Germany takes aim at Brazil in semifinal showdown

By The Sports NetworkJuly 7, 2014 at 12:32 PM
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Brazil is one win away from reaching the World Cup final at the Maracana on Sunday, but the hosts will have to overcome a stern test from Germany in the semifinals on Tuesday at the Estadio Mineirao.

Much of the focus surrounding this match has centered on how Brazil will cope without two of its most important players against the Germans as both Neymar and Thiago Silva will take no part in Tuesday's showdown.

Silva, Brazil's captain and one of the best defenders in the world, will miss the game through suspension because of an accumulation of yellow cards after he was booked in the second half of Brazil's 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Colombia.

Neymar has been one of the faces of this World Cup and head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari must now find a way to replace the four goals and one assist that the 22-year-old tallied in helping his side reach the last four.

The Barcelona star was ruled out for the rest of the tournament after suffering a fractured vertebra in a collision with Colombia's Juan Zuniga, and he will likely be replaced by Willian in Scolari's starting lineup on Tuesday.

Brazil has been very reliant on Neymar at times during this tournament, but Willian believes that despite the absence of his superstar teammate, his side is even stronger because of the adversity the team now faces.

"Neymar sets the standard for us. He is capable of deciding any game, so playing without him will be difficult," Willian said. "We know the quality that we have. We are all very sad at losing him but we are now even stronger after what happened and we can continue to pursue our dream."

Scolari is likely to replace Silva with Bayern Munich defender Dante, a man who knows his German opposition very well.

Dante's knowledge of Germany could prove to be important, but as Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger pointed out, that understanding of the opponent cuts both ways.

"I hope he starts, we know him very well and know his strengths and weaknesses, but he also knows how we play," said Schweinsteiger, who is a teammate of Dante at Bayern.

Brazil is receiving much of the attention ahead of this semifinal, while Germany has quietly gone about its business and will be making a record fourth straight appearance in the last four at a World Cup.

Germany coasted through Group G to reach the knockout round, but Joachim Low's team had a much more difficult time with Algeria than expected in the round of 16, needing extra time to dispatch the Desert Foxes, 2-1.

The Germans were much more clinical in knocking off France, 1-0, in the quarterfinals, and Low's men will no doubt be full of confidence ahead of the showdown with Brazil.

These two heavyweights last met in the 2002 World Cup final, with Brazil emerging as 2-0 victors to claim a record fifth Jules Rimet trophy.

But Schweinsteiger feels as though this is a much different Brazil side than the one that most people have become accustomed to, and that his German teammates should expect a physical game.

"The Brazilians here aren't the magicians of old, the team has changed and so has their playing style," said Schweinsteiger. "Hard challenges are definitely a part of their game, it's something we have to be careful of and the referee too."

This Brazil side has certainly not resembled the great Brazil teams of old, which played with a creativity and flair that hasn't been exhibited by this edition of the Selecao.

However, that certainly doesn't mean that Scolari's men pose less of a threat to the Germans, even without Neymar and Silva.

Playing the host nation at this stage of the World Cup is a difficult task, and Germany knows all too well what it feels like to go out at this point in the tournament.

German captain Philipp Lahm was a member of the last two World Cup teams for Germany, both of which lost in the semifinals.

The thought of losing in the last four for a third successive World Cup and playing in another third-place match is a thought that the defender isn't interested in entertaining.

"I really do not need that, that's something I want to rule out," Lahm said.


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