FORTALEZA, Brazil — Striker Neymar of Brazil and Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez have led their teams to the World Cup quarterfinals, dominating the attention and the scoring.
The 22-year-old stars will go head-to-head when Brazil plays Colombia today, with only one getting the chance to continue his run at the tournament.
Wearing the No. 10 jerseys, both have lived up to expectations, enough to be included in discussions about the tournament’s best players with established stars such as Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben.
Neymar has been decisive for Brazil, scoring four goals in four matches. Rodriguez has been crucial for Colombia with his tournament-leading five goals and creativity in attack.
“I already knew that James was a great player,” Neymar said. “And now he has been showing his talent at the World Cup.”
Rodriguez has been one of the tournament’s sensations and has helped Colombia overcome the absence of star striker Radamel Falcao, who missed the tournament because of a knee injury.
It didn’t take long for Rodriguez to become the focus of a Colombia team that has easily won all four of its matches.
“It’s not easy to achieve what I’ve done, but when you have a dream and you really pursue it and picture things like this happening, then it can become a reality,” Rodriguez told FIFA.com.
The Monaco player has scored in each match, including two goals against Uruguay in the second round, and has been voted the Player of the Match three times.
One of the goals against Uruguay already is considered one of the best of the tournament. He chested the ball and quickly turned to fire a powerful shot over the goalkeeper from the top of the penalty area.
Rodriguez already had scored a stunning goal against Japan in the group stage, flicking the ball over the goalkeeper after getting past a defender with a nifty move inside the box.
France vs. Germany – When German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer embarked on a series of hair-raising dashes out of his area in the second-round win over Algeria, it struck a chord with French fans of a certain vintage.
Thoughts returned to one of the most shocking collisions in World Cup history, the 1982 semifinal between West Germany and France involving another goalkeeper’s excursion off his line.
Harald Schumacher’s airborne challenge on Patrick Battiston, which knocked the French defender unconscious and broke his jaw but went unpunished, still raises anger and emotion in France – particularly as West Germany went on to win that match in a penalty shootout thanks to the saves of Schumacher.
Predictably, the incident has been one of the major talking points ahead of the countries’ clash today. It will be their fourth meeting on soccer’s biggest stage, with Germany also winning the most recent head-to-head in 1986 in the semifinals.
“(Today) we will write a new page of history,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “We will try to make it as pleasant as possible.”
• Seven German players have been struggling with illness, but coach Joachim Loew doesn’t expect any to miss today’s match.