got one of the easiest round of 16 wins, seeing off Nigeria 2-0. Can they possibly keep that form and general mental well being going when up against a theoretically better team and an old enemy that's done them in many times before, or is it time for a good old fashioned French existential crisis. It has to happen at some point doesn't it?
Then at 4, it's to the nuevo mondo for what is clearly the sexiest quarter final match up. Brazil vs Colombia. Much like the first game there's an obvious favourite here, Brazil and much like the other game, that's not really much to do with what we've seen so far. a nervous and unconvincing trip through the group stage, followed by coming as close as possible to going out to Chile, a crossbar saving them at the end of extra time, then winning a pretty terrible penalty shootout. Neymar's looked good, and TFC's Julio Cesar has done his bit, especially in that shootout, but the rest of the team are very very unconvincing, and there's a looooooot of pressure on them, try as Scolari might to suggest that's not the case. Colombia? Well, they've probably been the most entertaining and more importantly the best team in the competition so far, winning the group with ease, then easily seeing off Uruguay, and scoring 11 goals in 4 games in the process. Imagine if they still had Falcao to add to this team. It's a horrible simplification, but it's Neymar vs James Rodriguez here, and really all the pressure's on Neymar to win that duel as if they more or less cancel each other out, I'd certainly back the rest of Colombia's team to beat the rest of Brazil the way they've been going so far.
Two theoretically epic clashes, in both of which the evidence suggest you should go against what your intuition formed over years of watching football tell you will happen. This should be good.