Day 23 in 100 words or less It was a day for central defenders and set-piece goals. Time to go through the motions and squeeze out a victory had passed. It was a day for the serious World Cup contenders to step up and show us what they had. Brazil and Germany, with eight World Cups between them, did just that and now meet each other in Tuesdays semifinal. Germany 1-0 France Twenty years ago next week Germany were almost there. Just after 1:30pm in the afternoon, inside the blistering heat of Giants Stadium, New Jersey, the Germans led 1-0 in a World Cup quarterfinal against Bulgaria with 15 minutes left in the match. The reigning World Champions were about to become the first ever country to reach four straight World Cup semifinals. Bulgaria suddenly scored two goals in three minutes and in a New York minute the Germans were going home. The football world was stunned. No one since has made the final four of the World Cup four times in a row. Until today. Fittingly, it was Germany again, playing on another hot afternoon, and up a goal on their opponents. This time, though, there was no meltdown in the heat. Joachim Lows team havent been near their best in Brazil since a blistering opening 30 minutes against Portugal but this was their best showing since that showing in Salvador 18 days ago. It was a statement of intent from Lows side. A statement that they can win games in such a manner. "You are not only the best side in the world, you are the best side I have ever seen." That is what Low said to Xavi after Spain had defeated his German team in the semifinal four years ago. Spain won 1-0 that day, through a headed goal, scored by a centre-back from a set-piece. Low, then, will surely have been thinking about that when his team beat France the same way. Goalscorer Mats Hummels had a wonderful match. He would have been man of the match even if Germanys goal had been scored by someone else. Behind him, Manuel Neuer, earning his 50th cap, was also impressive again, making two outstanding saves, with one denying Karim Benzema in the final moments. Philipp Lahm at right back wasnt anywhere near his best but his positioning made sense for the collective balance of the side. Thats because it allowed Sami Khedira to come into midfield and he made a big difference. The Real Madrid man is clearly still not at his peak after a long layoff through injury but his penetrating runs into space makes Germany more flexible in attack and, subsequently, harder to defend against. With Thomas Muller still a menace in attack, either on the right or central, all of this means Low is building a side with a strong spine. You do not need to have 11 players all at the top of their game to win a World Cup. This is good news for Mesut Ozil and whoever plays alongside him and Muller. Ozil is clearly struggling inside this system but with other players excelling it is not as vital. Lows mind will be full of exceptional memories of Ozil performing brilliantly at the last two major tournaments. He remains good at spatial awareness and in possession when given outlets close by. However, he is far from at his best and his reputation as a player who needs a lot of love shows he is incredibly low on confidence. He is, however, like all of his teammates, just two wins away from being a world champion. France go home with their heads held high and will be a force on home soil at Euro 2016. The Champions League has been a wonderful stage for many to show they can compete at a high level, while Ligue 1 continues to produce some sensational young players not even seen in Brazil. For those who were in Brazil, this tournament, unlike the past two, will have provided them a lot of good lessons in cohesion both on and off the field. Didier Deschamps deserves a lot of credit for turning Les Bleus into a team their nation loves once again, just nine months after many couldnt stand them anymore. Brazil 2-1 Colombia Where do we start? Here is what we DO know: Brazil scored two goals via set pieces and now have only scored two goals from open play in four games against Croatia, Mexico, Chile and Colombia at this World Cup. Games against Cameroon should not count when evaluating their attack. The game was very physical. The ref was very average. If you followed the match on Twitter there is a good chance that you think Brazil were very, very fortunate. Colombia, however, did very little in the match until going down 2-0. Brazils intensity early in the match was unlike anything we have seen from the hosts so far and, James Rodriguez aside, Jose Pekermans team look like a side that is only good enough to reach the last eight. Thiago Silva was absolutely magnificent in defence. His suspension for the game against Germany is enormous. James Rodriguez got even better, despite the loss. He was a marked man and on a completely different level than his teammates yet he was still sensational, finding space and creating goal-scoring opportunities. He deserved his sixth goal of the World Cup. We bid farewell to Colombia. They played a wonderful part in making this a special World Cup and gave us the true star of this tournament. However, on this night, the rest of the team was shown to be what they are. Juan Cuadrado is very good and had a great tournament