Group victors advance in Brazil, now what?

19:23, Jul 03 2014
Neymar
Brazil's Neymar unsuccessfully appeals to referee Howard Webb for a foul.
Dani Alves
Brazil's Dani Alves makes a slide-tackle on Chile's Eugenio Mena.
Hulk
Hulk appeals to the assistant referee after having a goal for Brazil ruled out for a handball.
Alexis Sanchez
Chile's Alexis Sanchez waits for team-mates as he celebrates his first-half goal against Brazil.
David Luiz
David Luiz looks skyward in celebration of Brazil's first goal, which was later ruled an own-goal.
Arturo Vidal
Chile's Arturo Vidal steals a pass from in front of Brazil's Neymar.
Julio Cesar
Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar makes one of his two saves in the penalty shootout.
Chile team
A nervous bunch of Chilean players line up ahead of the penalty shootout.
Julio Cesar
Brazilian players swarm to goalkeeper Julio Cesar after defeating Chile 3-2 in a penalty shootout.
Neymar
Neymar puts a penalty shot past Claudio Bravo and into the net, the winning goal in the penalty shootout.
Dirk Kuyt
Holland's Dirk Kuyt battles for the ball with Mexico's Hector Herrera during their second round match in Fortaleza.
 Arjen Robben
Dutch winger Arjen Robben rides the tackle of Mexico captain Rafael Marquez during his side's 2-1 win.
 Arjen Robben
Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder fires his side's equaliser past Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Robin van Persie
Netherlands striker Robin van Persie brings the ball under control.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Holland striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates scoring his side's winning goal from the penalty spot in injury time.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Giovani dos Santos wheels away after putting Mexico 1-0 up against the Netherlands.
Alvaro Gonzalez
Uruguay's Alvaro Gonzalez challenges Colombia's Pablo Armero during their second round match at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez scores his second goal past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera to put Colombia 2-0 up.
Cristian Rodriguez
Uruguay midfielder Cristian Rodriguez tackles Colombia's Pablo Armero during their second round match in Rio de Janeiro.
James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez celebrates scoring his and Colombia's second goal with his team-mates.
Alexander Mejia
James Rodriguez scores with a sublime volley to put Colombia 1-0 up against South American rivals Uruguay.
James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez scores with a sublime volley to put Colombia 1-0 up against South American rivals Uruguay.
Bryan Ruiz
Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates scoring the opening goal in their second round match with Greece in Recife.
Joel Campbell
Costa Rica's Joel Campbell and Greece's Konstantinos Manolas compete for the ball.
Oscar Duarte
Costa Rica's Oscar Duarte (second left) is shown a red card after his second bookable offence by referee Benjamin Williams.
Bryan Ruiz
Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz (second right) scores his team's first goal past Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.
Cristian Gamboa
Costa Rica's Cristian Gamboa slides in to halt the progress of Greece's Jose Cholevas.
Giorgos Samaras
Greece striker Giorgos Samaras controls the ball under the close attentions of Costa Rica's Oscar Duarte.
Theofanis Gekas
Greek midfielder Theofanis Gekas sees his penalty kick saved by Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Michael Umana
Costa Rica’s Michael Umana fires the winning penalty past Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis during the penalty shootout.
Yeltsin Tejeda
Costa Rica’s Yeltsin Tejeda celebrates with team-mates after defeating Greece in a penalty shootout.
Raphael Varane
Raphael Varane of France controls the ball against Ahmed Musa of Nigeria during their clash at Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil.
Vincent Enyeama
Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama (right) checks on teammate Ogenyi Onazi as he lies on the pitch after a challenge against France.
Blaise Matuidi
France's Blaise Matuidi (14) and Mathieu Valbuena celebrate after winning their World Cup round of 16 game against Nigeria at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia.
Rio Mavuba
France's Mathieu Valbuena and Rio Mavuba (right) celebrate after winning their World Cup round of 16 game against Nigeria.
John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel of Nigeria challenges Paul Pogba of France during their round of 16 match at Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil.
Raphael Varane
France's Raphael Varane is hit by the ball in the face beside Nigeria's Emmanuel Emenike (left).
Sofiane Feghouli
Algeria's Sofiane Feghouli is consoled by teammate Djamel Mesbah (back) after their loss to Germany at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Thomas Mueller
Thomas Mueller of Germany attempts a shot against Rais M'Bolhi of Algeria during the round of 16 match between Germany and Algeria at Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Jerome Boateng
Jerome Boateng and Per Mertesacker of Germany celebrate their team's second goal in extra time against Algeria.
Mesut Ozil
Germany's Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring his side's second goal during extra time against Algeria at the World Cup.
Mehdi Lacen
Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger (left) fights for the ball with Algeria's Mehdi Lacen during extra time round of 16 game at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre.
Yacine Brahimi
Yacine Brahimi of Algeria controls the ball against Mesut Oezil (left) and Sami Khedira of Germany.
Marcos Rojo and Josif Drmic
Argentina's Marcos Rojo jostles with Switzerland's Josif Drmic for possession in Sao Paulo.
Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne raises his arms in celebration as he watches his strike roll into the net.
Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne celebrate a goal in their round of 16 knockout clash against USA.
Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium's Divock Origi throws himself into the goal net, behind USA goalkeeper Tim Howard after narrowly missing a strike.
Angel Di Maria
Argentina's Angel Di Maria sends his love to the crowd while celebrating scoring against Switzerland in the round of 16.
Angel Di Maria
Switzerland's Valon Behrami jumps for the ball next to Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain.

