Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
July 08, 2014; 21:00 BST
Eight World Cups. Twelve finals. Close to two dozen appearences in the final four positions of a World Cup. Brazil. Germany. In terms of numbers barring Italy, no one else comes even close to the winning habit that is shown in football’s biggest stage by these two countries. In terms of consistency these two are unparalleled. Given how dominant they have been in World Cup it is nothing short of incredible that Brazil and German have played each other just once in the tournament. That one ocassion, befitting to the tradition of both countries came in the final of 2002 World Cup – a match remembered more for Oliver Kahn’s gaffe than Ronaldo’s brace. The 2002 final was a mismatch in more than one ways. Brazil was on song with the memorable trio of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho on fire while Germany largely relied on Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn, the former missing the final. The tables have turned 12 years later – this is a game where Germany will start as favourites, even if slightly.
Team news and tactics
Colombia was expected to trouble Brazil but in truth, the hosts were never in danger of losing during the match. Brazil reached their first World Cup semi-final in 12 years but the post-match headaches of Luis Felipe Scolari are unlikely to go away anytime soon. Thiago Silva picked up an unnecessary booking which will see him miss the semi-final while Neymar, arguably Brazil’s best player till now, was stretchered off following a disgraceful challenge from Juan Zuniga. It is never easy replacing players of Silva and Neymar’s quality but what makes Scolari’s job harder is the fact that these two were probably his most important players in terms of tactics.
One of the defining features of Brazil in the World Cup has been David Luiz’s fearless forays upfront. Operating almost as a midfielder at times, Luiz gives Brazil advantage of having a spare man in middle of the park. Luiz’s movement in turn depends largely on the calming presence of Silva, which will be missing against Germany. Luiz’s presence in midfield would have been vital against arguably the best midfield in the tournament. Dante, Silvas’s replacement had a mixed 2013/14 season and can act as a double edged sword. While the Bayern Munich defender is well aware of the playing pattern of a number of German players, his weaknesses are also known to his opponents.
Neymar’s absence is a bigger problem. In terms of skills and positional play he is the most unique player in Brazilian squad and has consistently delivered in the World Cup. In his absence Scolari may have to change the system he has deployed till now. If he chooses to retain the 4-2-3-1 formation then it looks likely that Oscar, who has somewhat fizzled out after a great start, will move into his natural role of a #10. There are two options to fill the vacant wing role in case Oscar plays more centrally. Willian is a hardworking player with considerable experience and can pop up with goals when needed while young Bernard is a nifty player with a bag of tricks. Scolari is likely to opt with the more experienced Willian given the magnitude of the situation.
It remains to be seen how Scolari adopts without his best attacking player. There is a chance that he may decide to add more strength in the central midfield by sacrificing the central attacking midfielder and shifting to a 4-3-3 formation with either Hernanes or Ramires coming into the team while Hulk, Oscar and Fred form the front three.
Possible Formation (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Alves, Luiz, Dante, Marcelo; Paulinho, Fernandinho; Hulk, Oscar, Willian; Fred
Given their mutual history on and off the field as well as the form shown by France and Germany in the world cup, their clash was expected to reach stratospheric heights. In reality, it was anything but. Germany, the most prolific side in terms of headed goals in world cup since 2002 took an early lead thanks to a Matts Hummels header and never really looked in danger of relinquishing it. Germany became the first country to reach four consecutive world cup semi finals after a victory which was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
Joachim Lowe made some important tactical changes against France and it is safe to say that most of his changes worked perfectly. Mustafi’s absence saw captain Philip Lahm move to right back position & as expected, the German skipper had yet another spotless game. Thomas Muller was deployed slightly towards the right side and he linked up beautifully with Lahm, giving Germany complete control on one flank. Sami Khedira came into the starting XI to take up Lahm’s place in central midfield, playing a vital role. Along with Schweinsteiger Khedira pressed the French central midfield deeper into their own half, cutting supply to their forward line. The presence of two industrious midfielders also frees up space for Toni Kroos, who has arguably been the best midfielder in this world cup. Kroos has so far created 11 chances in 5 matches while maintaining an incredible passing percentage of 91. Paulinho and Fernandinho did a commendable job against James Rodriguez in the last match but with Kroos operating from a deeper position and able to switch positions with Gotze, the Brazilian duo may have their task cut out.
Mesut Ozil had a quiet game against France and it looks likely that he will be dropped with Mario Gotze playing a more left sided role. Thomas Muller will be another vital player in this match. The Bayern thoroughbred has a wonderful spatial sense and will be looking to exploit the space left behind Marcelo during his overlaps. Per Mertesacker lost his place due to his lack of pace against France. However, given Neymar’s absence, the physical presence of Fred & Brazils’ strength in set pieces, the big German is likely to start alongside Matts Hummels. Howedes remains one of the weakest links in the German defence. The Schalke man lacks pace and often gets burnt by pacy widemen. His side will definitely be targeted by Brazil.
Possible starting XI (4-2-3-1): Neur; Howedes, Mertesacker, Hummels, Lahm; Schweinsteiger, Khedira; Gotze, Kroos, Muller; Klose
- Kroos and Lahm are two of the most accurate passers in this World Cup.
- Brazil have collected 10 yellow cards, second highest.
- Germany’s 60.7% average possession is third best in World Cup.
- Thomas Muller has scored 4 times out of his 14 attempted shots.
- Luiz has a passing percentage of 83.2, one of the best among defenders.
Players to watch out for
Toni Kroos (Germany)
Kroos has been one of the best players in this tournament and even provided the assist for the winning goal against France. He will get enough protection in midfield to full showcase his passing range and is likely to take advantage of the empty spaces left behind by Brazilian full-backs.
In Neymar’s absence Oscar needs to step up and deliver. He was the best player for Brazil in their opening victory and will be looking to replicate that form when he moves into his more natural position. The German central defence is often prone to errors and the Chelsea man will be looking to exploit that.
Brazil 0-1 Germany
This will be a cagey and tense affair. Germans has been playing together for a long time now, and have more experience of the big stage than this Brazilian crop. The absence of Neymar and Silva will prove to be a major body blow for the host nation.