Germany and Brazil emerged victorious in the World Cup quarterfinals, setting up an epic battle in the semifinals between what many believe are the world’s top two football powers.
In Friday’s first game, Germany beat European rival France, 1-0, in a hard-fought match in Rio de Janeiro.
German defender Mats Hummels scored the game’s only goal in the 13th minute, leaping over French defender on a free kick by Toni Kroos and guiding home a header.
French star Karim Benzema had the opportunity to tie the game late in stoppage time, shooting uncontested from the left of the net. But German goalie Manuel Neuer, who has had an outstanding World Cup, raised an arm to deflect the kick.
Hummels Overcomes Flu
Hummels, who also scored off a header in Germany’s 4-0 win over Portugal in group play, missed his team’s Round of 16 match against Algeria after catching the flu. It was uncertain if he would even start against France.
“I guess we’re playing the kind of football that will give us the chance to win,” Hummels said after. “We know France is among the top teams, so it was certainly not a walk in the park. It was not a perfect match, but it was a pretty good match, and I think we deserved to go on.”
Germany is seeking its fourth World Cup championship. It has not won one since West Germany captured its third championship in 1990.
In Fortaleza, meanwhile, five-time champion Brazil benefited from goals by defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz, to beat Colombia, 2-1.
Silva scored using his knee in the 7th minute, after a corner kick by star striker Neymar. Luiz made it 2-0 in the 69th minute with a beautifully placed free kick that landed in the top of the net.
In the 80th minute, Colombia came within one when James Rodriguez scored his tournament-leading sixth goal on a penalty shot.
Colombia, which is tied with the Netherlands for most goals in the World Cup with 12, was playing in its first-ever quarterfinal.
Brazilian Star Injured
For Brazil, the win came at a huge price. Neymar, who leads his team with four goals, took a hit in the waning minutes and had to be hospitalized; some reports said he suffered a fractured vertebrae. His status for the semifinal against Germany on Tuesday is doubtful, according to Brazil’s coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
“We lost Neymar on that play and based on what I’ve seen, I think it’s going to be tough for him to play,” Scolari said. “He was kneed in his lower back, and he was crying out in pain, and I can guarantee it won’t be easy for him to recover based on what the doctor told us. Let’s hope everything goes well.”
Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002. The last time Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950, it lost to Uruguay in the championship game in a deeply emotion loss that resonates to this day.
On Saturday, Argentina faces Belgium in Brasilia, and the Netherlands takes on Costa Rica in Salvador, in the final two quarterfinal matches.
Argentina and Belgium have both won their four World Cup games. The Argentines will be counting on one of the world’s greatest players, Lionel Messi, who has four goals in the tournament. But one of Argentina’s key defenders, Marcos Rojo, will not be playing after being suspended for too many yellow cards.
The Belgians have one of the top goalkeepers in the world, Thibout Courtois.
The Dutch, who lost in the World Cup final in 2010 to Spain, possess an explosive offense led by striker Robin van Persie and midfielder Arjen Robben. Costa Rica is the tournament’s biggest surprise, having qualified for the quarterfinals for the first time.
The championship game is July 13 in Rio de Janeiro.