In big events the form generally works out - save the odd, glorious exception such as Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios, whose defeat of Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon has turned the tennis world upside down.

The World Cup has been a different matter. In all eight round of 16 matches - the first games of the knockout stage - the team that progressed as winners of their group have triumphed.

There have been some close shaves as five of the eight ties went to extra time and two of them - the Brazil v Chile encounter and the Costa Rica v Greece match - were only decided by the narrowest of margins, penalties.

ON TARGET: Colombian striker James Rodriguez is the leading goal-scorer so far in the World Cup.
ON TARGET: Colombian striker James Rodriguez is the leading goal-scorer so far in the World Cup.

But the form book held sound as all eight group winners - Brazil, Netherlands, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Argentina and Belgium - all went through to the quarter-finals.

So that's that's three South American nations - two of whom, co-incidentally, play each other in the first of the last eight ties - one Central American representative and four countries from Europe in the final eight.

Interestingly, however, the final eight in the World Cup bear only a partial relationship to the top eight in the Fifa rankings released a week before the tournament kicked off.

Advertisement

Germany (2), Brazil (3), Argentina (5) and Colombia (8), can be said to have justified their seedings. But Belgium (11), Netherlands (15), France (17) and Costa Rica (28) have achieved more than some might have expected.

But the gap is closing. The history books will show that the top teams progressed, which might make it look as though this has been an easy to predict World Cup.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Brazil came within a coat of paint of being eliminated when Chile hit the bar in the last moments of extra time in their nail biting game in Belo Horizonte, triumphing only after a nerve-wracking penalty shootout.

Germany had to survive a fierce onslaught from the outsiders of Algeria to make it through in extra time.

Argentina looked sluggish and unconvincing (Lionel Messi aside) before they finally disposed of a stubborn Switzerland with barely two minutes of extra time left on the clock, while Belgium also had to sweat through extra time against a determined USA.

The Europeans created far more chances and were the better team, but they could take nothing for granted until the final whistle went in a 2-1 victory.

The only group winner who might be cut some slack is Costa Rica.

They lost key defender Oscar Duarte to a red card half way through second half of their tie against Greece and held out until stoppage time, when Greece grabbed an equaliser to take the game into extra time.

Few would have given the 10 man Ticos much chance of holding out for another half hour, but they did and held their nerve to win the shootout.

The Netherlands must count as the luckiest of the round of 16 winners.

Trailing Mexico 1-0 with barely three minutes left, Louis Van Gaal's team got level with a Wesley Sneijder thunderbolt and then, in the last minute, got a penalty when Arjen Robben theatrically flung himself to ground following a rash Rafa Marquez challenge.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar coolly despatched the spot-kick and the Oranje were through in the most dramatic of circumstances. Robben admitted subsequently that he gone to ground too easily during the match - cold comfort for the distraught Mexicans.

So what looms now?

Brazil was taken to the end of its tether by the quick, skilful and tenacious Chileans and were lucky to go through.

Their next assignment is even harder, against the hugely-impressive Colombians.

Jose Pekerman's team was the only one to come through their round of 16 assignment with relative ease, seeing off a Luis Suarez-less Uruguay by a comfortable 2-0 scoreline in the Maracana.

Plenty of people will regard the Colombians as favourites when this game kicks off in Fortaleza on Saturday morning.

The France v Germany quarter-final rekindles memories of their epic semi-final clash in 1982, when the Germans came back from 3-1 down in extra time to draw level and beat Les Bleus on penalties.

It was also a game remembered for one of the worst fouls in World Cup history, when German goalkeeper Harald ''Toni'' Schumacher poleaxed Frenchman Patrick Battiston in a cynical and brutal challenge, ensuring the France defender had to be stretchered off and taken to hospital.

Costa Rica have never progressed this far before and are the genuine surprise team of the tournament.

They have seen off plenty of big names already and will have taken plenty of encouragement from the fact that Mexico, a team they finished ahead of in the qualifiers, gave the Dutch so much trouble.

Argentina and Belgium face off in the other quarter-final and this promises to be a fascinating clash.

The Diego Maradona led Argentina beat the Red Devils in the semi-final in 1986, and Messi might have to put in a similar one man effort to get the unimpressive Albicelestes over the line against the Belgians, who should have put the USA away earlier than they did in their first knock out game.

The winners of the Brazil v Colombia and France v Germany match meet in the semi-final in Belo Horizonte next Wednesday, while the two to emerge from the Costa Rica v Netherlands and Argentina v Belgium clashes meet a day later in Sao Paolo.

With no stand out team everything remains up in the air.

Colombia have looked the most impressive in their four wins out of four, but their acid test comes when they play the hosts. If they can win that, then the will take some beating for the rest of the tournament.

The Age