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article imageWorld Cup 2014 Preview: Brazil vs Germany

By Tyrrell Meertins     Jul 7, 2014 in Sports
The last time Brazil and Germany met in the World Cup, Luiz Felipe Scolari guided the hosts to their fifth triumph in Japan.
Surprisingly, that was the sole time the two prestigious sides met in the competition, and their semifinal tilt 12 years later will be equally significant.
The former has failed to surpass the quarterfinal stage since that glorious achievement in 2002, whereas Germany has stumbled at the semifinal stage in three of their last four major international tournaments; losing to eventual winners Spain in the Euro 2008 final.
Stylistically, there’s also been a contrasting difference between the two sides. Scolari’s 2002 side was highly technical and flashy, whereas now, they’re an aggressive and robust outfit. Joachim Low, however, has shifted this German squad into a possession-based side, filled with diminutive play-makers, no recognized striker, and ball-playing midfielders.
Still, the main talking point heading into this match is Neymar's tournament-ending injury. Scolari’s system was built around the Brazilian star, and while it impeded his side’s overall play, Neymar has thrived throughout the tournament, scoring four goals in five appearances. Ultimately, Scolari has three probable options and the most logical decision will see Brazil transition into a more cohesive side.
First, Scolari can play Oscar in his preferred no.10 role and introduce his club teammate Willian; an energetic, counter-attacking winger that offers pace and trickery. Oscar was the key man in last year’s Confederations Cup, dropping deep to retain possession, varying his movement to create space for the front three, and his tactical discipline enables the Brazilian to negate the opposition’s deep-lying play-maker and form a midfield trio when required.
Scolari can also opt to field a midfield trio of Luiz Gustavo, Fernandinho and Paulinho and transition into a 4-3-3. This would ensure that Brazil could utilize their brute strength in central areas, and potentially out-muscle the German midfield. Lastly, Scolari can adopt Jose Mourinho's approach in big matches last season, and utilize Ramires on the right of a 4-2-3-1. This enables the Chelsea midfielder to storm forward in attack, and tuck into a narrow position to form a 4-3-3 when the opposition sustains possession. Considering Philipp Lahm’s mistakes as the deep-lyer, and Schweinsteiger’s likelihood of making errors under pressure, Oscar as the no.10 continues to be Brazil’s best option.
Thiago Silva’s suspension is also a key concern, as the Brazilian captain has been a key cog in defence, providing cover for his teammates’ recurring defensive mistakes. Dante is likely to fill the captain’s void, but there will be questions regarding their chemistry, and whether David Luiz can continue to produce consistent performances on the international stage.
Low’s issues are less complex, as Germany’s victory over France was arguably their best performance of the tournament thus far. Schweinsteiger and Khedira’s match-fitness has improved as the tournament’s progressed, and it appears that Lahm will remain in his natural right-back position. With the midfield selecting itself, Low encounters an identical issue to Scolari as to whether to persist with the direct 4-2-3-1 or revert back to a fluid possession-based 4-3-3.
Miroslav Klose’s performance against France was a slight improvement to what Mario Gotze has offered upfront, but still not good enough to merit a start. It’s likely Thomas Muller could lead the line against Brazil, but Low has to decide whether to summon Andre Schurrle or give Gotze another opportunity.
Despite decent performances thus far, Mesut Ozil will likely retain his position, but Gotze and Schurrle offer Low different elements of attack. The former can replicate Muller’s role against France and find pockets of space to create overloads in central areas, or Schurrle can use his pace to exploit Marcelo’s defensive deficiencies.
Germany’s pragmatism has been pivotal to their success thus far, and although Low’s side hasn’t steamrolled the opposition, it appears that the German manager has finally found the right balance in his back seven. If Germany can cope with Brazil’s pressure in the early stages, they will fancy their chances. Brazil will prefer if the tempo of the match is similar to their semifinal –– cagey and aggressive –– whereas Low will be keen on dominating central areas.
This match has all the ingredients to be a tight-affair that will be decided in the midfield. The loss of Neymar will allow Oscar to flourish, as Brazil is a more cohesive unit when the 22-year-old plays in the no.10 role, but with their centre-backs dominating the score-sheet in the knockout round, Scolari will be wondering where the goals will come from.
Low and Scolari are headed into undoubtedly the most important match of their managerial tenures with their respected international sides, and anything short of a victory will be considered a failure.
More about Brazil, Fifa world cup, World Cup, fifa world cup 2014, Germany
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