With 60 of the 64 matches in Brazil in the books, the 2014 World Cup has already guaranteed its status as one of the best ever. But the four matches remaining could put it over the top.
Unexpected endings, surprise results and shocking group-stage standings have compelled world football over the last few weeks. But as things have moved on toward the semifinal round, the cream has risen to the top.
Brazil, Germany, Netherlands and Argentina—one of these nations will earn the right to lift the trophy come the July 13 final. And if the past weeks of action are any indication, the excitement should continue right up until the end.
Here's a look at everything you need to know for Day 27, which includes the first of two sure-to-be-epic semifinals.
Day 27 Fixture, Odds
|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Team 1 Odds||Team 2 Odds|
|Brazil vs. Germany||4 p.m.||ESPN||Germany 9-5||Brazil 3-2|
FIFA.com; odds via OddsShark.com
Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, updated as of July 7
|July 8||Semifinal||Brazil vs. Germany||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|July 9||Semifinal||Netherlands vs. Argentina||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|July 12||Third-Place Match||Semifinal Losers||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|July 13||Final||World Cup Final||3 p.m.||ABC|
Day 27 Preview, Predictions
Brazil vs. Germany
After all the fireworks, uncertainty, extra time and penalty kicks, Brazil and Germany have survived onto a Tuesday semifinal that seemed inevitable when the draw first came out.
Neither took an awfully glamorous route to get here, but both Brazil and Germany won their respective groups—even with the Germans pegged for the "Group of Death."
In the knockout stage, it hasn't gotten any easier. Germany had to take Algeria to extra time before winning 2-1, then held on against France 1-0. Brazil were taken to penalty kicks by Chile before outlasting Colombia.
But with one unfortunate news story that developed for Brazil, their hopes of lifting the trophy in their home nation were dealt a serious blow.
The news of Neymar's departure was both breaking in terms of news and its impact on the Brazilian side, per Bleacher Report UK:
Neymar took a knee to the back from Colombia's Juan Zuniga, and his impending absence from the Brazil attack will not be an easy replacement. Luiz Felipe Scolari hinted that Willian could replace Neymar in the starting XI, per Associated Press' Tales Azzoni (via ABC News), but it will take a by-committee approach to be successful.
Either way, the Germans look to be ready for Tuesday's semifinal:
With everything going for them, Brazil could be a real menace to Germany's back four. The Germans have executed a successful back line that features four centre-backs, and Brazil's speed could give them trouble.
However, with their talisman out of the fold, that will prove easier said than done for Brazil. They haven't exactly been potent on offense even with Neymar, so against a stout German defense, it shouldn't be any better.
Tancredi Palmeri of beIN Sports thinks Neymar's absence, along with Thiago Silva missing the match for an accumulation of yellow cards, is enough to make Germany the favorite:
My favorite for the World Cup has always been Brazil. But with Neymar out and Thiago Silva suspended, Germany become the favorite on paper— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 5, 2014
Ever since 2002, Brazil fans have been yearning for their sixth world championship. For years, their hopes have turned toward this year as they host the World Cup and field a youthful, star-studded side.
Who will win?
But without Neymar and without their captain in defense, this Brazilian side will be a shell of their true selves. That won't be enough to get past one of the best national teams of this generation, that just so happens to look unbeatable at the moment.
Germany will get their early goal, and a suffocating defense will be too much for a depleted Brazil attack.
Prediction: Germany 1, Brazil 0
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