6 Players to Watch on Day 27 of the 2014 World Cup

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentJuly 8, 2014

6 Players to Watch on Day 27 of the 2014 World Cup

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    The first World Cup semi-final takes place on Tuesday when Germany meet hosts Brazil in Belo Horizonte.

    Brazil have the benefit of a passionate home crowd but are without two of their best players.

    What's more, their quarter-final win over Colombia came at a cost. Thiago Silva is suspended after picking up a booking, while Neymar will sit out the rest of the tournament with a back injury.

    Germany, meanwhile, enter after a composed 1-0 win over France. With that victory, they became the first country to reach four consecutive World Cup semi-finals.

    Here's a rundown of six players to watch on Day 27 of the World Cup.

    Feel free to use the comments section below to agree, disagree or add your own.

Willian, Brazil

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    A nation that should have been celebrating a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup on Friday night was instead in a state of partial mourning.

    Brazil's star Neymar, their poster boy for a home World Cup, will play no further part in the tournament after suffering a back injury against Colombia.

    Willian, the Chelsea midfielder, is one of those who could be charged with replacing the irreplaceable. But the 25-year-old has been quick to insist he is no Neymar, according to the Mirror's John Cross.

    There is no comparing Neymar. I won't make comparisons. Neymar has a lot of qualities. I have a different style, some similar qualities like we have similar speed and dribbling.

    But Neymar is a striker and I am a midfielder who serves my team-mates. Neymar scores a lot of goals. I am ready and if I am chosen I will do my very best.

    Neymar is a reference in the Brazilian national team unfortunately this has happened but we are prepared and this is a situation that has come up. Whichever option Scolari picks will do his very best.

    No one will argue Willian's claim that there is no comparison, but the Selecao may need him to do his best Neymar impression if they are to advance past the Germans.

Thomas Mueller, Germany

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    Thomas Mueller's performances in the group stages at this World Cup will be remembered for his goals against Portugal and the USA.

    So far in the knockout rounds, though, his most memorable contribution has been his trip during an elaborate free-kick routine against Algeria.

    The 24-year-old will have a chance to remedy that against Brazil, who will be without suspended Thiago Silva, their most influential defender.

    Bleacher Report tactics writer Sam Tighe noted the importance of Mueller's link with Toni Kroos as integral to Germany's success:

    The key to their (Germany's) enhanced attacking play was Toni Kroos in the No. 10 slot, receiving passes between the lines and linking superbly with those around him.

    Thomas Mueller in particular was brought into play early and often by Kroos and worked France's defensive line very well.

    Miroslav Klose started in the last round, but Germany still rely on Mueller to score the goals.

David Luiz, Brazil

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    David Luiz helped Brazil win their tight quarter-final against Colombia with the type of free-kick centre-backs shouldn't be able to produce.

    But with captain Thiago Silva suspended for the semi-final with Germany, it will be Luiz's defending that is under the spotlight on Tuesday.

    Even with Silva playing well, Brazil have, at times, looked shaky at the back. And their chances against Germany will depend on how well Luiz copes without his sidekick.

    Though his focus will likely be on defence, look for Luiz to influence the attack whenever he gets the opportunity. He spoke of his sublime set piece following the Colombia match, according to FIFA.com.

    I’ve been waiting all year for one like that, with Chelsea too, and Willian came up and had a joke with me about it. I’m delighted it came in this game.

    I hit the ball well and it was lovely to watch it going in, moving like that, which made it very hard for the keeper.

    Let that free-kick serve as a warning to Germany and Manuel Neuer, especially if Luiz somehow finally found the Brazuca's sweet spot.

Mats Hummels, Germany

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    Mats Hummels has already scored twice in Brazil, and he will fancy his chances of adding to his tally against Brazil, especially with Thiago Silva missing through suspension.

    At the back, he'll have to keep Fred quiet, which hasn't been the hardest task at this World Cup. The 30-year-old is in the team to hold the ball up and get on the end of crosses rather than bother defenders with his movement.

    Hummels kept the superior Karim Benzema quiet in his last game. After that performance, Joachim Low told FIFA.com his central defender—who also had the game's winning header—has been one of Germany's stars this summer.

    "The way he goes into tackles and wins them and the way he’s always in the right place is hugely impressive. On top of that he scored and he’s always a threat at set-pieces too."

    Hummels won't have Neymar's pace and trickery to worry about in the semi-final, either, so the odds would seem to be in his favour.

Fernandinho, Brazil

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    Brazil's evolution at this World Cup has meant Luiz Felipe Scolari has had to find a place for Fernandinho in his team.

    He will continue against Germany, although how the Manchester City midfielder didn't pick up at least a booking against Colombia in the quarter-final is a mystery.

    The 29-year-old did at least keep James Rodriguez from having any real influence on the game. The Monaco forward was eventually moved out wide to escape Fernandinho's attentions, and he needed a penalty to get on the scoresheet.

    Fernandinho's job in the semi-final will be to slow down Toni Kroos' passing carousel. It's a different challenge to the one posed by Rodriguez, but one just as important to Brazil's chances.

Philipp Lahm, Germany

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    Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola fancies Philipp Lahm as a holding midfielder, and it seems Joachim Low feels the same way.

    But the 30-year-old is still one of the best right-backs in the world. It's likely he'll start there against Brazil with Shkodran Mustafi ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a muscle tear.

    Lahm won't have to worry about Neymar, but he will have to deal with Marcelo's raiding runs from left-back while also finding the time and opportunity to get forward himself.


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