Welcome to the Neymar vs. James Rodriguez round.
Host country Brazil and surprising Colombia meet in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup on Friday at the city of Fortaleza in Brazil. With heavy pressure coming rom fans, Brazil is expected to bounce back from a near elimination loss to Chile while Colombia looks to sustain its top form after four games in the tournament.
Seleçao has been inconsistent in their bid for their sixth World Cup. They won unconvincingly against Croatia with the opposing team questioning a late penalty kick. They just got a draw with Mexico and won convincingly over Cameroon to advance to the top 16.They unravelled in the second round when they had to eke out a victory by a penalty shootout with Chile to avoid elimination.
What was more telling than the tight contest was the post-match interviews. Several players could not hold back their emotions and openly cried after the game including goalkeeper Julio Cesar. The team's emotional state is the headline of the local dailies in Brazil and how they cope with the hometown pressure is certainly a cause for concern.
Carlos Alberto, Brazil's World Cup captain in 1970, deems it important that the Selecao keep their composure and save their tears if and when the hoist the World Cup trophy on July 13 at Maracana where the last game is scheduled to be held.
"The team is crying when they're singing the anthem, when they get hurt, when they shoot penalties! Come on... Stop crying! Enough!" said the former Brazil NT player to BBC.COM.
Brazil Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari even resorted to a sport psychologist Regina Brandao to help the team deal with the pressure. He believes that it is normal for the fans and followers of the team to demand that they play better, and that all of teams so far are so evenly matched that games are decided on penalties in the final minutes no less. The World Cup so far has not shown any deference to tradition and history of titles as seen in the surprising early exit of defending champion Spain.
Los Cafeteros on the other hand had an easy path to the quarterfinals. It prevailed comfortably in its group matches and dominated Uruguay, 2-0 in the round of 16. It has the tournament's second best offense, already registering a total 11 goals, only one less than Netherlands. It has also shown a structured defence only surrendering a total of two goals in its four matches, so far.
In the head to head matches of these South American teams, Colombia has only toppled Brazil twice in the last 25 matches. The last time dates back to 1991 at Copa America where they won 2-0. The teams have evolved greatly over the years and they are evenly matched in the past drawing the last four, the recent one, a 1-1 draw in New York last November 2012.
With the lone spot of Brazil being their defence, expect them to come roaring back after the emotional roller coaster game they had against Chile. Their fate will still be on the shoulder of young superstar Neymar who has already scored four goals in the tournament but is nursing an injury in the right knee which he suffered during the Chile match. Team doctors have already cleared him to play.
Colombia has its own star in James Rodriguez whose star has shown brightly in the tournament. Surprisingly King James has already netted five times and provided two assists in his forst four games in the World Cup. The highlight of which is the undisputed goal of the tournament with a dipping left foot volley to set Colombia to a sure win over Uruguay in the last 16, 2-0.
Expect predictions and betting odds to still favour Colombia but be wary of the mindset of Brazil as they are emotionally charged after some critics have been heavy on the team's performance which even provide the boom or the bane for the host team.
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Júlio César; Marcelo, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves; Fernandinho, Paulinho; Hulk, Neymar, Oscar; Fred.
Colombia (4-2-3-1): David Ospina; Pablo Armero, Mario Yepes, Cristián Zapata, Juan Zúñiga; Carlos Sánchez, Abel Aguilar; Jackson Martínez, James Rodríguez, Juan Cuadrado; Teófilo Gutiérrez.