Closedown. That's your lot. Over to Paul Doyle's MBM for France v Germany with you, where Harald Schumacher's memories of Battistongate, as it has never been called, await.
I also received letters, some in German and some in French, from people who said they wanted to kidnap or kill my children.
All that's left here is to be upstanding, as ever at Closedown, for the national anthem:
"Here's some breaking news," writes lifesaver Alex Pratchett. "We just drew our 500th Panini Cheapskate sticker. It's Salomon Kalou, and it's absolutely horrendous, though he is pulling the exact same face that I did when I woke this morning and realised the quarter-finals start today. Only 140 more stickers to go by final day."
For hot France-Germany action, the superlative Paul Doyle is your man. He's at the helm of the MBM over here. Please make sure to join him.
Still no breaking news. But there's no point running off to Trading Standards to complain, we've promised nowt. This is nothing more than a quarter-final countdown. So, to that end...
- Just over an hour to go!
Or enough time for 35 blasts of jazz flute, as broadcast by the BBC in the 1970s.
Bribery latest! The Cameroon Football Federation has promised a thorough investigation into allegations that seven of the country's players fixed their 4-0 group shellacking at the hands of Croatia. Here they are:
The investigation is ongoing. We have already, by mail, asked [German magazine Der Spiegel, which published the accusation] for tangible evidence of these claims, which they have maintained despite the apparent challenge of the facts by their main source.
We remind the national and international public we will strengthen our application of the fundamental values of our sport - integrity, fair play, respect.
Meanwhile, please put your hands together for John Travolta and Olivia Newton John!
Afternoon, dear reader. With 24 of the 32 teams already back home, and no matches having been played since Tuesday, it's hardly a surprise that breaking news is thin on the ground. But it's the business end of a World Cup, and in a South American country to boot. The greatest combination in All Football. So, to get us all in the mood, the hot sounds of the last year the World Cup was played round this way, 1978. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for
John Travolta and Olivia NewRod Stewart!
Domestic English football news: Oxford United have axed boss Gary Waddock and replaced him with Michael Appleton. And with that, Mr Scott Murray is here to take you through to the close …
Warning: this may … sorry, will give you nightmares. Blame Jonathan Fisher.
Here's a video from the Colombia camp, where manager José Pékerman has been making all the right respectful noises with regards to Brazil, stating that Colombia have been studying 'the Brazilian way' to play football for years.
*Makes mental note to watch later*
Never let it be said the World Cup liveblog fails to hunt high or low for you … here is how the manhole covers in Rio de Janeiro are decorated.
The fall-out from Luis Suárez's bite ban continues. Now Abkhazian club Nart FC are ready to hijack Barcelona's move for the Liverpool striker. Typical big-club hijacking. Reuters reports that:
The Republic of Abkhazia is located within Georgia, but claimed independence following Georgia's brief war with Russia in August 2008. The territory has not been widely recognised by the international community while its local football federation is not part of Fifa.
Gennady Tsvinariya, the president of the club, said Suárez will be able to take part in the Abkhazian national championship. "Of course we can not offer the Uruguayan footballer a financial package that he is used to, but the Abkhazian championship is at its peak," Tsvinariya told the Itar-Tass news agency. "We will be able to offer Suárez the chance to maintain his match fitness."
Which is good of them.
Paul is off to psyche himself up for the France v Germany minute-by-minute. Speaking of that game, here are your predictions so far:
Everyone enjoys quizzes, don't they?
Well here's one that you might like.
I'm saying France will expose German mismanagement and oust Low with a little to spare. Let's say 3-1.
Colombia will beat Brazil, Holland will beat Costa Rica. And I need to think more about Argentina v Belgium. Fortunately, Mac Millings doesn't, and he's got it all sussed, emailing this:
Colombia 1 (James Rodriguez 57)
Sweet, sweet James heads in his own (rabona-ed) cross, finishing off a one-on-eleven counter-attack, while the Brazilian players' (and everyone else's) sexuality wavers like a sweetly-struck Jabulani. Slo-mo replays reveal that the ball never touches Rodriguez, instead veering into the net of its own accord rather than violate his perfect perfection.
