Despite the many surprise results that have dominated the discussion at the World Cup, the semifinals are left to the heavyweights of the sport. And make no doubt of it, Brazil and Germany are two of the absolute heavyweights, soccer has to offer. A combined 8 World Cups between the two. Two of the greatest players in the history of the sport, Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. All in all, Brazil and Germany are the gold standard in world football.
Despite the rich pedigrees these two sides have, they have only met once in World Cup history. The 2002 final in Yokahama. Ronaldo’s brace gave Brazil a 2-0 victory on that fateful day. Germany were shorthanded, as star midfielder Michael Ballack missed the final due to suspension.
This semifinal has the tables turned as Brazil won’t be able to field their strongest lineup. Star forward Neymar has been ruled out of the tournament with a fractured vertebrae in his back. La Selecao will also have centre back Thiago Silva absent, as he picked up his second yellow card in the quarterfinals, following a needless challenge.
These missing pieces will give Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari plenty to think about. How will he replace both Neymar and Silva? And what formation will Big Phil favour? These questions have yet to be answered.
One thing is certain, Fred will be up front for Brazil. The Fluminense striker is a favourite of Scolari’s, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations. Fred only has one goal in the tournament so far, despite having many glorious scoring opportunities. Fred will have to raise his game, as someone will need to pick up the slack due to Neymar’s absence.
Hulk has been a driving force for Brazil. The Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder has made many challenging runs through the midfield, and has been a force throughout the tournament. However, Hulk has yet to score at this World Cup, and Brazil will be goal challenged. It could be now or never for Hulk to open his World Cup account.
Oscar was terrific in Brazil’s opening match against Croatia, but his role has been somewhat reduced since. The Chelsea midfielder has been playing deeper in the midfield than he is accustomed to. Expect Oscar to be a little more enterprising against Germany to help bolster Brazil’s attack.
Fernandinho has been solid when called upon. The Manchester City midfielder does have a goal to his credit, while being a smart, effective player at the centre of the pitch. Brazil will have Luiz Gustavo back in the lineup. The Wolfsburg holding midfielder will return from his suspension and should bring some solidarity at the centre of the pitch.
With Silva being absent, the back will see a change. Joining David Luiz at centre back should be Dante. The Bayern Munich defender had an excellent season for the Bundesliga champions, but he only has 2 International caps to his credit. How he handles the pressure, could be the key to Brazil’s success or failure. Dante does know the German team well, so this should be a fascinating matchup. Luiz has scored twice for Brazil, but he has been caught going forward on occasion. The Paris Saint-Germain defender will have to be disciplined against an opportunistic German side.
Marcelo should start at left back, but he has laboured at times. The Real Madrid defender has been shaky on handling crosses, as well as being overrun by attacking wingers. Maicon should start ahead of Dani Alves at right back. Alves has been ineffective on the right side, while Maicon showed steadiness in Brazil’s quarterfinal victory over Colombia.
Julio Cesar has enjoyed a big of a renaissance for Brazil. The Toronto FC keeper has come up with some huge saves in key moments, including three saves in the penalty shootout against Chile. Cesar will have to be at the top of his game, for Brazil to see the final.
Germany manager Joachim Low made a vital tactical change ahead of their quarterfinal fixture against France, by moving Philipp Lahm to his favoured right-back position. The move paid off as Lahm was a force in preventing any attacks at his side, while providing overlapping runs along the flank. Lahm could find some joy against Marcelo and whomever Brazil will move to the left side, most likely Gustavo.
The rest of the back four should remain intact from the quarterfinal. Mats Hummels was named Man of the Match against France, for his strong defending, and scoring the only goal of the match. Jerome Boateng should be Hummels partner in the middle. Benedikt Howedes is the likely left-back.
There are still questions about Bastian Schweinsteiger’s fitness. The Bayern Munich midfielder is still nursing a nagging knee injury, but has been able to fight through the pain. Brazil will target Schweinsteiger whenever he touches the ball, which could result in some nastiness. Sami Khedira is likely to join Schweinsteiger as a deep lying midfielder.
Thomas Muller does lead Die Mannschaft with 4 goals in the competition, but the Bayern Munich midfielder/forward has yet to score in the knockout phase of the tournament. However, it would be folly to suggest that Muller’s struggles will last forever. Toni Kroos has been steady, but the Bayern Munich midfielder has yet to score in this tournament. Low has used Mesut Ozil, Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze in this tournament. All three have shown flashes of greatness, but they have been inconsistent. Lukas Poldoski and Julian Draxler are options off the bench.
Will Miroslav Klose break Ronaldo’s record for most goals scored at the World Cup? Will Klose even be on the team sheet? The Lazio striker only needs one more goal to set the new record, but if Low goes to a 4-3-3 formation, Klose may be sitting on the bench. It could be advantageous for Germany for Klose to sit and wait and only use him if necessary. But if a goal is needed, Klose could be the man to provide the finishing touch.
In a previous blog, I mentioned that Manuel Neuer was struggling in net. How wrong I was. The Bayern Munich keeper just might be the best goalie at the World Cup, and is now in the discussion for best keeper on the planet. His incredible one-handed save of Karim Benzema in the quarterfinals is one for the ages, as it shows Neuer’s strength and composure.
Don’t expect plenty of goals in this fixture. Both teams will play it cautious and even be somewhat cynical in their approach. Neither side wants to make the big mistake that costs them a shot at the World Cup. The difference here is fitness and discipline. Germany are relatively healthy and have no suspensions to deal with. The loss of Neymar is potentially devastating for Brazil as the Barcelona forward is the engine that drives the Samba Boys. How will Dante cope in place of Thiago Silva in the central defence is also key for Brazil. On top of that, both of Brazil’s goals against Colombia were on set-pieces. Germany are excellent at defending set-pieces. With Neuer a fortress in net, Brazil will have a hard time finding goals. With that said, I have Germany winning 1-0, and advancing to the World Cup Final on Sunday.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973