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Colombia out to spoil host’s party
 
 
 
Colombia out to spoil host’s party

FORTALEZA - In the pressure cooker atmosphere of the knock-out phases, even the most negligible of mistakes can decide the fate of a nation . Thus it is up to the stars of the World Cup to prove if they can thrive in the pressure and wilt under the spotlight. As far as the World Cup quarter-finals are concerned, only the best of the best make it that far and Brazil v Colombia encounter is a perfect example of just that.
The world will have a first taste the momentous quarter-final showdown on Friday when Latin American superpowers Colombia and Brazil clash in the first World Cup quarter final match in the scorching heat of Fortaleza. As South American rivalry shifts to the world stage, fans are bracing themselves for the upcoming blockbuster fixture that promises to be a cracker of a tie.
World Cup 2014 hosts Brazil’s stuttering journey has been far from impressive in the tournament so far and need to find an extra gear if they’re to live up to their billing as champions-elect, but for Colombia, it’s a totally different story.
Jose Pekerman’s side have been excellent in Brazil and have already progressed beyond their previous best finish in the tournament by reaching the last eight, but they’re now determined to go one better. While the pre-tournament favourites haven’t quite been as phenomenal as we envisioned, Colombia have defied all expectations.
The Colombians have shown the world how it’s done in Brazil with a string of sublime performances so far, winning all four of their matches without really breaking a sweat. Their fluid, attacking style has been incredibly effective, and they’ve won endless fans for it. Though playing the hosts of a World Cup is always a daunting task, Colombia will be far from quaking in their boots, as simply maintaining their form should see them through.
In a round of 16 in which five of the eight ties went to extra time, the Colombians were the only convincing winners, seeing off the challenge of Uruguay with minimal fuss in a 2-0 victory. Brazil will undoubtedly provide a much sterner test for Pekerman’s side, but the manager says he's looking to take advantage of some unrest in the hosts’ camp,.
“Sometimes a team with a lot of potential, if they don't find the result and they need to win, they can't play so brilliantly," Pekerman said. "So the competition becomes interesting because a team with less individual stars can disturb the balance of the other team.”
Brazil striker Neymar has admitted he is happy to win ugly as he looks to take another step towards delivering his country's sixth World Cup on home soil against. La Selecao have been criticised for some of their less convincing performances on route to the quarter-finals, most notably in squeezing past Chile on penalties in the last 16. "You can't always enjoy yourself and win 4-0 or 5-0. Football nowadays is so difficult, so even, that the team who is most committed on the pitch ends up winning," said the Barcelona man on Wednesday. "I don't want a show. That's the last thing we are trying to do. We are not necessarily here to produce a spectacle. We are here to run to the end, until we are tired, and come out as winners."
Neymar fell to the ground in tears as Chile's Gonzalo Jara missed the decisive spot-kick in the shootout in Belo Horizonte with teammates Julio Cesar and captain Thiago Silva also seen to cry in relief as much as joy. Worried that carrying the expectations of 200 million Brazilians is becoming too much for his squad, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari called the team's sports psychologist Regina Brandao in for an extra session with the players on Tuesday.
And Neymar said the sessions were having the desired effect. "I had never done anything like it before and I am quite enjoying it," added the 22-year-old. "It is not only us, in football, who are surrounded by emotion every day and need psychologists. I think it could do every person good, to make one more relaxed."
Neymar also insisted he will be fully-fit to face the Colombians despite suffering thigh and knee injuries against Chile. One of the major concerns for Scolari has been the lack of support for Neymar in attacking areas as he has scored half of his side's eight goals after four games, whilst other forwards Fred, Jo and Hulk have struggled to make an impact. Neymar, though, claimed the team isn't overdependent on him. "I don't feel overburdened either on the pitch or off it. I have team-mates who help me by winning the ball back, scoring goals, setting them up," he said. "The Brazil team doesn't have just one person who has to do everything."
Scolari will be forced into at least one change from the side that faced Chile as Luis Gustavo is suspended so Tottenham Hotspur's Paulinho is expected to come back into the side. Gustavo's absence is even more critical for the hosts given the sensational form of the tournament's top goalscorer, Colombia's James Rodriguez. The Monaco playmaker has taken on the mantle of his side's focal point with ease in the absence of the injured Radamel Falcao with five goals in four games, including a sensational dipping volley to open the scoring in his side's 2-0 win over Uruguay in the last 16. A fourth consecutive win for Jose Pekerman's men took them into the last eight for the first time and ahead of the biggest game in Colombian football's history, midfielder Carlos Sanchez insisted they won't be overawed by their opponents. "Afraid? No, respectful, yes, because it's Brazil, the organising country, because of its players, its coaches, and for everything Brazil represents," he said.
And Rodriguez believes Brazil should be just as worried about him as his countrymen should be about Neymar. "We're facing a very tough rival, which has great players, but they also have to think that we have great players." History, though, is against the Colombians as they have only beaten Brazil twice in 25 previous meetings and only once in a competitive fixture at the 1991 Copa America.

 
 
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