Costa Rica 1 (Ruiz 37)
Brian Ruiz scores the game's only goal, getting on his hands and knees 30 yards out and gently nuzzling the ball into the net with his nose, like the world's handsomest dung beetle.
France 2 (Pogba 71, 71)
Germany 1 (Klose 90+4)
Paul Pogba's golden mohawk Fruit Ninjas a Mathieu Valbuena cross into the back of the net, causing FIFA's goal-line technology to credit the young midfielder with two simultaneous goals. Klose's late consolation only allows the Germans enough time to remember that existence is meaningless.
Messi dreams about puppies or something for about an hour and a half, before suddenly remembering he's the best player in the world. Again.
Afternoon. Gregg is gone but his thoughts will linger: check out what he thinks about Gerard Houllier's proposal for permitting fourth subs in extra-time.
Right, well I'm going to hand over to Paul Doyle now. He knows a bit about French football so I'm sure he'll give you the lowdown on what to expect from Didier Deschamps and co tonight. Me? Well, I'm off to eat some food, but not before I've posted this image of religious dolls in a box that are going to give Big Phil's boys the boost they need to beat Colombia tonight.Bye.
Even Germany's Kristopher Kramer has got into that annoying habit of pulling his shorts up and flashing thigh. Alexis Sanchez has been at it too too in this tournament. And others. Was it Ronaldo who started it? Personally, I blame Montenegro's Mirko Vucinic.
Let's keep it modern dept!
That's all well and good Kraftwerrk getting the better of Jean Michel Jarre," writes Jermaine O'Leary. "But let's take into consideration the new wave of French music that has swept Europe. Sebastien Tellier, Daft Punk, Air, Kavinsky, versus the best of new wave German ..... Moderat (A new error)"
So, what you're saying Jermaine is that by virtue of having three very good modern acts versus Germany's one, we can expect a 4-1 win for France tonight? I like your thinking, but I'd argue that a new error is so good, that it counts double. France 4-2 Germany. Sorted.
Do you know what the Brazilian saying is for a nutmeg? I didn't until I watched this video. It's 'to give a small egg' apparently, which presumably is shorteneed to "eggs" in the favelas.
"My money's on Ha-mez scoring a 'pigeon without wings'," writes James Lane.
"On a related note, my football team point-blank refuses to call me James any more. Particularly when I shank it over the bar from five yards." Poor James.
Brazil v Colombia is going to be like watching two birds go to war, well according to this front page from the Correio Braziliense.
Here's the Fiver on today's World Cup bongo, including Big Phil getting the Jock Wallace battle-fever on.
Here's our football editor on whether Suárez can train or not. It's lacking an #fcb tag, mind …
Will he be prevented from jogging round Sefton Park? Or more likely, Adventura Park?
If Colombia beat Brazil tonight I would love to see a video of the young kid here whose response to meeting Radamel Falcao before the World Cup caused the striker to cry. It sounds soppy but go on, watch it, and tell me you don't feel a lump in your throat at the young lad's ability to humble a superstar with sheer emotion. He must have been devastated when Falcao was ruled out. Although I fear the young kid would combust if Colombia actually went one to win the Big One.
How have you supported your team this World Cup?
That Neymar penalty stutter. A good or bad thing? Here's Patrick Michael Hull.
From watching the video of Neymar's shocking penalty last time out against Colombia, and the couple he's taken in this tournament so far, where do you stand on the stutter? I'd say the keepers are at enough of a disadvantage without the taker trying to dummy them into an early dive ..."
I hate the stutter, Patrick. Mainly because I remember John Aldridge getting it wrong when I was a wee snip of a lad and, as a Liverpool fan, making me feel miserable. It also adds to the sickening level of tension that surrounds a penalty any way. Only a few players can do it well. Cantona being a chief example of someone quick-witted enough to wait for the keeper to go one way before sending it the other. Most players' brains don't work quick enough.
If France and Germany were to face off in a late 70s minimalist electro pop-off, who'd win? So let's imagine Jean Michel Jarre with Equinoxe v Kraftwerk with Europe Endless. In my mind the match would play out with France getting off to a jaunty start and taking advantage of Germany's sluggish passing, before being pinned back by a late German flourish and ultimately losing 2-1. Thanks to Paul Kelly for posing teh question.
