The Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza will be a sea of yellow on Friday evening as hosts Brazil take on South American rivals Colombia for a place in the last four of the World Cup.
The atmosphere that greeted Brazil’s penalty shootout victory over Chile on Saturday was one of the most sensational in World Cup history, although it did not hide from the fact that the performance of the host nation was unconvincing once again, signs that the players have felt the weight of the expectations that have been put upon them.
Their progress was another illustration of the fine margins that exist in football, as they came within millimetres of being knocked out in the dying embers of extra time as Mauricio Pinilla’s shot hit the crossbar. They must now raise their game for a meeting with perhaps the one side that has hardly put a foot wrong so far.
Colombia eased past Uruguay in their second round match on Saturday thanks to the now unmistakable figure of James Rodriguez, who has really made a name for himself at this World Cup. He now leads the race for Golden Boot with five goals currently to his name, and the Monaco star’s performance will be a crucial factor in determining the outcome here.
As will that of his opposite number. Neymar has overcome a slight injury to his leg to be fit for this match, and he has been the one true source of inspiration for the five-times winners so far, with his mere presence often driving his team forward. He will, however, need good performances from Fred and Hulk alongside him to be at his best here.
Jose Pekerman, coach of Colombia, will take the game to Brazil, and having already led the nation to its best ever performance at a World Cup, he will now have reason to believe that his dark horses could go all the way. Los Cafeteros will feel they have an excellent chance of pulling off a famous victory an continuing their unprecedented run.
The Colombians have a full squad to choose from for this match, but Luiz Gustavo is suspended for Brazil, meaning either Tottenham’s Paulinho or Chelsea’s Ramires could come in as his replacement.