After a couple of days’ break, Brazil 2014 gets underway this evening as the World Cup reaches the quarter-final stages. First up, we’ve an all-European encounter between Group E winners France and Group G winners Germany before hosts Brazil take to the pitch against a Colombia side that has scored at least twice in every match and boasts the tournament’s leading scorer, James Rodriguez:
France: Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra; Cabaye, Matuidi, Pogba; Valbuena, Benzema, Griezmann
Germany: Neuer; Lahm, Hummels, Boateng Howedes; Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Kroos; Muller, Klose, Ozil
Didier Deschamps makes two changes from the side that started against Nigeria last time around. At the back, fit-again Mamadou Sakho takes the place of Laurent Koscielny in central defence, whilst further up the field, Olivier Giroud is replaced by Antoine Griezmann in a switch that will allow Karim Benzema the chance to return to a central role up front. Having served up back-to-back blanks, the Real Madrid man will be desperate for a return to the form that saw him serve up three goals and a pair of assists in his first couple of appearances, whilst Mathieu Valbuena and Paul Pogba are looking to add to their goal and assist tallies so far.
Joachim Low makes a trio alterations to his flu-hit starting XI for the early kick-off. Mats Hummels recovers from illness to take his place in the heart of defence alongside Jerome Boateng, with Per Mertesacker dropping out. Philipp Lahm looks set to start in defence for the first time in the tournament – he gets the nod ahead of Shkodran Mustafi at right-back. Sami Khedira and Miroslav Klose are also drafted in by the Germany manager; the latter is likely to lead the line, with Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil handed the roles out wide in the front three. As the only player to have a hand in more than one of his side’s nine goals, Muller carries the hopes of many Fantasy managers heading into this one, whilst Klose will be looking to break the World Cup scoring record after netting the fifteenth of his career earlier in the tournament.
In the 9pm kick-off, Phil Scolari’s side will be seeking an improvement after an unimpressive win over Mexico last time around. The hosts required penalties to dispose of Miguel Herrera’s men after Neymar served up a second blank in three appearances – having bagged a brace in his first and third matches, Brazil will be hoping he maintains that pattern and gets amongst the goals in their fifth match of the tournament. Elsewhere for Scolari’s men, Oscar, Fred and Hulk need to step up if they are to progress – the Chelsea man has picked up just an assist over the last three, whilst the latter two have failed to impress, with Fred’s goal against Cameroon the only time either has found the net.
As mentioned, Colombia have the form player of the tournament in James Rodriguez. With five goals and two assists already to his name, he’s the only player to have scored in all four Matchdays and poses a major threat to the hosts chances of progressing. Fellow midfielder Juan Cuadrado has served Fantasy managers very well thus far, too, with a goal and four assists over his four starts, whilst Jackson Martinez brace against Japan underlined his capabilities in and around the box.