Brazil and Germany meet for their World Cup semi-final showdown at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday July 9 from 6am (AEST).
Head to head
Played 21: Brazil 12 wins, Germany 4 wins, 5 draws.
Brazil has historically dominated this fixture, with their recent notable clash being the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final. In that game, the lethal Ronaldo scored twice against the Germans to give Brazil their fifth title. In their most recent encounter, however, it was the European side that came away triumphant, winning 3-2 in a friendly in 2011.
The minnows have departed, the surprise packets have burst, the fairytales are over and the cream has risen to the top. We have the semi-finals we might have expected, but that doesn’t make them any less exciting.
Germany seem to have found their best XI in the nick of time. Perhaps that is harsh on Joachim Low, who has had injury concerns with Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The starting line-up against France was effective, if a little mundane. It will be interesting to see if Miroslav Klose is kept in the starting line-up for this match, or if Low will elect for one of his younger quicker players.
Dante and Luiz are both strong in the air, and it will be the holes left behind the Brazilian full backs going forward that Germany will look to exploit. This job is much better suited to Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze. Andre Schurrle has had a terrific tournament off the bench, but Low will likely wish to keep him there for impact later.
The big issue
Will Dante and Willian be able to step up? Neymar’s unfortunate injury has thrown the country in turmoil, following all five stages of grief. Denying the extent of the damage, angry outbursts, bargaining, rivers of tears, and maybe a hint of acceptance, it's all there. But perhaps the bigger loss is that of their captain Thiago Silva through suspension. David Luiz has had an incredible tournament, but behind him making sure everything is stable has been the Silva, working fiercely to do his country proud.
The saving grace may be that his replacement, Dante, plies his trade at German giant Bayern Munich, and hence knows half the German team intimately. He will have been out-muscling Thomas Muller in training for years, and that knowledge may help him. Conversely, Willian has much bigger shoes to fill, but perhaps it is not just he who will be required to fill them. A much bigger team effort will be needed in attack, instead of the simple out ball to Neymar and see-what-happens approach of recent games
The game breaker
The midfield will be a battleground. In their last match, Brazil absolutely clobbered James Rodriguez, and seemingly had the referee’s consent to do so.
As much as the Brazilian’s will plead innocence, they have been receiving a lot of home ground decisions, but that’s not unexpected or even a particularly bad thing (except when endangering another player). Their problem is that this time there is no key player for them to mark out of the game. Germany’s front line will be moving and, swarming one, just leaves the others free.
The German midfield screen is world class and a step above that of Colombia, who struggled to retain possession or find the right ball out. Germany’s weak point again will be Benedikt Howedes at left back. Expect to see Willain and Hulk take on the Schalke defender every opportunity given.
This could be an ugly 1-0 or a classic. Both sides are capable of beautiful football, but have been more pragmatic recently, with winning the main aim at this stage. Early goals and gritty performances have been the flavour of the knockout stages, however, I can’t see that happening in this match. I am forever the optimistic and can see an exciting 2-1 win to the Germans, who will have too much against the depleted hosts.