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World Cup: Knockout Stages Day 5

Two more games that promise to be thrillers as the World Cup screams toward the last four.

"I'm here to score big goals and chew bubble gum, and I seem to be fresh out of bubble gum."
"I'm here to score big goals and chew bubble gum, and I seem to be fresh out of bubble gum."
Felipe Oliveira

Just 8 of the original 32 teams in this tournament remain, and that number will be halved again over the next two days. A generally expansive group phase has given way to a lower scoring but no less exciting knockout stage, with three games being decided in extra time and two more going all the way to penalties. The wheat and the chaff have been separated to the point that what remains is top class soccer teams with everything to play for. Everyone is three wins from glory, but only one team will actually make it there.

Germany v. France, 12pm ESPN2
Two traditional power who played down to their competition last round and come in with some questions around their lineups. For Germany, it is twofold. The biggest one is whether Phillip Lahm will drop back to right back to inject some much-needed pace and skill into the back and allow Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger to pair in the midfield. This is undoubtedly Germany's best lineup, but coach Joachim Low is yet to use it. The other question involves Andre Schurrle: will he start in place of Mario Gotze, where he shone as a sub against Algeria, or will he continue to languish on the pine?

Similarly, France's Olivier Giroud is supposed to be leading from the front, but the line has looked more Maginot than attacking with him in place. Dropping him from the lineup would allow France to move Karim Benzema from the left wing to his natural striker position and inject some pace on the outside. Making that switch last time out against Nigeria turned an even game into a runaway for France. Whatever decisions are made, both of these teams have the firepower to go the distance if they hit on all cylinders, and I expect today's game to be a good one.

Brazil v. Colombia, 4pm, ESPN
Brazil, you may have heard, are hosting the tournament and under massive amounts of pressure. Soccer is kind of a big deal to Brazilians, but the team has sputtered early on. The plan seems to be to hoick the ball to Neymar on the left wing and hope he can make something happen. The rest of the Brazilian squad has been varying shades of disappointing, which illustrates not only their reliance on the Barcelona winger but also how high expectations continue to be. It took shootout heroics by MLS goalkeeper Julio Cesar to get them here, but there is plenty of quality in the side.

Colombia, on the other hand, remains an enigma. On the one hand, they've won four games by a total of 11-2. On the other hand, you can make an argument that they are yet to play a quality opponent. Monaco winger James Rodriguez has been one of the young stars of the tournament, banging home five goals and playing with flair and excitement. Brazil have looked beatable; is Colombia the side to do it though?