Brazil vs Germany World Cup Semifinal Preview

FIFA World Cup

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.

The X-ray that shows the fractured vertebrae in Neymar's back.

The X-ray that shows the fractured vertebrae in Neymar’s back.

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.

Fred

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

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

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

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.

David Luiz

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

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

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.

Philipp Lahm

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.

Mats Hummels

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.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

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

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.

Miroslav Klose

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.

Neuer save

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.

Prediction:

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

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France vs Germany World Cup Quarterfinal Preview

FIFA World Cup

France vs Germany. The history between these two nations is endless. Much of it is unpleasant to say the least. Of course, there is World War II, which saw the two nations and their respective allies fought a brutal, savage war that lasted six years, and millions of lives lost.

The 1982 semifinal in no way compares to the horrors of WWII, but it did intensify feelings and emotions between the two nations. The bad blood rose on the soccer pitch in Seville, when West German keeper Harald Schumacher flattened French defender Patrick Battiston with a crushing blow, as both men were going for a loose ball. Many observers thought that Schumacher deliberately tried to injure Battiston and thought the keeper should have been shown a red card. But the Dutch referee thought otherwise and didn’t call a foul. West Germany went on to win the match on penalties. France were furious. Battiston went to the hospital with a broken jaw and a concussion.

The two countries will renew acquaintances at the legendary Maracana Stadium in Rio to see who will go the semifinals at the 2014 World Cup.

After topping Group E, France weren’t impressive, but did enough to defeat an uninspired Nigeria side in the Round of 16. Germany needed extra time to defeat Algeria in a cagey affair that disappointed the neutrals.

The French have lined up in a 4-3-3 formation throughout the tournament with success. Don’t expect a change from Didier Deschamps.

Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Valbuena are expected to be the starting front line. Benzema leads Les Bleus with three goals at this World Cup, but missed some glorious scoring chances against Nigeria. The Real Madrid forward will need to be more clinical around the penalty area. Giroud has struggled in this World Cup with his stamina and quality. It is possible that Antoine Griezmann could make the team sheet ahead of the Arsenal man. Valbuena was impressive against Nigeria with his pace causing difficulty for Nigerian defenders.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba was named Man Of The Match against Nigeria, and the award was deserved. The Juventus midfielder scored the first goal and was a creative, dynamic force for the full 90 minutes. Blaise Matuidi was pragmatic and effective against Nigeria, but he will have to provide a moment or two of brilliance against Germany. Yohan Cabaye will lay back and keep an eye on Thomas Muller in the middle.

Patrice Evra

The back four will have its sternest challenge in this tournament. Left back Patrice Evra laboured against Nigeria, as the ManchesterUnited defender lacked pace and form. The likes of Muller and Andre Schurrle could find joy along the right flank if Evra struggles again. Raphael Varane suffered a hamstring knock, but should be ready for the Germans. Laurent Koscielny was excellent against Nigeria, and will need to stay on form. Mathieu Debuchy is a rising star at left back.

Hugo Lloris

Hugo Lloris hasn’t been busy at this World Cup, but that should change against Germany. The Tottenham keeper will face an onslaught like he hasn’t seen so far, and he must be at his best for France to advance.

If France goes 4-3-3, expect Germany to do the same and go toe-to-toe. Joachim Low won’t be afraid to match up, knowing he can match up with anybody in the world.

Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller was mentioned earlier and with good reason. The Bayern Munich forward leads Die Mannschaft with four goals in the competition but was off-target against Algeria. Andre Schurrle showed more pace than Mesut Ozil against Algeria, so expect the Chelsea forward to be placed on the team sheet, on Muller’s right side. Mario Gotze has been somewhat disappointing for Germany, but he is capable of raising his game to another level.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

The fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger is always a concern. The Bayern Munich midfielder is nursing a nagging knee injury that simply won’t go away. Schweinsteiger is expected to start, but how long he can go is a big question in this match. Toni Kroos is expected to start along the left side.

Philipp Lahm

Many German supporters want Philipp Lahm to start at full-back but the German captain is expected to be in the central midfield spot he has patrolled at this World Cup. Lahm is the most versatile player on this German team, and with the return of Mats Hummels to the starting eleven, Lahm will stay in the midfield.

Mats Hummels

Speaking of Hummels, the Borussia Dortmund central defender is expected to move to right back as Shkodran Mustafi tore his hamstring against Algeria, and will miss the rest of the tournament. Benedikt Howedes should start at left back. Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng should be the centre backs. All four will have to be at their best against a unified French side.