Apparently, Liverpool have bid around £20m for Southampton's Croatia defender Dejan Lovren. But the Saints will only do business if Liverpool do a Lallana, and post a cheque for £25m the way of St Mary's in exchange for the centre-back.
How did Louis van Gaal make Robin van Persie smile again? Owen Gibson explains here …
With a relationship built on mutual respect. And it is key to the dynamic that Van Gaal has created around a Dutch side in which his captain and his vice-captain, Arjen Robben, have become his lieutenants on the pitch. The rhetoric from both has been the polar opposite of the sometimes selfish public image they have projected in the past.
Here's Matt Dony …
Does Landon Donovan have a son who can take him to task for an attack on Klinsmann?
Or better still, perhaps Landon's dad, Tim, should deprive his son of his mobile phone for a few weeks so he can't go blabbing to journalists.
Hello. Gregg here. France v Germany? Brazil v Colombia? On the same day? Yes, I'm excited.
That's it from me. Thanks for all your messages and comments. Next up is Gregg Bakowski to keep you up to date as the excitement builds in Brazil.
Australia impressed almost everyone in Brazil, but their goalkeeper Mat Ryan is still tormented by the Memphis Depay strike that gave Netherlands a 3-2 win in their second group game. Ryan was slow to pick up midfielder Depay's speculative shot from well outside the box and managed only to get a hand to it.
"It's never easy for a goalkeeper to make a mistake and unfortunately in the Netherlands game, the third goal, I was pretty disappointed with my effort. It was probably the hardest five days of my life yet. It's never good making a mistake, let alone on the world stage in Brazil and at the World Cup, and I felt like I let my country down a little bit. Conceding three goals a game at that level isn't good enough. But in saying that there were a couple of saves I made, which was good for the confidence to show at that level I can make a save or two and hopefully in the future I can go away and learn from it."
Give yourself a break lad
More World Cup recriminations now, and Landon 'I'm not bitter' Donovan has ripped into Jürgen Klinsmann, saying the USA were ‘not set up to succeed’. Donovan, who was controversially left out of the USA squad on the eve of the World Cup, argued that Michael Bradley was played too far forward, among other gripes. Klinsmann had to order his son to apologise to Donovan for a ‘disrespectful’ tweet after the former Everton player's Brazil 2014 omission in May, but I bet he wished he hadn't bothered now.
André Schürrle deserves to start for Germany against France, while Didier Deschamps should unleash Karim Benzema through the middle. Ian McCourt has highlighted five key issues that will help decide who progresses to a World Cup semi-final against Colombia or Brazil.
So let's admit it, we're all raving about how good Colombia are, how they're style of football will put Brazil on the rack and how fantastic it is to see the nation enjoying themselves again after everything they've been through. But here is Colombian football expert Carl Worswick to help us sound a bit more plausible in the pub tonight by telling us five things we might not know about Los Cafeteros
1 The fans are always in a flap
Of all the wacky and colourful fans that have dressed up to support their country in Brazil this summer, El Cole or “The Birdman” takes some beating. For 25 years Colombia’s most famous supporter has been flapping around in the stands, decked out in a yellow, red and blue condor outfit inspired by the country’s national bird and flag. After making his World Cup debut at Italia 90 where he later confessed to having slept in parks and train stations, he has now clocked up seven tournaments. Considered a national icon, the eccentric 61-year-old even opened his own museum earlier this year.
The last time Brazil played Colombia Neymar produced one of the worst penalty misses in the history of football. After his trademark swinging run and stutter, Brazil's golden boy ballooned the ball so far over the bar even Colombia's keeper David Ospina came to console him...
A lot of people are seeing France v Germany as a battle between Karim Benzema and Thomas Müller, but the Real Madrid striker was focusing on his old mate Mesut Ozil before tucking himself into bed last night..
Rajit Ojha has emailed with an interesting point regarding the France v Germany quarter-final and Joachim Löw's praise of Manuel Neuer's goalkeeping skills.
