When Brazil and Germany jog out into Belo Horizonte for the first semi-final clash late on Tuesday, football lovers across the globe will be reminded of 2002 – the year when the two teams locked horns for the coveted title in the final clash. The result, then, didn’t sway Germany’s way.
Come Tuesday, it will be a chance for the Germans to exact sweet revenge over the hosts, who, apart from the pressure of expectations from the home crowd, have their set of issues to deal with.
Two set-piece goals in yet another unconvincing performance took the host nation through in spite of some nervous final moments from Colombia, in particular, James Rodriguez. The focus now turns to whether a Brazil without its captain Thiago Silva (suspended after picking up a second yellow) and star Neymar (out of the World Cup with a cracked vertebra) will be able to overcome a resilient German side.
Germany’s path to the semi-finals was cemented courtesy a Mats Hummel’s header, which lead to a 1-0 victory over France. It was the third semi-final meeting between the two sides, a fixture that the French are yet to avenge since the ‘Tragedy of Seville’ in 1982.
The touchline calls
The Seleção will rely heavily on the experience of their manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who masterminded their last World Cup triumph in 2002. Given the current absentees, Scolari will have to tinker with his starting lineup – with Bayern Munich defender Dante expected to replace the suspended Silva and the energetic midfielder Willian (Chelsea) or Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk) to replace the injured Neymar.
Joachim Löw’s impact on the German squad since taking over from Jürgen Klinsmann cannot be understated. Müeller’s deployment as the focal point of Löw’s 4-2-3-1 set up has resulted in him netting 21 goals in 54 appearances. And, at the young age of 24, he has already scored 9 World Cup goals, including four in this tournament. With seven of the German squad, which reported to be suffering from flu before the France game, deemed fit, Löw now has a full strength squad at his disposal. There are possibilities of a reshuffle in the defense with Mertesacker expected to return to the lineup and Boateng moving to right back to accommodate an anchorman role in midfield for Philipp Lahm.
The battle in Tuesday’s game will definitely be in the middle of the park. With German skipper Philipp Lahm’s position of some key interest.
Luiz Gustavo could replace Paulinho, following his suspension, to negate the threat offered by Lahm.
Neymar has been a constant source of goals for the Brazilians, scoring 35 in only 54 appearances. The task of replacing him will fall on Oscar, who will be given his favoured role in the midfield to control the attacking fluidity of his team. He will have his work cut out with the likes of Lahm and Schweinsteiger breathing down his back. The central midfield role is of paramount importance to a German side for whom possession acts as a means for both control and attack.
It will be interesting to see how Benedikt Höwedes will shape up against the speed of Bernard or trickery of Willian on the right wing. Thomas Müller’s eye for goal and intelligent movement down the centre will give the Brazilian centre backs a hard time in the middle.
Brazil were criticised for their physical approach in the game against Colombia on Saturday. However, with key players such as Silva and Neymar out, they are expected to adopt a similar approach to break down the possession-based football of the Germans.
• Six different players have scored Germany’s last six goals in this competition, while Brazil’s last four goals have come from central defensive duo, David Luiz and Thiago Silva.
• The Seleção have not been beaten in any of their last six semi-final matches, winning five and drawing the other.
• Brazil have won just one of the last four world cup meetings with European opposition.
• The Germans have kept 3 out of 5 clean sheets so far in this competition.
• Veteran striker Mirslav Klose is only one goal away from besting Ronaldo’s current record of 15 goals in the competition
We predict: Brazil 0 – 2 Germany