Photo: David Luiz has been solid at the back while scoring two goals for Brazil so far. (Getty Images)
A battered and bruised Brazil team takes on a stretched but solid German team in the first of the two semi-finals at the FIFA World Cup. The dream of lifting the trophy is now within touching distance but still it could be far away for either team. The prize for winning such a huge encounter is a place in the final of the World Cup which will be played in the historic Maracana Stadium on Sunday July 13th.
For the past week, the headlines have been dominated by the injury to Brazil's golden boy Neymar which he picked up in the quarter-final against Colombia. Napoli's Juan Camilio Zuniga is now public enemy number one not just in Brazil but around the world for his challenge on the Barcelona youngster. However, Brazil has deeper problems as they will be without influential captain and the man who stabilizes their defense, Thiago Silva. The PSG defender picked up his second booking of the tournament against Colombia leading to his suspension. Brazil had appealed the yellow card but it was rejected by FIFA which means Luiz Felipe Scolari must replace the skipper as well as their star man.
Germany came into the tournament with a squad that Joachim Low wouldn't have expected at the start of the 2013/2014 season. The likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Lars Bender, Sven Bender, Mario Gomez, Marcel Schmeltzer and Marco Reus were all ruled out before a ball was kicked in Brazil. Despite the loss of these top quality stars, Die Mannschaft has won 4 of their 5 games so far scoring 10 goals and conceding just 3. Thomas Muller is their top scorer with four strikes while veteran Miroslav Klose just one goal away from becoming the all time leading scorer at the World Cup.
The Brazilians have also scored 10 goals in their 5 fixtures so far but conceded on 4 occasions. They needed penalties to get past Chile in the Round of 16 fixtures and survived a late scare from Colombia to book their place in the semi-finals. They have been feeding off the energy from the crowd and they will need all that energy against Germany because this is the ultimate test for Big Phil's men.
Julio Cesar is expected to take his place in goal while Bayern Munich's Dante is expected to replace Thiago Silva to partner David Luiz in the heart of defense. Maicon had a good game against Colombia so he may retain his place at right back leaving Dani Alves on the bench while Marcelo will continue at left back where he has been brilliant during the tournament.
Luiz Gustavo should return to the central midfield after serving his suspension missing the game against Colombia and he should be partnered by Fernandinho. In Neymar's absence, Oscar will be the chief creator and the main man in attack and should be supported by Hulk, Fred and Willian who should be the man charged with filling the boots of the Barcelona star.
There are no reports of injury or sickness in the German camp therefore Low should field the ever reliable Manuel Neuer in goal. Mats Hummels who scored the winner against France in the quarter-final should be partnered by Jerome Boateng in central defense. Captain Philipp Lahm should continue at right back adding more stability and assurance to the defense with Benedikt Howedes retaining his position at left back.
Low should have the partnership of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira that has served him so well since 2010 in the middle of the park. Toni Kroos will lead the attack pulling the strings along with Mesut Ozil, creating opportunities for Muller and Miroslav Klose. Low could use Mario Gotze as a false number 9 while Lukas Podolski should also be available for selection.
This is a huge game for either team but the Germans may have the slight psychological advantage going into the match. The Selecao has the entire country behind them and will hope the fans can push them over the line but Low's men will not be intimated because this is their fourth semi-final in as many World Cups. The game could be decided by a moment of brilliance or a mistake but hopefully the referee will have a quiet game and let the quality of the players decide the outcome.
Players to Watch
Brazil - David Luiz, Luiz Gustavo, Oscar
Germany - Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger