As the semi-finals beckon, only four teams remain. The European duo of Germany and Holland will be joined by the South American pair of Brazil and Argentina, with all four teams knowing that they have an opportunity of a lifetime to lift football’s most coveted prize. The knock-out matches have been filled with drama and controversy throughout, keeping everyone on the edge of their seat. Just as you think you’ve seen it all, this World Cup keeps throwing spanners into the works in what will be a tournament remembered for generations. The first semi-final sees two international heavyweights go toe-to-toe with hosts Brazil aiming to win the World Cup on home soil against a forever efficient Germany side who will be desperate to lift the trophy after falling short in previous major tournaments.
It was an emotional and exhausting encounter between Brazil and Columbia in the quarter-finals. After taking an early lead for the second match running, this time via Thiago Silva, Brazil were able to win the match within the first 90 minutes but the match still had as much drama as the penalty shoot-out win against Chile. David Luiz doubled the advantage with one of the goals of the tournament after hitting the sweetest of free kicks from around 30 yards out.
The hosts would’ve thought that they could see the game out comfortably but doing things the easy way seems to be against their nature. A penalty from the tournament’s top scorer, James Rodriguez, gave the Columbians a lifeline and led to a frantic end which eventually saw Brazil win on a 2-1 score line.
However, the match was overshadowed somewhat by the injury suffered to star man Neymar. After a challenge from defender Juan Zuniga late in the game, the Barcelona man was stretched off with fears etched on the faces of the Brazilian faithful. It was later confirmed that Neymar had suffered a broken bone in his back and would be ruled out of the tournament, a huge loss not only to Brazil, but for the World Cup as a whole. Other members of the side will now have to show their worth if the hosts are to lift the trophy they much duly crave.
With Neymar out of the tournament, Scolari will have to look to someone else to fill the void. Willian would be the most suitable candidate but certain rumours have revealed that even he may be a doubt but that can only be speculation at this time. The fans seem to be becoming impatient with striker Fred and his lack of presence up front, so don’t be surprised if Hulk shifts into the forward role, with Jo unlikely to start the match.
Scolari was dealt another blow with Thiago Silva being ruled out after receiving a needless yellow card in the last match. The captain and PSG defender has been solid throughout the competition and will be a huge miss against Germany. Bayern Munich’s Dante is likely to replace Silva as centre-back.
Luis Gustavo is to return to the midfield after being suspended for the last game and Maicon is likely to retain his position at right-back in favour of Dani Alves after a good display against Columbia.
The former Chelsea star can sometimes be erratic to say the least, but one thing you can’t deny is his passion and work rate on the field. The now PSG defender was excellent against Columbia and capped off his performance with a fantastic free kick. The celebrations after the goal told the whole story. Luiz wears his heart on his sleeve and has given everything for the cause thus far, and will need to do so again against a resolute Germany side without his partner in crime Thiago Silva.
In terms of statistics, Luiz has scored twice so far, both in Brazil’s two knockout games so far. His 82% passing success rate isn’t the best, but the centre-back does like the odd raking ball or too. So far, he was won 51% of his challenges, notably 12 out of 16 successful headed duels. Having made 37 clearances, 10 interceptions and three blocks thus far, it seems as though he will have to add to that if he and his teammates are to stop Germany.
Apart from the 4-0 drubbing they gave Portugal in their opening World Cup match, the Germans have been far from impressive. Their normally dependant defence has looked shaky so far and the cutting edge up front has been lacking. That being said, they’ve still been winning games without playing well, a clear mark of potential champions.
After being taken to extra time by a brave Algerian side, Joachim Low’s men them entertained France in a match which wasn’t as entertaining as many expected, maybe down to the fear of making a mistake. Nevertheless, Germany did take the lead early on from a clever header by the impressive Mats Hummels. Now even though France did have their chances throughout the course of the match, Germany were quite comfortably and were rarely troubled significantly. They held out for a 1-0 win which saw them reach yet another quarter final, their ninth in as many World Cups.
Germany have been knocked out of the tournament at the semi-final stage in the last two World Cups but will want this to be third time lucky, aiming to win the trophy for the first time since 1990. They have also reached the last four in the last two European Championships without going onto to win the competition, giving much the impression that this Germany side succumb under pressure, with the label of proverbial chokers hanging above their heads. Low and his men will want to change this and have the quality to do so, whether or not it will happen is remained to be seen.
Seeing as though they didn’t concede against France, Germany are likely to go with the same team against Brazil. The centre-back partnership of Boateng and Hummels seemed solid whilst shifting Lahm to right back gave the Germans more of a threat on the flanks, with Khedira taking over in the defensive midfield position. There are question marks over Germany’s attack, with a lack of an out and out goal scorer in the team, even with veteran Miroslav Klose within their ranks.
Kroos and Schweinsteiger will stick as the ball players in the middle, with Ozil and Muller providing the support to the front man. Germany do have options on the bench with the talented Mario Gotze available as well as Chelsea winger Andre Schurrle providing good pace and urgency every time he has come on as a substitute.
Key Player – Mat Hummels
It’s surprising how little Mat Hummels name has been mentioned before this summer. He had been a main reason to the Dortmund’s success over the last few years but has only started to be recognised globally after his performances in the World Cup. I guess it’s the best stage to showcase your talents and the 25-year-old has done just that. His man of the match performance against France was as solid a performance from a centre back this tournament and rumours have been linking him to a possible move to Old Trafford this summer.
Hummels has recorded an 87% pass completion rate from his four games so far, having missed the last 16 clash against Algeria. Having won 54% of his tackles and 61% of his aerial duels, he has worked up a good partnership with Jerome Boateng, similar to that of Silva and Luiz’s at Brazil. He has also made 20 clearances as well as seven interceptions and another good performance against the hosts will go a long way in determining whether Germany go on to win their first World Cup in 24 years.
In the 21 matches played against each other, Germany have only won four with Brazil winning 12 and five draw being played out
In terms of major tournaments, Brazil have won all three encounters. Two of the victories came in the Confederations Cup with a 3-2 win coming in 2005 whilst winning 4-0 back in 1999.
The hosts have also won the only World Cup match between the two sides, that being the final in Japan in 2002. Ronaldo scored twice in a 2-0 to give Brazil their fifth World Cup victory.
Without Neymar and Silva at the back, I think Germany have the edge going into the match and are unlikely to slip up in my opinion. It’s likely to be a tight game with the odd goal to win it for either side but I do see Germany going onto the final to play Argentina from the other semi final