Manuel Neuer

Manuel Neuer has been slightly shaky between the sticks. The Bayern Munich keeper hasn’t been at his absolute best and if his struggles continue, Germany could be in trouble.

Prediction:

The pressure is on Germany to win. Many in the German media are expecting a fourth World Cup for Deutschland and anything less is unacceptable. The French are a younger team that wasn’t expected to win the tournament. Germany could take advantage of an ailing French back four, who are struggling with injuries and inconsistency. France are a cohesive unit, but this particular unit have never been in a pressure cooker like the World Cup quarterfinals. Germany usually rises when the pressure mounts and they will do so again. It won’t be easy, but Germany wins 2-1, and they will advance to the semifinals.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

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France vs Nigeria Round Of 16 Preview

FIFA World Cup

It will be Europe vs Africa in the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup. Group E winners France will tangle with Group F runners-up Nigeria in Brasilia, to see who will reach the quarterfinals.

France topped Group E after victories over Honduras and Switzerland, while playing to a scoreless draw with Ecuador. Nigeria snuck into the knockout stage by defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina, drawing Iran while losing to Argentina. This will be their first ever meeting at the World Cup.

The French have lined up in a 4-3-3 formation in their Group Stage matches, so don’t expect any changes in that regard from manager Didier Deschamps.

Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema has been the best player for Les Bleus. The Real Madrid forward has scored three times in the tournament, and has been a menace inside the 18-yard box. Expect Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Valbuena to join Benzema up in attack. Both scored against Switzerland and were given a rest against Ecuador. They should be more than fit for this fixture.

Blaise Matuidi

Another player that has shown his worth at this tournament is Blaise Matuidi. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder has been a creative force for France, with his slick passing and strong technical ability. Matuidi is entering the prime of his career and will be heard from in the future.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba is another talismanic figure in the midfield. The Juventus midfielder is skilled with a flair for the spectacular. At only 21, Pogba is only going to get better. He will have to be careful though, as he does have a yellow card to his name.

Yohan Cabaye

Yohan Cabaye is the likely holding midfielder. The Paris Saint-Germain stalwart is adept at set pieces as well as providing quality service. Cabaye is sitting on a yellow card though so he will need to be in control of his emotions.

Patrice Evra

The back four have had an excellent tournament for France. Left back Patrice Evra has been solid along the flank at this World Cup, after a somewhat disappointing season for Manchester United. Mathieu Debuchy has patrolled the right back position with satisfactory results. Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho are patrolling the centre with aplomb. If this unit continues to hold the line, France could have a very successful run in Brazil.

Hugo Lloris

Hugo Lloris has had a rather easy time for France. The Tottenham Hotspurs keeper has recorded two clean sheets while not being very busy between the sticks. Lloris has made a few timely saves when called upon, but for the most part he hasn’t had much to do.

Nigeria have lined up in a 4-4-2 in their last two matches and they did have more success in that formation, than the 4-3-3 look they offered against Iran.

Peter Odemwingie

Peter Odemwingie and Emmanuel Emenike are the likely partnership up front. Odemwingie scored Nigeria’s lone goal in their victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and he’s been the Super Eagles most dangerous player. Emenike needs to find his scoring boots. The Fenerbache striker has yet to find the back of the net, and failure to do so could see Nigeria out of the World Cup.

Ahmed Musa

Ahmed Musa was terrific in Nigeria’s match against Argentina, scoring both goals in the Super Eagles 3-2 loss. The CSKA Moscow attacking midfielder has become the talismanic figure in the midfield, with a flair for goals.

John Obi Mikel

 

John Obi Mikel hasn’t been at his best at this tournament. The Chelsea midfielder has yet to make an impact for his country and if he continues his invisible ways, Nigeria will be out of the competition. Michel Babatunde and Ogenyi Onazi are the other two midfielders, expected to be on the team sheet.

Nigerian back 4

The back four was solid in their first two fixtures, but showed some holes in their fortress against Argentina. Joseph Yobo, Juwon Oshaniwa, Efa Ambrose and Kenneth Omeruo are expected to patrol the penalty area but will need to be better than they were against Argentina.

Vincent Enyeama

Vincent Enyeama is expected to start between the sticks. The Lille keeper does have two clean sheets to his name, but does have a tendency to be awkward in the net.

Prediction:

France have impressed in this tournament while Nigeria are fortunate to be this far. This doesn’t bode well for the Super Eagles. The French have shown no signs of melting down or infighting that has plagued Les Bleus the last several International tournaments. The French have the advantage in midfield, up front and at the back. Nigeria have never advanced past the Round of 16 and they won’t do it here. France wins 3-0 and will move on to the quarterfinals.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

 

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