Global elite set for World Cup quarter-final clashes
Over half of this World Cup’s last 16 ties went to extra time and beyond. Brazil needed a penalty shoot-out to edge their way into the quarter-finals past Chile.
Phil Scolari’s Samba Boys, the tournament hosts, remain 3/1 favourites with Coral to capture a historic sixth global crown on home soil. Costa Rica are at the opposite end of the market, rank 50/1 outsiders, but also used the lethal lottery of spot kicks to advance against Greece.
The standard at the Brazil finals has been so high. Late goals secured progress for both France and the Netherlands, leaving just Colombia, a tasty 12/1 to win the World Cup, to enjoy plain sailing into the last eight. The cream has certainly risen to the top, as each side through to the quarters topped their group.
Brazil boss Scolari has downplayed concerns that star attacker Neymar, 7/2 to win the Golden Ball for best player at the tournament, will miss the Colombia clash with thigh and knee problems. Coffee Growers counterpart James Rodriguez, meanwhile, could not come into this encounter in finer form.
He has seven goals in as many internationals since star striker Radamel Falcao sustained a serious knee injury that kept him out of the tournament. Rodriguez, who has an unequalled five strikes at the Brazil finals, is 3/1 to be be top scorer.
Coral make the Samba Boys odds-on favourites both for victory in 90 minutes and to qualify for the semis, but their last four fixtures with Colombia have all been draws, three of those without scoring. A 0-0 after 90 minutes is a tempting 9/1, with Jose Pekerman’s impressive outfit 7/2 to win in normal time and 15/8 to knock the hosts out.
There is an all-European quarter-final to look forward too, between 8/1 tournament chances France and 4/1 third-favourites Germany. Since the latter was reunified, Les Bleus have had the better of their battles, winning four and losing just once. Versatile attacker Thomas Muller, the scourge of so many in Die Mannschaft colours, was on target in their last head-to-head, a 2-1 friendly win for Joachim Low’s lads.
For all of Muller’s attributes, though, clever movement from veteran poacher Miroslav Klose may be a better bet to get some change out of young Les Bleus centre back Raphael Varane. Odds of 6/4 say Klose will break the record for most World Cup finals goals by scoring anytime against France.
There’s nothing to choose between 7/2 second-favourites Argentina and so-called dark horses Belgium (12/1 to win the tournament) on previous meetings on the global stage. Diego Maradona proved the difference last time out in 1986 by bagging a brace, so can modern day messiah Lionel Messi repeat that feat? Odds of 4/1 say he can do this or better it.
Finally, the Netherlands, 9/2 to add the World Cup crown to their honours at last, are strong favourites to end Costa Rica’s Cinderella story. Los Ticos are likely to find Louis van Gaal and Clockwork Orange a bridge too far, although Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong will play no further part at the finals because of a groin injury.