Brazil and Germany, consistent performers in the World Cup's 72-year history, restored order to a tournament full of surprises when they reached the semi-finals on Friday.
Four-times champions Brazil took a huge stride towards the final on June 30 when they beat England 2-1 in their quarter-final in Shizuoka, shattering breakfast-time football fever in the birthplace of the game.
Germany, who have won the title on three occasions, reached the last four for the first time for 12 years with a stubborn display in a 1-0 defeat of the United States, sealed through Michael Ballack's first-half goal and superb goalkeeping by Oliver Kahn.
Brazil, champions in 1958, 1962, 1970 and 1994, will take on the winners of Saturday's quarter-final between African debutants Senegal and Turkey in their semi-final in Saitama on Wednesday.
Germany, who last reached the semi-finals when they won the Cup in 1990 with manager Rudi Voeller in the side, take on the winners of Saturday's clash between Spain and co-hosts South Korea in Seoul on Tuesday. The Germans, who also won the tournament in 1954 and 1974, have never played Brazil in the World Cup.
Forward Ronaldinho made one goal and scored an outrageous second before being controversially sent off as Brazil came from behind against England in the first quarter-final.
The result established Brazil as firm favourites to win the final in the Japanese city of Yokohama, and history is on their side.
On the three previous occasions they have played England -- drawing once and winning twice in 1958, 1962 and 1970 -- the Brazilians have gone on to win the trophy.
"Never have I seen a group of players defending the national colours with such a fighting spirit," coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said.
Goalkeeper David Seaman, the oldest man in the England squad at 38, was in tears at the end after Ronaldinho scored the winner with a fantastic free kick from 35 metres in the 50th minute.
Seaman, off his line and backtracking, could do nothing to prevent the ball sailing into the top left hand corner. He had to be consoled by captain David Beckham, who also had an off-day.
His disappointment was shared in England where millions of people changed their early-morning routines to watch the game on television, dreaming of a first World Cup triumph since 1966.
England struck the first blow, Michael Owen pouncing on a mistake by Lucio in the 23rd minute to score before Rivaldo equalised in first-half injury time following Ronaldinho's brilliant run.
"We should have done better with 11 against 10 men," England's Swedish coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said.
The Germans, rebuilding a young team as they prepare to host the next finals in 2006, were pushed all the way by a U.S. side that had taken the scalps of Portugal and Mexico on their way to the last eight.
Ballack, who is rapidly making a name for himself after helping Bayer Leverkusen reach last season's Champions League final, rose to glance home a Christian Ziege free kick six minutes before the interval.
But U.S. keeper Brad Friedel paid tribute to Kahn and summed up the reason for Germany's consistency over the years perfectly.
"We had our chances but the man of the match was their keeper. He played fantastic," said Friedel.
"We're a bit disappointed because we felt we should have won but that is why they're so good. They can play games like this -- when maybe they're not the best team -- and still win."