Karim Benzema, Thomas Muller, Neymar and James Rodriguez carried 16 goals combined and the headlines into the first day of FIFA World Cup quarter-finals on Friday.
The masses debated which of them would emerge as match-winners in Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza. The answer was none.
Rodriguez was the only member of the quarter to score. It was a penalty. It proved in vain.
The heroes’ capes at the Maracana and the Castelao belonged to defensive players.
Manuel Neuer shielded the German goal magnificently, while centre-back Mats Hummels headed home to sink the French.
Later, the men at the heart of the Brazilian defence, Thiago Silva and David Luiz, scored to end the Colombian dream – the France fans could hardly have imagined two Paris Saint-Germain players would find the target and they would lose 1-0.
All four goals on Friday came from set-pieces: Hummels with a header from a free-kick, Thiago Silva with his thigh from a corner, David Luiz with a fierce curler from a set-piece, and Rodriguez from the spot.
They mean Brazil and Germany will clash for the second time in World Cup history in Belo Horizonte.
France 0-1 Germany (Budweiser Man of the Match: Mats Hummels, GER)
Brazil 2-1 Colombia (Budweiser Man of the Match: David Luiz, BRA)
Golden gloves from Gelsenkirchen: Seconds remained at the Maracana. Karim Benzema played a one-two with Olivier Giroud and raced clean through on goal. The French striker swung back his left boot and pulled the trigger. He got power. He got accuracy. The ball flew towards the roof of the German net, seemingly destined to take the game into extra-time. That’s when Manuel Neuer flashed his hypersonic reflexes and formidable arm strength to make a superb one-handed save. Taffarel, Fabien Barthez, Marcos, Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas performed indispensable functions in the last five FIFA World Cup-winning sides. Neuer’s form suggests the next global kings could be indebted to their goalkeeper.
United stance against discrimination: Friday was the first of back-to-back FIFA Anti-Discrimination Days, and the spectators in ‘The Big Castle’ embraced it in palatial fashion. After Brazil captain Thiago Silva and his Colombia counterpart Mario Yepes had read out speeches, both were loudly cheered in a glowing representation of football’s united fight against the disease of discrimination.
Sporting Brazilians comfort a crying Colombian: Rodriguez has indubitably emerged as one of the most eye-catching players at this World Cup. It seemed nobody could mention Colombia without enthusing about their No.10. When his dream was shattered, the 22-year-old playmaker sobbed uncontrollably. As soon as Daniel Alves and David Luiz noticed, they admirably took a break for celebrating in what was a carnival mood and went to comfort the Monaco No.10. The duo hugged and praised Rodriguez, before David Luiz pointed to him and urged the crowd to applaud him, which they did.
20 years after Rai converted a penalty in a 2-0 win over Russia, Thiago Silva became the next Brazilian captain to score in the World Cup. Socrates’ little brother failed to get on the score-sheet again at USA 1994, as did his replacement in the armband Dunga, who also failed to ripple the net as skipper at France 1998. Cafu failed to find the target as Seleção captain at Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, and Lucio followed suit at South Africa 2010. Coincidentally, Thiago Silva was the 20th on-field leader to score at Brazil 2014 – the previous record for a World Cup was 16 at Spain 1982.
Argentina-Belgium, 5 July 2014, 13:00, 18:00 (SA time), Estadio Nacional, Brasilia
Netherlands-Costa Rica, 5 July 2014, 17:00, 22:00 (SA time), Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador