The FIFA World Cup 2014 has moved into the semi-final stage, pitting the final four teams—Brazil, Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands—against one another for a spot in the coveted Maracana final.
Here we take a look at the first tie on offer: the Selecao vs. Die Mannschaft.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few days, you'll be well aware of the issues Brazil are facing ahead of their semi-final tie.
Neymar is out for the tournament, and Thiago Silva is suspended for the match against Germany. In case you're keeping count, that's their best player and best centre-back (and captain!) out for their biggest match so far.
This opens up a number of questions regarding team selection: Will Dante step in and partner David Luiz in defence, or will Henrique? Does Bernard step in on the left of the 4-2-3-1, or is a rejig set to occur?
Dante and Bernard will be the favourites, especially with Willian struggling with an injury. The team will need to recalibrate and move away from the "it's all about Neymar" playing method and begin sharing the ball out.
Germany, finally, are beginning to move through the gears. They put in their best showing so far against France in the quarter-final—the drubbing they gave 10-man Portugal aside.
Mats Hummels came into the side and seemingly fixed everything, leading a deeper defensive line, getting help from Philipp Lahm at right-back—his correct position—and switching to a far more productive 4-2-3-1 formation.
Of the two sides competing, Joachim Low's is further ahead in their progression, and that makes them the favourite for the tie despite home advantage. No key players are injured, and they seem to be finding their feet.
In his tactical preview of Tuesday's semi-final, Michael Cox wrote for Betfair:
While Germany have played very neat, technical possession football, Brazil played extremely aggressively in their semi-final victory over Colombia. This contest is all about which team can impose their own style on the game, particularly in the opening stages—and what will the referee let Brazil get away with?
Low expressed a sense of urgency ahead of the game, telling reporters (h/t ITV.com): "We desperately want to play in the Maracana in Rio again. On July 13. We're not done yet."
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Luiz Gustavo vs. Toni Kroos
In switching to the 4-2-3-1 formation, Low managed to take Die Mannschaft back to basics and succeed using more obvious movements, attacks and defensive mechanisms.
The key to their enhanced attacking play was Toni Kroos in the No. 10 slot, receiving passes between the lines and linking superbly with those around him. He brought Thomas Mueller in particular into play early and often and worked France's defensive line very well.
It's up to Brazil—more specifically, the returning Luiz Gustavo—to quell this as quickly as possible. He's been the tournament's best anchor so far, and he'll need to be right on top of his game to stamp this out.
2. Sharing the Load
Brazil have been entirely focused on Neymar: give the ball to Neymar, create space for Neymar, force the ball into Neymar's feet to see if he can spark the difference.
Without him, the Selecao must share the load, giving Hulk, Oscar and Bernard equal touches and attacking each of the pitch's thirds equally.
You can't hang your hat on any of Brazil's other players—none of their attackers is, like Neymar, a top-five in world football—but the formula can come together with some tweaks.
Utilise Bernard's guile, Oscar's positional brilliance and Hulk's long-range shooting.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.
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