but the rest were just good. Good enough to take Colombia to the last eight for the first time. It appears as this column goes to press that Neymar is out of the World Cup. Here is what we do NOT know: How good are Brazil? This is the biggest question going forward. Despite getting by two good sides they look very average relying on Neymars pace and creativity in the final third. Without Neymar, they have no real plan B in attack. Even when they are scoring, he is the one creating them. Neymars speed again made a massive difference. You will remember David Luizs goal against Chile but moments earlier it was Neymar whose run got Brazil into that territory. They will miss many things without Neymar but his pace on counters is one the biggest things. Here is a shot of how Brazil lined up in that game. You will see the ball is on the right as #7 Hulk defends his flank. Already Neymar is anticipating a quick counter, wanting to go to the left…. Once that counter happens he is away to press…. Then he wins the ball and is behind the defender…. Here is the build up to the corner won by Brazil that led to their opening goal. Colombia in possession with Neymar lurking and Cristian Zapata deep to deal with his speed….. Brazil win it back and transition with Neymar immediately heading into that zone once again… Neymar is now in possession and Zapata is losing the race despite the head start… Zapata must force it into a corner – out of nothing and all because of the quick counter made by Neymar… Neymar has carried this team on his back so far and now that back can not carry the nation any more. Man of the day Nominees David Luiz – a sensational free kick gave Brazil the moment of the World Cup so far. Thiago Silva – opened the scoring with a key early goal and was magnificent in defence throughout. James Rodriguez – His name is James. James Rodriguez. No one should ever mispronounce his name ever again. A global star was born in Brazil. Manuel Neuer – the German goalkeeper was, once again, commanding in goal on the big occasion. Got his 50th cap against France and another 50 will be on their way. Mats Hummels – Germany needed a defensive hero very badly and the Borussia Dortmund man returned from the flu to win the game for Joachim Lows side. The winner… David Luiz – He may not have been the best player on the field but it was very special for a Brazilian to score a 35 yard free kick with the SIDE of his foot in such a monumental match. What comes next? Argentina vs Belgium (12pm/9am) and Netherlands vs Costa Rica (4pm/1pm) Burning question for tomorrow Argentina have gone through this World Cup with one great player and ten average ones. Can one player step up from average to good to help Lionel Messi and dispose of Belgium? Key stat of day 23 Mats Hummels scored the 30th headed goal at the World Cup. NMD Human Race Canada . - First-timer Chris Harris Jr. Adidas NMD Racer Canada .The Williams siblings, with 25 Grand Slam titles between them, will have a couple of Madisons joining them, too.Madison Keys had a 6-4, 7-5 upset win over two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Saturday night, and Madison Brengle beat Coco Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-2 in an all-U. http://www.nmdshoescanada.com/nmd-xr1-ch.../white.html.com) - Roosevelt Jones had 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists to lead No. NMD R1 Canada . JOHNS, N. Adidas Neo Lite Racer Canada . Francis told several hundred members of the European Olympic Committees that when sport "is considered only in economic terms and consequently for victory at every cost .The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will renew their storied rivalry Thursday night in Boston when they meet for a NHL record 34th time in the Stanley Cup playoffs in Game 1 of the their Eastern Conference second round series. Each playoff series serves as another chapter, but the Canadiens have ruled much of this rivalry - winning 18 consecutive series from 1946-1987. But since then, the Bruins have won seven of 11 series including the last two out of three. That one loss for Boston is where the rivalry for a good portion of the core of both teams began and now its Montreal who is aiming to turn the tide back after coming so close in their seven-game series loss to the Bruins in 2011. "This building is vibrating!" Those were the words of long-time NESN Bruins play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards when then Boston Bruin Phil Kessel scored a third period game-tying goal during a classic see-saw affair in Game 6 of the 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the eighth-seeded Bruins and top-seeded Canadiens. The Bruins would have to tie that game again and then win it 5-4 on a Marco Sturm goal with 2:37 left in regulation forcing a Game 7 after trailing the series 3-1. Montreal though avoided the epic collapse, winning Game 7 5-0. Ironically, that was Carey Prices first and last playoff series win - until the Canadiens recent sweep of the Lighting in the first round of this current playoff season. But in the eyes of the Bruins and their fans, that 2008 series reignited not only the rivalry, but the organization that has since won two straight series - including a 2009 sweep and