The 2014 World Cup semifinals commence on Tuesday when the hosts Brazil take on Germany. Although the Selecao hold a 12-5-4 edge in all-time matches against their adversaries, they will have their work cut out to please the home crowd and advance to the final.
Prodigious striker Neymar is out for the rest of the World Cup with a back injury, while defensive anchor Thiago Silva is suspended for the Germany match.
Battling a well-rounded German side without their premier attacking threat and Silva will be extremely difficult for Brazil to overcome. However, Germany have won their past three fixtures by just one goal apiece, so they've had a flair for the dramatic.
Given the stakes on the line in this impending showdown, it stands to reason that another thriller is in store. Below is a closer look at the first semifinal, including a final score prediction.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of FIFA.com unless otherwise indicated.
Brazil vs. Germany Preview and Prediction
The Germans have had a penchant for theatrics throughout the World Cup and Brazil are shorthanded, so this is bound to be a gritty, physical encounter on the pitch. John Buccigross of ESPN provided context as to just how much of a powerhouse matchup this is:
But that doesn't mean it's necessarily even. Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari made no secret about how critical it was to lose Neymar, per FoxSports.com's Jonathan Wilson:
It's equivalent to a catastrophe. [...] He is a player that would make the difference in any team. We have lost the one player we did not want to lose, and it's for the semifinal and final. It was a big shock. The image of Neymar being carried off a stretcher towards the plane, the difficulties, the tear.
One distinct advantage Germany will indeed have is their attack, led by Thomas Mueller. There is motivation for Mueller to enhance his standing in the chase for the Golden Boot, having not scored in the past two matches.
Even without Silva, the Selecao defense should be up to the task. Quarterfinals game-winning hero David Luiz and Dante have proven capable of stepping up, along with a goalkeeper in Julio Cesar who has thrived in clutch World Cup situations.
While the fans will definitely help Brazil's cause to come away with an upset victory, the disparity in the quality of scoring chances should be evident regardless. The Germans are far superior in that regard, and 'keeper Manuel Neuer should only continue thriving with his aggressive style against a Selecao attack that may lack confidence in being undermanned.
It will be rather disappointing for Germany if they can't take advantage of a favorable situation, and playing in a hostile environment will only accentuate the pressure on them. In the end, Brazil's marquee subtractions will tilt this match in Germany's favor and punch their ticket to the final.
This would be a monumental win for the Germans, much to the chagrin of an entire host nation. They would have an excellent chance to take home the final versus the winner of Netherlands and Argentina thanks to a strong all-around squad.
At the same time, the expectations would weigh heavily because the Germans have made three consecutive semifinals prior without winning the World Cup.
It will always be wondered what could have been for Brazil if they lose, especially if Neymar were fit to play. The last host to win was France in 1998, though, so there is somewhat of a burden on the side facilitating the World Cup if they are a legitimate contender.
Few could blame the Selecao for falling short if this prediction does come to fruition, but Brazil fans will have to hail the valiant effort in retrospect regardless of what happens Tuesday.
Prediction: Germany 2, Brazil 1