Two European heavyweights go head-to-head in the Maracana on Friday afternoon, hoping to reach the final four of the World Cup.
We look at the three key men Didier Deschamps and Joachim Low will rely on in Rio de Janeiro and what they must do to ensure it is their team in the semi-final.
The classy young defender has started all three of the games France have won in this tournament and despite his tender years, the 21-year-old has not looked at all out of step on the world stage. France have conceded just twice in their four games so far and both of those came when they were already 5-0 up against Switzerland.
He will have to be at his very best to cope with the movement of 'false 9' Thomas Muller, who is anything but a traditional centre foward.
World Cup 2014: 10 stars who have shone during the World Cup in Brazil
World Cup 2014: 10 stars who have shone during the World Cup in Brazil
1/10 James Rodriguez
The player who has most seized this World Cup, and thereby most seized attention. James might have been a marvellous talent on the radar of top clubs before this tournament, and the £38m Monaco paid last summer reflected his potential, but the 22-year-old has simply moved onto a different level. It is quite a quirk that Manchester United could have got him for £5m back in 2010, because he could command anything up to £80m now. Real Madrid are believed to be leading the chase. Rodriguez has set quite a pace.
2/10 Guillermo Ochoa
Was his display against Brazil the outstanding performance of the first round? Given the stakes, the pressure, and the extent of the siege, there is certainly an argument for it. Either way, there seems little argument that Ochoa has been the outstanding goalkeeper of the tournament so far. The sheer number of high-profile high-quality saves that the 28-year-old produced are in stark contrast to what has been a humble club career, having spent three years at lowly Ajaccio. Last season, they got relegated to Ligue 2. This summer, he should have earned a move to a better level.
3/10 Alexis Sanchez
All of a sudden, it seems ludicrous that Barcelona would consider selling Alexis, let alone use him as a mere makeweight on a deal to bring someone else in. The Chilean may have been largely under-whelming in his three years at Camp Nou, but this World Cup re-asserted why they initially signed him, as well as what kind of player he can be when used correctly. The two goals against Spain and Brazil were a display of his elite finishing, the pace that brought them the kind of dynamic play top clubs crave.
4/10 Karim Benzema
On top of the world right now, but also someone that finds himself in a similar situation to Alexis: Real Madrid would gladly bring in what they perceive to be a better forward, but he has used this tournament to illustrate the folly of that. Benzema has been one of the best players of the first four games, combining clutch finishing with classy build-up play that has been central to France’s joyful resurgence as a world force again. He has also enjoyed his own resurgence. Benzema is finally looking like the devastating talent that Real first signed for so much money. He could command a similar figure again.
5/10 Vincent Enyeama
It was the 31-year-old goalkeeper’s error that ultimately cost Nigeria the last-16 game against France, but that was all the more conspicuous because he had been so solid before then. In fact, it was arguably Enyeama’s supreme late save against Bosnia and Herzegovina that brought Nigeria so far, given the ultimately slim margin with which they won that game 1-0 and then qualified. It was not the only such stop, and even the 2-0 defeat to France saw plenty of defiance. Lille can expect some interest.
6/10 Islam Slimani
Algeria were one of the most progressive teams of the opening four games, and Slimani their brightest player. Just turned 26, his career has shown a steady upward curve, moving from CR Belouizdad to Sporting Lisbon in 2013, and now making his ability all the more widely known. The two goals in four World Cup games also mark a superior scoring ratio to recent seasons, and the type of productivity he should be offering as he approaches his prime. Slimani looks ready for one of Europe’s primary leagues.
7/10 Daryl Janmaat
Beyond the three established stars of Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, it is Daryl Janmaat who almost personifies the youthful nature of this Netherlands team. He is 24, still based at home with Feyenoord, and is one of their many defenders that has impressed in this tournament with his maturity. Janmaat has arguably made himself the pick of them, especially for the solid consistency he has demonstrated throughout, as well as the way he allows a more counter-attacking Dutch side to turn defence into attack. It won’t be too long until he personifies this team in another way: moving abroad.
8/10 Miralem Pjanic
The Roma midfielder’s easy talent was widely known before this tournament, but perhaps the key is that he’s applied it in difficult circumstances. Out of a Bosnia and Herzegovina side that almost totally under-performed and went out in such disappointing fashion, Pjanic was one of a handful players – as well as Muhamed Besic – that played above his level. A host of top European clubs were interested in the 24-year-old before this World Cup. They will now have to pay even more than anticipated.
9/10 Bryan Ruiz
To think that this was a player Fulham have been all too happy to discard, banishing him on loan to PSV Eindhoven last season. Of course, much of that was the fault of Ruiz himself . He looked conspicuously lazy in a team full of languid attackers. That appears to have revitalised him. Ruiz has been the driving force of Costa Rica’s historic tournament. It was not just about the goals he scored that brought such momentous results against Italy and Greece. It is also about the touches and technique, as he’s now really doing what a player of his talent should. Fulham can surely earn a much higher price now.
10/10 Ricardo Rodriguez
With the way he surges forward from full-back, the 21-year-old has epitomised the adventurous and brave nature of this impressive Swiss team, and he has proven so productive in their energetic attacks. The exceptional Xherdan Shaqiri has particularly benefited from the space that Rodriguez spots and creates. That follows on from the nine assists he cleverly created for Wolsfburg last season. Having already spent two years in the Bundesliga after a move from Zurich, he has undoubtedly displayed that he is prepared for a higher level.
Sir Alex Ferguson, wherever he has been watching the World Cup, will still be kicking himself every time the centre midfielder plays. That Manchester United somehow allowed the infinitely talented Frenchman to leave Old Trafford for free still boggles.
Physically imposing and lighting quick, Pogba is graceful on the ball and possesses a fearsome strike. He is a sight to behold when driving at pace from midfield.
The Real Madrid striker started the tournament brilliantly, scoring three goals in the opening two matches as France romped to victories against Honduras and Switzerland. But in the two matches since, Benzema has been off-colour and was well marshalled against Nigeria, though he did have a shot cleared off the line.
He will need to be back to his best and take any chances given to him by a stern German defence.
The Bayern Munich keeper was sensational against Algeria, recording a quite amazing 21 touches outside of his area. Playing almost as a sweeper, the 28-year-old is the primary reason Germany are able to play such a high pressing game, despite Per Mertesacker's lack of pace.
When he's not resembling an outfield player, Neuer remains one of the best goalkeepers in the game, calm under the high ball and an excellent shot-stopper.
There has been plenty of discussion surrounding which position the German skipper will play. He is so good in a holding role, capable of breaking up play and starting attacks but he is easily the best full back they have.
Low has opted to play Lahm in the midfield and use four central defenders across his back four - however, against Algeria the Germans were a much bigger attacking threat with Lahm pouring down the right. It will be interesting to see what Low opts to do.
The Germany hitman didn't have the greatest of games against Algeria, but he was still a constant threat. Whether he plays through the middle or out wide, Muller's superior movement gives defenders nightmares. He doesn't always appear to be completely involved in the game but he is the man to step up for the Germans when it really matters.
Nine goals in 10 World Cup matches are testament to that.Reuse content