their first Stanley Cup in 38 years after that nail-biting win over Montreal in 2011. That spring, the sixth seeded Canadiens came in as underdogs again to the third-seeded Bruins. But Montreal took the first two games in Boston to take what seemed like a commanding 2-0 series lead back to the Bell Centre for Games 3 and 4. But the Bruins took the next two games, including a 5-4 overtime win in Game 4 after trailing 3-1 early in the second and 4-3 in the third period. "We were up 3-1. We were up 3-1 going into the third," said Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban this week. "With a veteran team and the experience we had, we shouldve won the game but we didnt win it. Whos to say what wouldve happened moving forward? I just think we had an opportunity to beat the team that won the Stanley Cup that year." Since it was determined last Saturday that these two rivals would meet for the third time in the last five seasons, the Bruins have had no issues expressing their hatred for the Canadiens. "Yeah I do," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said Wednesday when asked if he hated the Habs. "If you asked them the same question Im sure theyd give you the same answer. "Its just natural for me, being here for seven years now, just being a part of this organization, you just naturally learn to hate the Montreal Canadiens and the battles weve had with them over the last couple of years have definitely made you hate them." The Canadiens however have not given the same answer leading into this series. "No comment," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said flatly after he was twice asked if he hates the Canadiens Wednesday.Lucic has built a personal rivalry with Montreal defenceman Alexei Emelin - similar to the one he had with former Canadiens defenceman Mike Komisaarek back in 2009.dddddddddddd Last month, Emelin nailed Lucic with a mid-ice hip check that resulted in Bruins captain Zdeno Chara hauling Emelin to the ice. Later in the game, Lucic speared Emelin in the groin. When asked about the personal showdown on Wednesday, Lucic explained thats "just part of the game" - when a right winger and a left sided defenceman square off with each other, and they will develop run-ins like that. But Emelin wasnt available to comment on the matter after Canadiens practice Wednesday and for much of the week, aside from Subban, many of the Montreal players downplayed the animosity. Where former Bruin and current TSN regional Canadiens color man Dave Reid is concerned, thats not necessarily Emelin or the Canadiens just taking the high road or following a gag order. "I think right now most of these guys dont understand what the rivalry is about but it will pick up as the series moves along and the fans will be in it," Reid said Wednesday night. "The fortunate thing about the Montreal and Boston rivalry is that they do seem to play each other so often and whoever won the last series, theyve got the swagger to start the series and the guys that were in that previous series on the losing series say ‘Hey we got something to prove. Thats what makes this rivalry so special - these two teams seem to play each other in the playoffs almost annually. I know the fans look forward to it on both sides and as time goes on so do the players. When youre a player on each side youre almost disappointed when you dont get the chance to go through Boston or Montreal to move on in the playoffs. So this will be another great series and I expect it to be a long series." Whether its this new generation of the rivalry or the older, they likely agree with Reid on those points. And this seasons Canadiens are most definitely looking to regain that swagger. "For guys that are in this room that were there [in 2011] and were a part of it, maybe this is another opportunity to salvage something," Subban later said. "You have to give them credit though. They played well too and its a seven-game series. It takes a lot of heart, a lot of blocked shots and a lot of grit to win that and they won it. They deserved to win it. But I thought that we fell a little bit short and we deserved to win as well but it didnt happen." For so many years, "it didnt happen" were the words of Bruins players following a Bruins-Habs series. Can this underdog Canadiens team make the Stanley Cup favorite Bruins utter those same words just as Ken Dryden and the 1971 Canadiens did to Bobby Orr and the heavily favored Bruins that season? This new generation of the Bruins-Habs rivalry is ready to write the next chapter and whether its at TD Garden or the Bell Centre, yes Mr. Edwards - the building will be vibrating. James Murphy is a freelance reporter who also writes for NHL.com, the Boston Herald and XNsports.com. He covered the Boston Bruins/NHL for last 11 seasons writing for ESPNBoston.com, ESPN.com, NHL.com, NESN.com, the Boston Metro, Insidehockey.com and Le Hockey Magazine. Murphy also currently hosts the radio show "Murphys Hockey Law" heard Saturdays 9-11 AM ET on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio and 4-6 PM ET on Websportsmedia.com. In addition to that, he is a regular guest TSN 690 in Montreal and Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio as well as a hockey analyst on CTV Montreal. ' ' '