Looking ahead to Brazil's eagerly awaited quarter final tie against Colombia.
If you’d offered Brazil a quarter-final tie against Colombia before the tournament started, the chances are they’d have taken it gleefully. Three weeks later, though, the global football landscape has changed somewhat and Colombia now represent a serious obstacle to the hosts’ ambitions of lifting a sixth World title.
Brazil shaded Chile in the second round after an edgy performance and a dramatic penalty shootout, while Colombia coasted to a 2-0 victory over Uruguay to book their place in the last eight.
The hosts will be boosted by the news that star man Neymar has shaken off knee and thigh injuries and will start.
However, Brazil will be without defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo as he is banned after picking up his second booking of the tournament against Chile. Paulinho is expected to deputise in midfield.
Luiz Felipe has come under fire for some underwhelming performances to date, but he denied suggestions that his Brazil side have had problems with the burden of expectations.
“It’s normal to have people demanding that we play better,” said Scolari. “But it’s also normal what we have been seeing in this World Cup so far. There were a lot of even matches.
“There is no difference between teams that have tradition and world titles and the rest of the teams. Matches are being decided on penalties, in the final minutes, on mistakes.”
Brazil have reached the quarter-finals for the sixth consecutive time. They have lost at this stage in the last two tournaments, though, with defeat by the Dutch in 2010 their last competitive loss. They are also unbeaten in 41 successive home matches, with their last defeat coming against Paraguay in August 2002.
Colombia have no injury problems to deal with as they prepare for their first-ever World Cup quarter-final.
Jose Pekerman’s side have won all four of their games so far in this World Cup and are now being tipped by some pundits to go all the way.
It has to be said, though, that history is not on their side today. Colombia have beaten Brazil only twice – the last time in the 1991 Copa America.
However, in their favour, they do a have a player widely regarded as the best at the tournament, so far. James Rodriguez is looking to become the first player since Rivaldo in 2002 to score in the first five games of a World Cup.
Jose Pekerman is expected to keep faith with the side that overcame Uruguay.
“To progress to the semi-finals is a high leap and this is a defining match because both teams will be at their peak of their performances,” said Pekerman.
“On both sides, we can observe great players, and when you have great players on both sides of the pitch, the match will be interesting and very even.”
The quarter-finals may be fresh territory for Colombia’s players, but not for Pekerman, who led his native Argentina to the last eight of 2006 World Cup in Germany.
On that occasion they also faced the hosts, but went out after losing on penalties.
Team news to follow.