After their dramatic penalty shoot-out success against Chile in the round of 16, Brazil face perhaps their sternest challenge yet on the road to World Cup glory when the hosts face an impressive Colombia side at Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza on Friday.
While the progress of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side has been far from overwhelming to date, including a 1-1 draw with Mexico, they continue to carry the frenzied support of the nation and the atmosphere promises to be spectacular.
A worry for the host nation, though, is the fitness of star man Neymar. The Barcelona attacker has been the offensive spark for his side throughout the tournament to date, netting four times, but sustained thigh and knee problems in the narrow success over Chile, although the medical team of the Selecao have been at pains to stress that Neymar will be fit for this encounter.
Arguably more of a headache is the loss of Luiz Gustavo, who would have policed Colombia danger man James Rodriguez, through suspension. Paulinho will likely step into his shoes while Marcelo quit training early on Wednesday but seems likely to play. Alterations in Brazil’s side are unlikely to be dramatic, as Scolari has built his unit around a regular core of players who are rarely altered. There is little doubt which man Scolari will have highlighted to his defence prior to this clash.
In the absence of Radamel Falcao, Monaco club-mate James Rodriguez has emerged as one of the stars of the competition, with the 22 year-old shedding his reputation of a playmaker by topping the goal scoring charts with five of his own, including a spectacular opener as Jose Pekerman’s side dispatched Uruguay 2-0 in their round of 16 match. Mario Yepes was fit to play against the Uruguayans, despite concerns over a hamstring problem, while Jackson Martinez should retain his spot in the starting XI after coming into the team for the Uruguay victory.
Brazil have reached the quarter-finals in each of their last six World Cups, but haven’t gone further than this round since 2002.
Colombia have made the quarter-finals for the first time in their World Cup history.
This will be the first World Cup meeting between the two South American sides.
The last four games between Brazil and Colombia have ended in draws, with three of those finishing goalless.
In their last clash in New York which ended 1-1, Juan Cuadrado opened the scoring just before half-time, with Neymar equalising in the second half.
Colombia last beat Brazil at the Copa America in 1991, losing seven and drawing five since that encounter.
That defeat remains Brazil’s only competitive loss to Colombia, winning 13 of their competitive meetings (Drawn-6 Lost-1).
Colombia have failed to score in nine of their last 12 games against Brazil.
The Selecao have scored eight goals so far in the tournament, as many as they managed to reach the quarter finals in 2010.
Brazil have lost just one of their last 16 World Cup games when they had scored first (Won-13 Drawn-2).
Los Cafeteros’ 11 goals is the best ever haul in a World Cup. They need three more to beat their combined total of goals from their previous four World Cup appearances (14).
James Rodriguez is looking to become the first player since Rivaldo in 2002 to score in the first five games of a World Cup.
Should Rodriguez score here, he would become the first player to score in his first five career World Cup appearance since Teofilo Cubillas (across the 1970 and 1978 tournaments).
The Monaco player has scored with five of seven shots on target the tournament so far.
Juan Cuadrado is the first player to provide four assists in a World Cup since Riquelme and Totti in 2006.
In Serie A 2013/14, Cuadrado managed just five assists in 32 games, just one more than he has already provided in this World Cup.
Fred has managed to register just four shots on target in the tournament, three of those coming against Cameroon.
Brazil have conceded goals in each of their last eight World Cup quarter-finals.