With Hugo Lloris opposite, won't today's match be a battle of the sweeper keepers? Thing is Neuer's excursions have a touch of Teutonic reliability/arrogance/efficiency about them while Lloris always leaves you feeling he is a shampoo commercial away from Joe Hart. I wish I could provide more laser-like insight but Akinfeev I am not.
So which World Cup footballer are you? A bit of a James Milner perhaps? Tell us how you's react if a bearded opponent made fun of your hair at a corner. Or your team had a last-minute penalty and a team-mate tried to snatch the ball away when you were the official penalty taker. Give us your responses to our 10 fictitious Brazil 2014 scenarios and we'll tell you which player you are most like.
The start times for today's two magical quarter-finals are as follows.
- 5pm BST - France v Germany
- 9pm BST - Brazil v Colombia
Do not miss them. These guys won't...
Costa Rica, the USA and Mexico have led an impressive Concacaf assault on Brazil 2014, and the tournament is being hailed as a crucial breakthrough for the region. Costa Rica fans have been heard singing ‘Concacaf’ in Brazilian bars as Africa and Asia have been put in the shade by central and north America, and Owen Gibson says there could be lasting implications on the pitch.
Then there was one. Los Ticos are the last men standing for a Concacaf region that has hailed the Brazil World Cup as a crucial breakthrough for a region of world football that has sometimes felt patronised and overlooked.
But Mexico, agonisingly overhauled by the Dutch in the closing seconds of their second round game, and the USA, whose surge to the second round and narrow defeat to Belgium energised a nation, have contributed to a huge surge of goodwill towards Concacaf nations.
With three of the four teams reaching the second round, outdoing Asia (none) and Africa (two) in the process, Concacaf has boosted its long-running campaign for a fourth direct qualifying spot. Only South America, at 83%, had a greater percentage of teams advance.
Is Klaas-Jan Huntelaar joining Liverpool? Can Chelsea hijack Real Madrid's bid for Toni Kroos? Have Arsenal uncovered the new Seamus Coleman? Today's Rumour Mill has all the answers. Read it here
So England were absolute rubbish at this World Cup again, despite our hopes that the young guns would offer up something different this time. Help is at hand though, with a campaign to save grassroots football in Britain having been relaunched. Something needs to be done.
Forget Arjen Robben, Alexis Sánchez or James Rodríguez, the best player at this World Cup so far has been David Luiz. That's what Fifa says anyway, and for once, Barney Ronay believes they might not be too far off the mark, with the wacky centre-half becoming vital for Brazil on and off the pitch.
Penalty shootouts often tend to boil down in the memory to a single tear-stained snapshot. At the end of Brazil and Chile’s World Cup last-16 shootout in Belo Horizonte last weekend it was Júlio César’s sobbing post-match interview, replayed relentlessly on Brazilian TV, that seemed to capture the sense of overwrought fraternal catharsis, and also to point most clearly to the sheer scale of the collective emotional breakdown narrowly averted by Júlio César’s saves and a helpful goalpost.
There are two points that perhaps got a little lost in all this. First, and by way of a tangent, imagine for a moment what this most bizarrely emotional and highly-strung Brazil squad are going to be like when and if they actually lose at this World Cup.
And second, for all Júlio César’s saves it was actually David Luiz, current No1 ranked player at this World Cup, according to Fifa, who provided the most visible source of inspiration in those vital moments. Just as it is David Luiz ahead of Friday’s fraught-looking quarter-final against Colombia in Fortaleza who provides not just a very clear sense of leadership on and off the pitch but also – and yes this is the same David Luiz – a rare sense of calm.
Breaking news now and Silvio Berlusconi says he came close to selling Mario Balotelli to an unnamed Premier League club BEFORE the World Cup. The Milan striker has been strongly linked with a £30m move to Arsenal this summer, but after scoring just one goal in three appearances in Italy's disappointing campaign, his lovable president says he will struggle to flog him now. "Other than Italy, I lost during the World Cup," Berlusconi was quoted as saying in Gazzetta dello Sport. "I was about to sell Balotelli to an English team for several millions. But after this World Cup who will buy him anymore?"
