World Cup Today: France, Germany clash plus Brazil vs. Colombia in quarters

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WORLD CUP TODAY: FRIDAY, JULY 4

After the longest break of the tournament so far (how did we survive with no game for two days?) we are back underway for the World Cup quarterfinals.

On Friday, first up France and Germany square off at the Maracana with the Germans incredibly confident of making the WC semifinal.

Then the hosts are back in action as Brazil play red-hot Colombia in an all-South American clash in Fortaleza. Luis Felipe Scolari is contemplating switching his lineup to quell the threat of James Rodriguez.

Here is all the news you need to know, as the quarterfinals begin in Brazil.

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MATCH 57: FRANCE VS. GERMANY

Location: Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
Time: Noon ET
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Cheater’s Guide

France have kept three clean sheets in four games and are looking dynamic, dangerous and full of life under Didier Deschamps. As for Germany, they have labored through their last two matches against the U.S. and Algeria and have seven players struggling with ‘flu-like symptoms’ ahead of this one. Smart move could be on France to upset the Germans, as Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema and Matheiu Valbuena continue to shine.

What they’re saying

German midfielder Toni Kroos is very confident of success, as the Bayern Munich man believes his side will power past the French. ““France have a very strong midfield but if all of us deliver our best performance, then I believe we are the better team,” Kroos said. “But we have to show that. It’s going to be very important for us to have possession and to win the duels. Then, I believe we will really have a good opportunity to win.”

History

This will be the 26th meeting between the sides. France have won 11, Germany eight and there have been six draws.

Premier League Players

France: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Moussa Sissokho (Newcastle), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Loic Remy (QPR).

Germany: Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski (Arsenal); André Schürrle (Chelsea)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 58: BRAZIL VS. COLOMBIA

Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Time: 4pm ET
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Cheater’s Guide

The Brazilian public let out a collective sigh of relief following their penalty kick victory over Chile in the last 16. After underwhelming and over-relying on Neymar, Brazil’s run almost came to an end last-time out. Colombia will prove an even stiffer test than Chile as James Rodriguez has scored five so far, two against Uruguay in the last 16, and is the figurehead of a fired-up and talented Cafateros side that are at the quarterfinal stage for the first time in history.

What they’re saying

Brazilian boss Luis Felipe Scolari is in confident mood as the pressure builds. “Does Brazil continue to have one hand on the trophy? Yes. We are going on to the fifth step and there are seven steps.”

History

Brazil last lost at home in 2002 and are unbeaten in 41 matches on Brazilian soil. They have only lost twice to Colombia in 25 games and have never lost at home.

Premier League players

Brazil: Oscar, Willian, Ramires (Chelsea), Paulinho (Tottenham), Fernandinho (Mmanchester City)

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Man City

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Manchester City can put Leicester City deep in its rearview mirror when the two sides meet at the King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester opens the day four points back of the second-place visitors. The Foxes also saw Chelsea move four points back with a win over Spurs.

[ STREAM: Leicester City v. Man City ]

Aymeric Laporte again pairs with Fernandinho in Man City’s back line, keeping John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi on the bench.

Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez start on the bench for Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes.

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VIDEO: Messi scores first half hat trick for Barcelona

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Lionel Messi scored a first half hat trick for Barcelona against Eibar on Saturday.

Messi, 33, is warming up quite well for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg as he tore Eibar’s defense to shreds to put them 3-0 up at the break.

In a week where Messi and Barcelona have been in the news amid an emergency signing of Martin Braithwaite, a social media spying scandal and plenty of criticism of sporting director Eric Abidal, the Argentine ace got back to doing what he does best.

Barcelona sat in second place in the La Liga table heading into this weekend, one point behind Real Madrid.

Giroud vows “start of a good run” for Chelsea ahead of UCL

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OIivier Giroud knows he’s given Frank Lampard food for thought as Chelsea improved its top four stock with a 2-1 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Giroud scored the first goal in making just his third Premier League start and eighth league appearance under Lampard, and now has two goals in 375 minutes this season. The other came against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Frenchman now has 79 Premier League goals, and the ex-Arsenal man will be doubly thrilled to that four of them have now come against Spurs.

“I was lucky the ball came back after hitting the post and I tried to finish,” Giroud said, via the BBC. “It was a good feeling for me, a good moment and I’m so happy for the team to win today. It’s been three months I didn’t start, it’s been a special day for me and all of us.”

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts ]

Giroud said that this was bigger for Chelsea than it was for him, though.

“It was a very important game for us today. I want to talk about the team spirit. We’ve shown great character today. We knew it was maybe a kind of turning point. We lost a bit of confidence. It was nice to bounce back and get this win, a hard win against a rival, so I feel relieved today.

“Tottenham is obviously a rival for the Champions League race, so we are pleased to put them four points behind us. This is the start of a good run, I hope, now we need to focus on the Champions League. This game would be nice for the confidence and for the changing room.”

Chelsea meets Bayern Munich on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge before a trip to Bournemouth on Feb. 29. The breathing room on fifth place is welcome.

Jose Mourinho defends players “trying to do miracles,” explains Dele move

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Tottenham Hotspur boss Jose Mourinho says he can have no complaints with his shorthanded men following a 2-1 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho pointed to the absence of strikers Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane as well as a Champions League match in midweek.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“Look at Chelsea they played a World Cup-winning striker up front, England’s second striker on the bench, and Belgium’s second striker in the stands,” he said, via Football.London. “We had no strikers on the pitch, no strikers on the bench and two in the hospital.”

Chelsea were the much better side on the day, with Olivier Giroud making a statement to Frank Lampard about his ability as a center forward.

And Mourinho felt sufficiently shorthanded on the day, especially given the exhausting 1-0 loss to RB Leipzig at midweek.

“Lucas, Lo Celso, Bergwijn,” he said. “These boys that are playing every minute and trying to do miracles in positions that are not their positions. I cannot complain.”

Mourinho also defended keeping Dele Alli on the bench for the first time in his tenure as Spurs boss.

“We had strange game plans but we needed to have them. Like Lamela who played well, people think I’m stupid that I don’t play him, but he’s constantly communicating with me in the warm-up, can I play or not. He was telling me his feelings.”

Spurs will finish the weekend four points back of the top four and as many as two back of fifth. They have eight days until another big match, March 1 versus Wolves.