5 Reasons Why Brazil Can Win the 2014 World Cup
Brazil are two games away from a sixth World Cup title, but more importantly a first on home soil to satisfy their demanding fans.
The Selecao have been aware since it was announced they would host that anything less than victory would not be accepted. As games pass, that pressure only grows.
Thus far in the knockout stages of the competition, Brazil have appeared indifferent. They required penalties to advance past Chile and saw their style heavily criticised in their win over Colombia.
Why, then, should Luiz Felipe Scolari's side still be regarded as major contenders for the title?
Team Spirit Is Key in Tournament Play
As Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal went out of his way to demonstrate in the quarter-final stage, major tournaments are about more than just 11 men. They are a 23-man effort.
Brazil's bond as a squad under Scolari is nothing less than inspiring, with players appearing as happy and relaxed as they have at any stage of their international careers.
This is a team in which individuals are not only playing for themselves, but also their brothers in arms.
To reach this stage, any side must have reasonable chemistry within the group. Brazil, led by David Luiz, appear particularly unified as a group and should benefit from that bond.
A Defensive Core Worthy of Admiration
Some may see goalkeeper Julio Cesar as error-prone or full-backs Marcelo and Maicon as defensively suspect. However, in central areas, Brazil have a core of four players who offer terrific solidity.
With David Luiz and Thiago Silva shielded by Luiz Gustavo and Fernandinho, Brazil have a group of players with experience at the highest level of the game who have excelled under Scolari.
Despite Luiz's propensity to be reckless at club level or Gustavo's uninspiring distribution skills, they are as solid a unit as international football can offer for Brazil.
With no Neymar in attack, Scolari may take a more defensive approach and would be doing so with the knowledge that he has a unit capable of grafting their way to success.
An Oscar-Winning Performance?
Neymar is gone and Brazil require a new saviour. For Chelsea's Oscar, that is a cue to step up and take the reins.
Oscar has earned a lot of praise for his contributions in a Brazil shirt over the past two years, but has failed to ignite since the opening game of the World Cup.
There are suggestions it was a blip in what is now several months of mediocre form as exhaustion perhaps catches up with the 22-year-old star.
The stage is set for Oscar to show the world exactly what he can do at this level, and Brazil desperately need him to inspire.
For the first time in the tournament, Brazil harnessed the power of their vocal support to get off to a flying start against Colombia in the quarter-final.
It was the ability to do just that which saw them to the Confederations Cup title last summer, and there is no reason they cannot repeat the act this time around.
Indeed, the noise levels within the stadia are only set to rise, and if they should make it to the Maracana next weekend, it will be a truly special atmosphere.
It is Brazil’s biggest advantage over their rivals and it is only set to grow in importance over the next two fixtures.
It's Only 2 Games
Neymar is down and out, and Thiago Silva will miss the clash with Germany because of suspension. They are two major blows, but nothing that has not been overcome in football previously.
Brazil are only 180 minutes from the title. Had Neymar's injury happened earlier in the tournament, their chances would have been significantly reduced. Now, though, it is not as catastrophic as it may have been.
Many sides have upset the odds over the course of the lengthy knockout campaigns, and Brazil, even without Neymar, are not hopeless.
Their belief should not be diminished.