The World Cup semifinals are here, and we begin with Brazil, missing their biggest star and captain with injuries and a suspension, finding themselves as slight underdogs despite being the hosts, facing Germany.
Germany doesn’t have serious injury problems, but it’s not like some of their best players like Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan are here. They simply didn’t show up in the first place. But there’s still that flu epidemic that’s tearing through the squad. Bastian Schweinsteiger is training away from his teammates. Per Mertesacker, who didn’t play in the win over France, is once again highly doubtful to start against Brazil.
Germany have the better players and the better team. More depth, more flexibility. What they don’t have is a very good record against Brazil. In the World Cup they’ve met only once – 2002, with Ronaldo scoring twice in the final to win the Selecao their fifth World Cup. Since there’s been a unified German national team, Brazil have lost to them only twice in nine matches, winning five of these encounters.
Brazil have two huge absences: Thiago Silva to a suspension, Neymar to an injury. It seems both sides are trying to influence the referee from before the kick off. It doesn’t really matter it seems, unless FIFA change their instructions. The few numbers of yellow and red cards (not in Marco Rodriguez’ matches however) is due to the organizing body asking refs to keep the matches flowing. However, in Brazil – Colombia, there were 54 fouls. Only no cards, which means no deterrent for players to feel cautious about their challenges.
Brazil need to change their ways. Without Neymar they’re going to miss their most creative player, but it doesn’t mean that long balls are necessary. Germany will handle that approach with ease. The ball has to start moving on the ground. Bernard or Willian who’ll start for Neymar will need to be more involved. Oscar needs to show up at last. Fred, although Scholari isn’t about to give up on him, has to be on the bench, whether it means Brazil are in a striker-less formation or with Jo, who is more mobile, starts instead of him.
Germany surprised France with Miroslav Klose playing up front, and that means Brazil don’t know what to prepare for. A trio of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze, or Gotze/Ozil on the bench, with Klose taking their place? Philipp Lahm on the wing gave Germany a much needed option they didn’t have before, and in general it seems Joachim Low is more willing to make changes than he has in the past.
Brazil haven’t lost at home since 2002. Scholari has never lost in the World Cup as the Brazil head coach. But hanging on to these numbers and stats aren’t going to help. We haven’t seen something too impressive from Brazil in this tournament, but the same combative, sans the violence, approach we saw from them in the first half against Colombia, might be enough to make up for their missing players.