The final four matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup are now set. The semi-final stage will be highlighted by the game between host nation Brazil and European powerhouse Germany.
Meanwhile, the second semi-final clash pits Argentina against the Netherlands. That keeps alive the hope of an all-South American final between bitter continent rivals Brazil and Argentina.
Of course, Germany and the Netherlands will do all they can to see that Europe is properly represented. Both nations have treated fans to some stylish, attacking football at this tournament.
Here are all the relevant TV and live stream details ahead of the big games:
|TV and Live Stream Information for World Cup Semi-Finals|
|Brazil vs. Germany||Tuesday, July 8||9 p.m. BST / 4 p.m. ET||BBC One / ESPN||BBC iPlayer / WatchESPN|
|Netherlands vs. Argentina||Wednesday, July 9||9 p.m. BST / 4 p.m. ET||ITV / ESPN||ITV Player / Watch ESPN|
|BBC Sport.co.uk, ITV.com, ABCNews.com|
There are two very interesting storylines to preview ahead of these semi-final matches. The first concerns an ironic shift in the style of play favoured by Brazil, compared with their European counterparts.
The other focuses on the attempt by Lionel Messi to finally make his mark at the international level.
Here are the two storylines to concentrate on this week.
Brazil and Germany Have Swapped Styles
Brazil are naturally under the most pressure to book a place at the Maracana for the final on Sunday, July 13. However, their chances have been damaged following the fractured vertebra suffered by star forward Neymar.
He has been the leading light for an otherwise uncharacteristically dour team. Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has crafted a functional and rugged squad that relies on physicality and defensive solidity to win. That's very different to the usual trademark samba flair.
BBC Sport South American football writer Tim Vickery has noted how Scolari's pragmatic approach has made his team unpopular:
The 2014 model Brazil may battle their way through the rounds and go on to win the World Cup but they will surely not be remembered all around the world with the same affection of their predecessors from 1982, who did not even reach the semi-finals.
Dorival Junior, the coach who schooled Neymar at Santos, argues that Brazilian football has largely forgotten how to pass the ball through the middle of the field, such has been the obsession with quick breaks down the flanks.
They may have won two World Cups since 1982, but unlike then, Brazil no longer seek to beat opponents on flow; they now look to win on moments.
Vickery's argument can be supported by only a cursory glance at the current Brazil squad. Where are the stylish creators—the mercurial, attack-minded talents this nation used to produce in the dozens?
The fact is even if they were available, Scolari would be unlikely to pick them. He would probably judge such languid schemers as luxuries, compared with the robust authority of a player like Luiz Gustavo.
It's ironic that this Brazil have come to embody the values so often associated with the European game. Qualities such as physicality, energy and resolve symbolise this Brazil.
Meanwhile, their European opponents have gone the other way. Germany have been remade based on the technical guile of playmakers like Toni Kroos, Mario Goetze and Mesut Ozil.
They have attacked in numbers with fluidity and imagination. The Germans have combined their energy and natural graft with a respect for creative daring and forward-thinking vision.
The stylistic stereotypes have been reversed for this semi-final clash. It will be fascinating to see if Germany can beat Brazil the Brazil way.
Lionel Messi Needs to Win this World Cup
Argentina ace Lionel Messi is the best player in the world. However, until he inspires his country to victory in a major international tournament, he will never silence those who doubt he is one of the best ever.
He'll also never escape the shadow of Diego Maradona, the maverick star who propelled Argentina to a World Cup triumph in 1986. The comparisons come after each international performance, good or bad.
Following the 1-0 quarter-final win over Belgium, BBC Sport reporter Ben Smith highlighted the inevitable similarities to Maradona:
On the day he won his 91st cap to draw level with Diego Maradona, the last Argentina No 10 to reach this stage of a World Cup, comparisons were understandable.
This performance was not on the same level as his predecessor's the last time these two nations met - in the semi-final in Mexico City in 1986 - but it was more than good enough to draw parallels from all corners.
The image of Messi wriggling away from five Belgians to win a first-half free-kick on the edge of the penalty area brought echoes of that iconic image of Maradona on the ball in 1982, with six Belgians wondering what to do.
These comparisons will always be made, but if Messi wins this World Cup, he'll have a legacy all to himself. His current form at the tournament should offer belief that he can do it.
The marvellous mini-trickster is posing a major threat whenever he receives the ball. His elusive runs are making a procession of defenders look foolish, while the shooting power from his left foot is still feared.
The Netherlands are not reliant on defensive solidity. They won't have enough to effectively shackle Messi in Sao Paulo, and that will ultimately doom Louis van Gaal's team.
How Brazil attempt to defy Germany's free-flowing attack should be the most interesting aspect of this semi-final stage. However, most of the attention will be on Messi, the one true superstar left standing at this tournament.
Now is his moment to dominate the international stage the way he has wowed fans at the club level.
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