June 26, 2013
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It's an all-South American affair at the first Confederations Cup semifinal, as hosts Brazil will take on a tough Uruguayan side for the chance to meet either Spain or Italy in the final.
It's going to be fun, folks.
But which players should you be paying close attention to in this contest? What storylines accompany this game? What factors could swing the outcome in either direction?
Let's find out.
It's Neymar's World, and We're All Just Living in It
Neymar has been absolutely brilliant in this tournament. Statistically, he's scored three goals, added an assist, completed 85.5 percent of his passes and earned an impressive 8.27 rating over the three games, according to WhoScored.
But beyond that, he's simply been dynamic every time he's touched the ball. We've all heard about how Neymar is set to be Brazil's next star, but we haven't always seen that. Thus far at the Confederations Cup, however, it has been evident.
Simply put, it isn't hard to imagine him willing this Brazilian team on to the final. If Uruguay can't keep him in check, I don't see them beating the hosts.
Will the Real Edinson Cavani Please Stand Up?
Edinson Cavani has been one of the most dynamic forwards in Europe, with 107 goals for Napoli in all competitions over the past three seasons. Coming into the Confederations Cup, many people thought we would finally see the exciting striker break out at the international level.
That hasn't been the case. In two appearances, he has no goals, one assist, just two shots on goal and a disappointing 6.55 match rating from WhoScored. This isn't the Cavani we've become accustomed to seeing in Serie A play.
That has neutralized one of Uruguay's biggest strengths in this tournament, its three-headed monster at forward with Cavani, Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan. With that trio, Uruguay has one of the most dangerous counterattacks in this tournament, something that could make them a dangerous opponent for Brazil.
Cavani is a world-class talent; it's time he started playing like it at the Confederations Cup.
Can Brazil Maintain Its Sparkling Form from the Group Stage?
Brazil didn't exactly head into the Confederations Cup in top form, but in impressive wins over Japan, Mexico and Italy—all quality teams, by the way—this team has looked like one of the top sides in the world.
The back line has looked shaky at times, but they gave up just two goals in three games. Paulinho has been a rock in midfield. And with the attacking combination of Neymar, Fred, Hulk and Oscar clicking, this team has recovered the flair that seemed so lost at the 2010 World Cup.
If the Selecao play like they did in the group stage, they'll win. It's really that simple.
How Much of a Distraction Will the Protests Be?
If you thought the protests in Brazil during this tournament have been nothing more than a minor side story, think again.
From Tancredi Palmeri of CNN:
At some point, it will be impossible for this not to be a distraction for the Brazilian national team. If the protests become particularly contentious heading into this game, that distraction could be hard to overcome.
Some things are more important than footy, as the Brazilian populace has been proving during the Confederations Cup. This is an important story, both heading into next year's World Cup and for the general future of Brazil, and it's one you can bet the Brazilian players are tuned into carefully.
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