When Brazil and Uruguay square off in the first Semifinal match of the 2013 Confederations Cup, all eyes will be on Barcalona's newest star Neymar. The 21-year old wunderkind has lit up the first three games of the Confederations Cup for his native Brazil, scoring in all three matches and providing some some decent highlights while doing so.
Brazil has cruised past Japan, Mexico and Italy thus far, reaching the semifinal with a record of 3-0 and a goal margin of plus seven. However, they are about to face a much tougher task in the form of a strong, motivated Uruguay team.
Uruguay has had a bumpier road en route to the semifinal, first falling to Spain to a 2-1 defeat, before pulling off two straight wins. They defeated Nigeria 2-1, before annihilating a very overmatched Tahiti team 8-0. While they struggled at times against both Spain and Nigeria, Uruguay is a team punctuated with a very strong attacking corps, boasting Diego Forlan, Edinson Cavani and of course star Luis Suarez.
The Brazil-Uruguay rivalry is one of the fiercest and oldest in football tradition. It's included one of the most shocking moments in World Cup history, when Uruguay spoiled Brazil's expected victory party and defeated the hosts 2-1, winning the 1950 World Cup. However, the recent history has been entirely in Brazil's favor, as Brazil has won the last six match ups between the two.
Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar has noted that "Brazil v Uruguay is huge... some say it's even bigger than Brazil v Argentina." He also went on to implore his team to stay focused for this upcoming match, despite being the favorites.
Neymar, who has been the creative spark for Brazil's offense thus far, will face a tough task with the Uruguayan defense. Specifically his battle with defender Max Pereira is of note. Pereira, who plays for Benefica on the club level, is noted for his hard challenges and harsh tackles, receiving 12 yellow cards last year in only 25 appearances for both club and country.
Neymar will need to be careful, especially considering the Brazilian game plan against Italy seemed to be getting the ball to their young star and letting him create the offense from there. Neymar has experienced some foul trouble thus far in the Confederations Cup, receiving a yellow card against Italy which contributed to his early substitution in the 69th minute.
Neymar has committed the most fouls (14) and has also been fouled the most times (18) at the 2013 Confederations Cup [via @whoscored]— barcastuff (@barcastuff) June 25, 2013
The budding star will need to control himself against Uruguay, where he will likely be fouled hard and often. Any retaliatory fouls would be extremely costly, and Brazil could not afford to have the centerpiece of their attack limited by another yellow card, or even worse, sent off.
Keep in mind the dangerous Uruguayan attack, which will look to counter-attack as they did against Spain and Nigeria. This Uruguay team boasts both its country's all-time leading scorers in Forlan and Suarez, with 34 and 35 goals each, respectively.
One has to imagine that Neymar and the rest of the heavily favored Brazilian squad will dominate possession as it did against Japan and Italy and hound goalkeeper Fernando Muslera with shots, as they have taken at least 13 shots per game thus far, and averaged 5.7 shots on goal per game as well.
My prediction? A 2-0 win for Brazil, complete with a goal from Neymar. Agree? Disagree? Leave them in the comments below!