The semi-finals of the 20th edition of the World Cup begin take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Two South American sides take on two from Europe – a real clash of continents and styles. All four nations hunting that golden ticket to the July 13th final at the Maracana in Rio.
The hopes of an entire football-crazy nation lie heavily on the shoulders of the Brazil team.
They have yet to light up the stage but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his men have managed to reach the last-four for the first time since winning the 2002 edition.
Brazil’s quarter-final victory over Colombia came at a heavy price as Neymar suffered a bad back injury and will miss the rest of the tournament.
Nonetheless they have set up a mouthwatering semi-final clash with European heavyweights Germany.
Germany advanced to their fourth consecutive world Cup semi-final and are hunting their fourth title and first since 1990.
Coach Joachim Loew’s men were pushed by Algeria in the last 16 before prevailing in extra time but improvements were seen against France who they dispatched in the quarters.
They’ll need to step it up even further on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte if they want the role of World Cup party poopers.
The following day the World Cup sees another South America v Europe clash when Argentina take on the Netherlands in Sao Paulo.
Argentina have been one of the pre-tournament favourites and like Brazil have come deep into the tournament without overly impressing.
Their brightest star is without doubt Lionel Messi who shined in his nation’s narrow one nil win over Belgium that fired the country into the last four for the first time since Italy 1990.
In the semis they’ll take on Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands, who kick started the tournament in devastating fashion beating reigning champions Spain 5-1.
They are the only one of the four semi finalists not to have won international football’s most coveted prize, although they have been runners up on three occasions including four years ago in South Africa.
In safe hands
Louis Van Gaal on Saturday showed off his tactical savvy.
Costa Rica had frustrated the Dutch for 120 minutes in their quarter-final and penalties were looming large.
In a move rarely seen in football van Gaal swapped Jasper Cillessen for Tim Krul, who went on to save two spot-kicks as the Dutch won 4-3 on penalties.
Van Gaal later admitted he had done it for Krul’s greater height and larger reach.
Was it madness considering Krul has faced 20 penalties for Newcastle and saved only two?
Or was it meticulous planning by the boss and Krul who tried to psyche out every penalty taker and dived the right way for each one?
Whatever the real motivation behind it van Gaal’s decision paid off as the Netherlands took a step closer to World Cup glory.
Saving Danish pride
And Denmark have won the world cup…well actually 18-year-old August Rosenmeier did and Playstation’s FIFA Interactive World Cup.
Overcoming a field of almost two million entrants Rosenmeier celebrated victory when he beat his English rival David Bytheway 3-1 in the final.
After six one-month long seasons played online the top 20 gamers made it to Fluminese’s home ground in Rio for the final stage of the competition.
20 gamers were soon whittled down to two.
Former players Dwight Yorke and Alan McInally acted as commentators while former Brazil legend Ronaldo was also on hand to give the two finalists a pre-match pep talk and hand over the prizes at the end.
While his nation did not make it to the real World Cup finals, Rosenmeier saved some Danish pride whilst also earning a winners check for just under 15 thousand euros.