Brazil v Germany – World Cup preview

The semi-final in Belo Horizonte is live on BBC1

imagenotavailable1

Brazil v Germany (semi-final), 8.30pm BBC1 (kick-off 9pm)

Advertisement

Some of the spectacle’s gone from this game, and Fifa can only blame themselves. They’re responsible for the tone and quality of the officiating at their garlanded cash cow of a tournament and, in Brazil’s quarter-final against Colombia, poor refereeing had serious consequences. Tackle after dirty tackle by Brazil on the more skilful, less commercially viable Colombians went unpunished until, with brutal irony, it was Brazilian superstar Neymar who became the victim of a much too physical game.

Now, Neymar has a broken back (!) and Brazil have to soldier on without their poster boy and major attacking weapon. Oscar or Willian are the obvious candidates for the new creative number ten, but they’ll have to suddenly cope with a new kind of pressure – nervelessly performing with flair under intense scrutiny was Neymar’s most valuable skill. If Brazil end up relying on the footwork of Hulk or the dynamic directness of Fred, they are in trouble. Luis Felipe Scolari might prefer to bring in Ramires along with the returning Luis Gustavo, and turn this into a streetfight.

There’s another key absentee at the other end of the pitch: when the referee of the Colombia match belatedly found his yellow cards he showed one to Thiago Silva, perhaps the world’s best centre-back, who is now suspended.

As Brazil start to limp, Germany are inching carefully forward. Switching Philipp Lahm from holding midfielder to right-back seems to have solved their problems in both positions, with the recalled Bastian Schweinsteiger and the recuperated Sami Khedira now forming a reliable central fulcrum, leading to an alarmingly routine quarter-final win against France.

Weighing on the Germans’ minds will be recent international tournaments in which the “Golden Generation” have torn apart their early opponents, only to crumble in the later knockout stages. In 2014 the progress is more measured, perhaps because players like Özil, Kroos and the Golden Boot-chasing Müller now have experience to go with their talent. Jogi Löw has to get his selection right, though: fans and hacks back home are clamouring for the increasingly anonymous Mesut Özil to be benched. Here and now is the time for this German side to prove itself, facing a home team riddled with weaknesses, but with overwhelming support from the Belo Horizonte crowd. 

Advertisement

One footballing giant or another is about to be humbled.