By Ken Boehlke

Brazil vs. Colombia (A1 vs. C1)

2 way line (90 minutes) – Brazil -0.5 (-130) Colombia +0.5 (+110)
3 way line (90 minutes) – Brazil (-130) Colombia (+345) Draw (+280)
Outright Winner – Brazil (-250) Colombia (+210)
Total – Over 2.5 (-105) Under 2.5 (-115)

Side: The Brazilians suffered through one of the most nerve-racking matches in the country’s illustrious World Cup history. A tournament in which the only acceptable result is to hoist the gold trophy, Brazil was forced to a penalty shootout to get through Chile in their first knockout round game. The Seleção struck first against the Chileans and appeared to be primed to grasp complete control of the match, however, a miserable giveaway by Hulk allowed Alexis Sanchez to equalize less than 15 minutes later. From there the match saw just a few chances for each team, but aside from the Hulk goal that was disallowed, Chile had the better opportunities. Ultimately Brazil survived, and in the end that’s all that matters. Now they take on the darlings of the 2014 World Cup, Colombia. Brazil deployed a high pressure defense in which the main goal was to disrupt the rhythm of Chile. They will likely try the same style against Colombia with a similar focus on James Rodriguez that they put on Alexis Sanchez. Neymar was rather quiet in the game against Chile and Brazil will do everything they can to ensure that is not the case again. They’ll want to tone down the number of long balls they attempted against Chile and will likely opt for a more grounded approach through the midfield against Los Cafeteros. Brazil has still yet to really come to life on their home soil, but they are still alive and there now may be time for them to finally hit their stride. Colombia has been excellent thus far, but these two teams are familiar with each other and historically Brazil get the better end of most matches. The central defense of Brazil was much better in their knockout stage match and it could be the difference in the quarterfinal. Barring another gem by Rodriguez, Brazil should be able to keep the Colombians chances to a minimum, it’s just a question of if and when their potent attack will wake up.

Colombia entered the tournament as a seeded team but expectations were lowered significantly when it became clear that Radamel Falcao would not be available for the campaign. Enter James Rodriguez. The 22-year-old striker currently owned by AS Monaco in the French top league has gone from a player to watch to muse-see TV. He has five goals in four matches, has scored in every game thus far, and owns one of the best goals the World Cup has seen to this point. But it’s not just Rodriguez that has made Los Cafeteros’ run to the quarterfinals possible. The Colombian defense has been superb not only keeping their opponents out but also going forward and threatening opposing defenses. Wingbacks Pablo Armero and Juan Camilo Zúñiga have picked their spots well and have made a huge difference in why the Colombians look like one of the best attacking teams remaining in the tournament. Meanwhile, central defenders Mario Yepes and Cristián Zapata have been fantastic holding down the fort when Armero and Zúñiga are stretched forward. Against the pressure defense of Brazil, Colombia will have to rely on crisp accurate passing to keep a flow through the midfield. In the match with Uruguay they were able to switch the field of play time and time again, it stretched the defense and allowed open spaces for Rodriguez. The same tactic can absolutely work versus Brazil, but it will likely have to be someone else putting on the finishing touch as Brazil will likely attempt to ensure Rodriguez does not continue his goal scoring tear. Los Cafeteros are absolutely strong enough and playing good enough soccer to take down the hosts, but they have to be technically sound otherwise Brazil will turn them over and take advantage of the spaces left vacant by the Colombian outside defenders. Pick: 90 minute bet – Brazil (-130)

Total: One can reasonably expect both of these South American nations to attempt a progressive style of soccer, but the pressure on Brazil has seemed to slow them down through their first four matches. Colombia have played on the front foot in all of their games but they will likely take a slightly more passive approach early against a dangerous Brazilian side on home soil. The total will be decided on how often each team can catch the opposing side’s wing backs out of position. All four of the game’s outside backs will want to get forward to ask question of the defense, but both teams have a unique ability to cut out passes and instantly launch an attack. When Brazil and Chile met, two high pressure styles clashed and neither team ever felt comfortable going forward, the same could be the case in this match. Hoping for less than three goals is concerning considering the goal scoring talent all over the field, but the way the knockout stages have gone and the expectation of a slightly less aggressive Colombian side makes the under the most likely outcome. Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-115)
 

France vs. Germany (E1 vs. G1)

2 way line (90 minutes) – France PK (+120) Germany PK (-140)
3 way line (90 minutes) – France (+200) Germany (+140) Draw (+230)
Outright Winner – France (+115) Germany (-135)
Total – Over 2.5 (+115) Under 2.5 (-135)

Side: France came into the match with Nigeria expected to control possession and dictate the pace of the match. Nothing could have been further from the actual outcome in the first half of the game. Nigeria did well to take the game to the French and stretch Les Bleus’ defense regularly. But late in the 2nd half, France appeared to almost flip a switch and turn on the jets. The entry of Antoine Griezmann for Olivier Giroud allowed the French to return to the 4-3-3 formation that has done so well through the group stage. Instantly, Mathieu Valbuena’s excellent runs through the midfield were presented with more options and the French controlled the match from there on out. Giroud, who was spectacular against Switzerland, will almost have to be left out of the starting 11 against Germany because his talents would be completely neutralized by the large German central defense. However, the 4-3-3 should find plenty of space along the outsides of the German defense as their outside backs have struggled just about every time they’ve seen a player with pace run at them. Valbuena and Blaise Matuidi will have to utilize the flanks themselves as well as serve the ball wide to the players in front of them. If France can utilize that space, they can force the German midfield to drop further back than they prefer. France have a clear advantage when they take on Benedikt Höwedes, Shkodran Mustafi, Sami Khedira or whoever else Joachim Löw elects to play in outside defense.

Much like France, Germany were on the ropes for a good portion of their match with Algeria. The Desert Foxes ability to press the German midfield and cause problems over the top of the defense had Germany scrambling trying to keep Algeria away from the goal. If not for the “sweeper-keeper” Manuel Neuer’s incredible game with everything but his hands, Germany could have conceded multiple times. Once again, the Germans entered the match expecting to play a slower possession style match and an African nation took it to them. Germany finally started looking more threatening later in the match when they started to expose the Algeria by playing in crosses. Against the French, expect to see a much more focused German side that will do everything they can to control the speed of the match. They did it to perfection against both Portugal and the U.S. and they should seek to do the same right off the bat in this match. Die Mannschaft must utilize their unbelievably talented midfield to pressure the French defenders back into their own end and then use the finishing ability of Thomas Müller and/or Miroslav Klose to convert a chance. Plus, if the match does make it to penalties, there’s not a team better equipped to get the job done than this German side. Pick: Outright Winner – Germany (-135)

Total: Each of the previous six knockout stage matches at the 2014 World Cup, including France and Germany’s games, went to half scoreless. However, the nerves of the win-or-go-home format should have worn off for each of these teams. Both sides are experienced and completely understand what it takes to win a World Cup. There will likely be a war in the middle of the field in the early stages as each team attempt to impose their will and get into game plan as quickly as possible. The game should eventually become very spread out as the French will want to get down the wings and the Germans will try to send midfield numbers forward to take advantage of the odd man breaks that will result from France pressing too far forward. Both teams are coming off clean-sheets in their previous match, but neither defense looked as solid as they would have liked. There will be spaces in behind both defenses, it’ll just be a question of who will be able to put one home, and maybe just as important how quickly the first goal comes. Pick: Over 2.5 goals (+115)

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Listen to Over and Under with Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier on CBS Sports Radio 1140 every Sunday morning from 8 to 10. Follow the show on Twitter @OAU1140 and on Facebook.

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