Continental Rivals Take Spotlight In World Cup Quarters

NPR's Tom Goldman talks with Robert Siegel from in Rio, Brazil, about Friday's World Cup matches — between Brazil and Colombia, and between Germany and France.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Brazil, tears of joy and relief as the World Cup home team won its quarterfinal against Colombia.

(CHEERING)

SIEGEL: Brazil beat Colombia 2-1 in a hard-fought game between the two South American neighbors, but as we'll hear, it was a costly victory. An earlier game today - Germany defeated France 1-nothing to move on to the World Cup final four. NPR's Tom Goldman is in Rio de Janeiro, and he joins us now. And, Tom, first of all, Brazil won. But in a way, it also lost. Tell us about that.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Definitely, it's a very costly victory, Robert. Their star striker, Neymar, broke a vertebrae in his lower back, and he has been ruled out of the World Cup; that means for the semifinal game against Germany on Tuesday, and then if Brazil were to win that, in the final. Neymar reportedly won't require surgery, but he needs to immobilize the injured area. So he's out. Now, a Colombian player came flying at Neymar and was airborne when he kneed Neymar in the back at the end of the game - should note that the referee didn't call a foul. A lot of people said it was a poorly officiated game. Neymar was obviously in pain. He got carried off in a stretcher. And I hate to say it, Robert, with these football injuries, sometimes you see guys writhing around and then they pop up ready to go. So you never know what to believe, but this was very real. Neymar never popped up. He was taken to a hospital where they took x-rays and we got the bad news.

SIEGEL: Well, we'll get onto the surviving teams in a moment. But first, this is goodbye to Colombia...

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...And the Colombian team had really been a surprising team in this tournament, hadn't they?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, it really had. It hadn't been in the tournament since 1998. This is the first time it had gotten to the quarterfinals, and really, soccer experts are saying that Colombia came into this game, you know, perhaps the team that was playing better than any other team of the final eight. But in the end, Brazil scored early and then kind of controlled the tempo of the entire game. And Colombia was never, never completely in it. They did score one goal. Their breakout star, James Rodriguez, scored on a penalty kick. And he became the second-youngest player in World Cup history to score six goals in a tournament. But that wasn't enough.

SIEGEL: We should say James, by the way, is spelled J-A-M-E-S. Brazil goes on to face Germany in a semifinal match of the World Cup. That presumably would be a meeting of World Cup favorites, wouldn't it?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, certainly at the beginning of this tournament, yeah. It would seem that way. Germany beat France today in a very lackluster game. They won 1-nil. And so they don't come in with a full head of steam. And obviously what we've talked about with Brazil with Neymar being out. And then also defender Thiago Silva, one of Brazil's top defenders, he has to sit out because he got a yellow card during this game, and he had gotten a yellow card earlier in the tournament. So the accumulation of those two yellow cards means he has to sit out. So Brazil really limps into this semifinal on Tuesday against Germany.

SIEGEL: There are two more quarterfinal matches tomorrow. Argentina plays Belgium, and Costa Rica plays the Netherlands. Of those four remaining teams, is there a clear favorite?

GOLDMAN: Well, I don't know if there are any more clear favorites, Robert, in this thing. It has been so close. The Netherlands has been playing very well. They've been scoring a lot of goals. Argentina, of course, is one of the great teams. But unfortunately they've only been as good as their superstar Lionel Messi has been. They've got to find more in order to do well to make it to the semis and maybe into the finals.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Tom Goldman in Rio de Janeiro. Tom, thanks.

GOLDMAN: You bet, Robert.

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