RIO DE JANEIRO - While there may not be a first-time World Cup winner in Brazil, the teams in the quarterfinals make for a salivating run to the final game.
It’s refreshing to see unfamiliar teams make it this deep into the tournament and with this World Cup’s ability to produce the unexpected there may still be time for heroics.
There are the familiar world powers in the final eight. Brazil, Holland, Germany, Argentina and France are all there. The quarterfinals begin with what should be two shockingly good games Friday when France and Germany play, followed by Brazil and Colombia.
Colombia is one of those fresh faces that has brought so much pleasure this tournament. Colombian soccer has suffered enormously over the years. No pain was more public than July 2, 1994. In one of the darkest chapters of soccer history, Andres Escobar was shot outside a bar in Medellin in apparent retribution for an own goal he scored days earlier that aided in Colombia being eliminated from the World Cup in the United States.
Colombian fans are remembering him during this run.
Colombia is one of three teams who are not used to playing so late in the tournament. Belgium and Costa Rica are the other two, and their participation here has certainly made for interesting speculation.
Colombia and Belgium were both tagged as darkhorse candidates to do well in this World Cup.
As for Costa Rica, they were considered the dead horse in a group with Italy, England and Uruguay. In the end, it was the other teams who were sent to the glue factory early.
Not since Senegal in the 2002 World Cup has a team that was given so little chance gone so deep into the tournament. Turkey and South Korea were also quarterfinalists in that one.
The run for Costa Rica stops against Holland. But in keeping with a tournament where nothing is sacred and nothing goes to the norm, Colombia and Belgium find themselves in good places.
Many involved in this World Cup, except for the other six teams and their fans, want an Argentina-Brazil final. It would be the ultimate South American dance party.
The dislike between the two teams is legitimate.
Mention Diego Maradona and Pele in the same sentence and it kicks off a vicious, continuing argument about which one is the best player in history.
Fans of South American football will not even listen to any other name thrown into the mix.
The history and histrionics between the two teams would make such a game a marvelous ending to this tournament.
Alas, Brazil and Argentina are not playing good soccer right now. Argentina especially is relying on the talented legs of Lionel Messi.
Brazil has been somewhat better but it too hasn’t found its rhythm. Brazil has relied on Neymar as Argentina has relied on Messi and Neymar may not be 100% healthy.
Neither will move on.
The one game that promises to be the most fascinating is being played by two teams that surprisingly haven’t had much of a history on the soccer pitch in recent years.
France plays Germany in a blockbuster matchup Friday. The last time these teams met at a World Cup was a 1982 semifinal in Spain.
It was one of the most historic games in history and turned out to be one of the most memorable.
Germany came back from 3-1 down to win on penalties. It was the first time a World Cup game was settled by kicks from the penalty spot. Also in the match, German goalie Toni Schumacher broke the jaw of French player Patrick Battiston with a feet-first tackle. Battiston was removed from the field on a stretcher and Schumacher was not penalized.
There is so much still to look forward to in this World Cup and for once the expectations will reach fruition.