Morning all on what promises to be a fantastic day of football, and Joachim Löw is as excited as anyone, suggesting Manuel Neuer is so good he could play in midfield. The Germany goalkeeper operated almost as as a sweeper in the last-16 win over Algeria, and his coach wants him to continue in the same vein in this afternoon's quarter-final clash with France at the Maracanã.
"If a team tries to play high the way we did against USA and Algeria the keeper cannot just stay in his box. Manuel Neuer has the same technical skills as the others, he could play in the midfield, he also has great awareness and that's why we are happy for him to take these risks, and that's why he's so valuable. He can basically be a player behind the defence."
Is Neuer the best ball-playing keeper ever? Is Pepe Reina a more accurate long-range passer? Does Víctor Valdés have a more silky first touch? Let me know your thoughts.
Who will reach the semis?
Scott will soon be here and I can go have my lie down. Meanwhile, you can have your say about who will go through by going to our poll here.
Away from the football, a flyover in host city Belo Horizonte has collapsed onto a bus, killing two people and injuring 19.
The road was built as part of the World Cup construction work in the city which will host a semi-final on Tuesday.
David Wall writes in to say that France-Germany is really the first heavyweight clash of the World Cup so far. From a world point of view that's probably true because it's the first time two genuine contenders have come together.
Anyway, here's David's point.
Is today the first real heavy-weight clash of the World Cup so far in the first 1/4 final? I know we've had Spain-Holland, and Germany-Portugal already in the groups but (if they're honest) most people weren't really considering Holland or Portugal as genuine contenders pre-tournament. But now you have France-Germany, both of whom have an enviable World Cup record and were considered in with a decent chance of winning when people were making predictions beforehand.
The boy Rodríguez doesn't fancy the Premiership
Not entirely surprising, but it seems the Colombian wunderkind James Rodríguez doesn't fancy a switch to the Premiership. Apparently he thinks it's too "physical".
Bloody fancy dan foreigners. He obviously wouldn't fancy a wet Tuesday night at Barnsley and, in any case, does the Premiership really need stuff like this?
Can Brazil take the pressure?
That's been one of the big themes of the World Cup so far but Brazil's combative manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has come out fighting. Although he admits it's been "emotional" so far, as our chief football writer Daniel Taylor writes Scolari has brought his psychologist of the last 20 years to help his players cope with the expectation.
The fans out in Brazil better start getting ready now if they're getting dressed up again.
Why Germany are due a final
Germany are confident - Tony Kroos simply says they're the better team - and have every right to be.
In an idle moment I calculated that they've never failed to reach a World Cup final for three successive tournaments in the post-war era. Their record goes 1954, 1966, 1974, 1982, 1986, 1990, 2002. So, after missing the last two ...
Anyway, back to the round of eight, as I don't think anyone calls it, and the big question of who's going to win.
The Guardian's latest World Cup preview features French football pundit Julien Laurens, who not surprisingly plumps for France, but with the proviso that Germany don't exploit Les Bleus' weakness at left-back. Step forward Patrice Evra. You can watch the preview here.
It's well worth a look, not least because it contains the excellent fact that France have scored as many goals in this World Cup (10) as they've managed at the last three combined. Considering they got to the final in 2006, that says a lot about how rubbish they were in the other two.
No World Cup would be complete, however, without some sort of ticket scandal and this cups of cups has provided.
Police in Rio say they have arrested 11 suspected touts and believe that an as-yet unidentified Fifa official has been supplying them. Tickets have been sold by the touts for up to eight times their face value with the touts looking to reap $100m. That sounds like quite a lot until you discover that the average price being quoted for the final through agencies is now more than US$7,000.
Saliva levels are already running high in Fortaleza where big crowds turned out to peer through gates to, maybe, catch of glimpse of Brazil training on Thursday and where a large contingent of Colombians is expected.
I don't know about you but I'm pretty excited about these quarter-finals. In fact, I might have to have a lie down before the kick off, which considering the France-Germany game starts at 2am here in Australia is probably what's going to happen.
Good morning and welcome to Friday's coverage of the World Cup, featuring all the breaking news from Brazil and reaction to the latest results, injury news, squad stories and fan reaction.