FRANCE VS. GERMANY
Where: Rio de Janeiro. Time: 9 a.m. PDT.
TV: ESPN2, Univision.
The buzz: No European team has ever won a World Cup in the Americas, but with two European countries meeting in this quarterfinal, the continent is guaranteed at least one berth in the semifinals. Neither team has lost, though Germany sputtered to a first-round draw with Ghana and France finished group play with a scoreless tie against Ecuador. France then rallied in the round of 16 to beat Nigeria in a game that was much closer than the 2-0 score would indicate (the second score was an own goal in stoppage time). The only goal France got on its own came from 21-year-old Paul Pogba, who has shown flashes of brilliance in an otherwise uneven World Cup performance. Germany, in the quarterfinals for the ninth consecutive World Cup, also struggled against its second-round African opponent, going to extra time to beat Algeria. That uninspired performance has led to much worry back home, where Coach Joachim Loew is coming under heavy criticism. Loew also has some tough lineup decisions to make. Does he start captain Philipp Lahm in the midfield or at right back? And what to do with Mesut Ozil and Mario Goetze? Neither has played well here, which could free the French to focus more attention on Thomas Mueller, who has been involved in six of Germany's nine goals here. And as if Germany didn't have enough problems, the team said seven of its players have shown signs of illness.
BRAZIL VS. COLOMBIA
Where: Fortaleza, Brazil. Time: 1 p.m. PDT.
TV: ESPN, Univision.
The buzz: This World Cup was supposed to sway to a samba beat with host Brazil showing off its brilliance. But so far it's been Colombian cumbia that has people dancing in the street. While Brazil has struggled to get this far — playing Mexico to a scoreless draw in group play, then needing penalty kicks to get past Chile in the round of 16 — confident Colombia has played attractive soccer in winning all four of its games. James Rodriguez, who leads the tournament with five goals, has filled the sizable void left by the injury-related absence of Radamel Falcao. And Colombia has proved capable of attacking from a number of formations, allowing it to change on the fly if things aren't going well. Colombia has given up just two goals in the tournament but hasn't faced an attack of the quality of Neymar-led Brazil, which needs a big game to get its title aspirations back on track. If the hosts don't step up here, Colombia could end the country's World Cup party early.
—Kevin BaxterCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times