After a tortuous three days without World Cup football, the tournament gets back underway with what promise to be two gripping semi-final matches. We’ve seen 58 games come and go in this competition so far, and after 32 teams started out harbouring dreams of World Cup glory, only four remain.
The first of the two semi-finals looks set to be an absolute corker, as hosts Brazil take on Germany in Belo Horizonte. The Selecao have long been the favourites to triumph in front of a backdrop of fervent Brazilian fandom, but if they’re to make it to the final two, they’ll have to do so without their captain Thiago Silva and as well as their talisman Neymar.
Germany have grown into this tournament, and their performance against France in the quarter-final was their most complete and balanced so far. Joachim Low’s team will relish taking on the role of party spoilers, and his players know how to emerge victorious from these big-pressure games.
To make sure you don’t miss a kick of what promises to be a gripping semi-final clash, here’s all the information you need on where to catch it on a stream. Let’s also take a closer look at the two teams involved and who’s best placed to come out on top in this intriguing battle.
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Here’s how the two teams are set to line up for the semi-final:
Brazilian supporters will no doubt be feeling a little vulnerable as they gear up for this huge game. So far in the tournament the Selecao haven’t been at their brilliant best, but there has been an underpinning feeling that a moment of magic from Neymar would heave them over the line. But after the Barcelona man’s injury, that safety net has been torn from beneath them.
Brazil winning the World Cup seemed to be an indisputable notion with Neymar in the side. But without him, you suspect the atmosphere in Belo Horizonte will be tinged with apprehension. It’s something Low will have made his players very aware of, and the stylistic principles in which the German team operates could see them frustrate the Brazilian crowd.
The Germans have been wonderful at keeping the ball and dominating the midfield in this tournament, and if they can do that in the early stages against Brazil, the atmosphere could quickly turn sour.
Momentum is everything, as Brazil proved with a fast start against Colombia. John Cross of The Mirror expects the crowd to play a big part in determining the eventual winner of this tie:
The hosts will be looking for a new hero to step up in the absence of Neymar, and with Oscar likely to move into an orthodox No. 10 role for this clash, the Chelsea man is set to play a central role in a very literal sense.
Oscar will have an important job to do both in terms of attacking and defending. Going forward, the main creative responsibility will be dumped squarely upon him, but with Germany set to press high and Brazil likely to try and play through, Oscar should be able to find some pockets between the lines.
When he does, he needs to be incisive and inventive in his decision-making. If Brazil can get players running at an exposed German back four, then they would be capable of causing big problems, and the onus will be on Oscar to pick clever passes down the sides of the central defenders and into the feet of the likes of Fred and Hulk.
But he’ll have a vital job to do defensively, too. Oscar has showcased in this tournament and when donning the blue of Chelsea that he is capable of tracking back, hassling the opposition and putting in tackles. He’ll need to do a lot of that if the Selecao are to disrupt Germany’s rhythm in midfield.
Owen Gibson of The Guardian insisted Oscar must replicate his early-season form at Chelsea if Brazil are to stand a chance of progressing:
For Die Mannschaft, Thomas Mueller is typically the man they look toward to perform in these matches. He’s already netted four goals in this tournament, and whether he plays as a centre-forward, a No. 10 or as a wide player, the Bayern Munich man uses his excellent movement and unshakable work-rate to cause problems for the opposition.
Earlier in the tournament, ESPN's Dermot Corrigan insisted that Mueller is as vital to Germany as Neymar is to Brazil:
Mueller is also a player who has developed something of a penchant for scoring big goals for both Bayern and Germany. But a winning strike in the semi-final of the World Cup would surely be the biggest of his career to date.
Brazil must start fast, get in amongst the German midfield and get the fans on their side early. If they can get the crowd right behind them from the get-go and create an inspirational atmosphere, that could be a catalyst for victory.
But if the Germans are allowed time to put their foot on the ball and grow into the game, then the longer it goes on, the more likely it is that the hosts will fall just short of that elusive sixth World Cup win.
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