Brazil vs. Colombia: Perennial Favorites Tangle with the New Kids on the Block

While Americans celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, there's a huge soccer game going on. What should we expect?

This Friday, when one nation is licking it’s World Cup wounds and celebrating its independence by stuffing their faces with artery-clogging food, two other nations will collectively be holding their breath for 90-plus minutes as their national football teams square off against one another in a match many have had circled on the calendar as a potential quarterfinal matchup since the World Cup draw.

Host nation Brazil, though perhaps not quite as convincingly as they’d hoped, have arrived, as expected, in the quarterfinals by topping Group A and then narrowly escaping Chile in the round of 16. Conversely, upstart Colombia punched their ticket by running roughshod through Group C, and dispensing of a Suárez-less Uruguay for their round of 16 match.

It’s an extremely intriguing matchup between our two highest ranked teams, with one playing with the weight of a nation on it’s shoulders and anything short of a title could send the country into upheaval. The other is seemingly playing with house money as they guide their country into uncharted World Cup waters.

Brazil, though the scores may not reflect it, have not - in many eyes - lived up to the billing of a five-time World Cup winner, and one that’s expected to be playing for their sixth this year. The team, though they boast several global stars, has yet to put together a complete performance outside of perhaps the match against Cameroon. In fact, one could make the argument that the team has been too dependent on their one true superstar, Neymar.

His total of four goals, though impressive, might be somewhat deceiving as they’ve only come in two of the team’s four games (and even one of those came from a penalty that, quite frankly, shouldn’t have been a penalty). Against Mexico, and then again last week against Chile, he was held in check and the team struggled mightily to produce chances.

Facing a Colombian team that’s only surrendered two goals in four matches, Brazil will likely need goals from someone not named Neymar (looking at you Fred, Hulk, and Oscar), if they’re to emerge the victor, as “Los Cafeteros” is sure to make stopping the Brazilian whiz kid it’s number one priority.

Speaking of the “The Coffeers”, they arrive on the back of four victories and have arguably been the most impressive team in the tournament. Sure they’ve also thrived largely due in part to the performance of one player, James (pronounced "HAHM-ez") Rodriguez, but the team as a whole have performed well in all phases of the game at every outset. In addition to having the leading scorer, midfielder Cuadrado leads the field in assists with four.

Make no mistake about it though, much similar to Neymar for Brazil, for Colombia to be successful, their emerging superstar will likely need to be the reason why. Rodriguez has put an impressive seven out of eight shots on target so far, with five of them finding the back of the net. But it hasn’t all been about the goals for J-Rod, as he’s also played the role of creator with eight chances created and of those two have gone for assists. Prized Brazilian center back, Thiago Silva, will need to be in the hip pocket of Rodriguez all day long, because he’s already demonstrated his deadly touch and can score from anywhere.

Getting down to the numbers (which, let’s face it, is why you’re here), as I stated earlier, it’s a battle between our top two teams in terms of the “nERD" metric, which measures overall team efficiency by estimating how many goals a team would score against an average international opponent. Brazil leads the way with a 3.45, but is followed closely by Colombia’s 3.17. Thus far, both teams have shown they can score, which is supported by their nERD scores, but Colombia has been the more consistent of the two, scoring two or more goals in each of their games and have amassed a total of 11 to Brazil’s 8 (in regular or extra time).

Additionally, looking at each team’s “Total” metric, which measures a team’s contribution to the total goals scored in a match (goals scored and goals conceded), we see that the numbers again are very close. Colombia’s 1.09 would suggest that while they may not usually score as much as Brazil, who holds a 1.72, may however be tighter in defense. The outcomes through these last four games would support this as well, as Colombia, as previously stated, have only surrendered two goals, while Brazil has let in three.

As far as the game itself goes, our Game Simulator rules in favor of the hosts, giving Brazil a 1.45 to 1.19 advantage, and a 42.93% chance to win in regulation with the odds increasing to a 63.13% chance should the match go to extra time or penalties. With a 32.01% chance the teams are level at the end of regulation, that leaves Colombia with a mere 25.07% chance of winning after the first 90-plus minutes, and a 36.87% chance in extra time and or a penalty shootout.

The mighty Brazil have the numbers on their side, while Colombia have their run of form to speak for itself. Either way, we should be in for a tightly contested match that hopefully lives up to the hype and continues the trend of endless drama this World Cup seems bent on providing us with.