The business end of the 2014 edition of the World Cup football finals is upon us and we have the semi-finals line-up ready. After almost a month of feverish action, heartbreak, joy and all kinds of emotions involved, we have four teams ready to battle it out for the coveted crown. A number of fancied teams have fallen by the wayside and we have had a fair share of surprises where the proverbial underdog has prevailed. The tournament has had a few unsavoury incidents as well - the Louis Suarez bite-gate cannot be forgotten, neither can Neymar's grievous injury that has forced him out of the World Cup. The semi-final line-up promises two high voltage encounters. Let us analyse and try to find out the probable mini battles within the war.
Semi-final 1: Brazil v/s Germany
The 1st semi-final pits two traditional World Cup heavyweights who have featured in the maximum number of World Cup finals (seven each). Brazil's might has been severely weakened with the loss of Neymar to injury and Thiago Silva to suspension (two yellow cards). Both are important cogs in the wheel and their absence could brighten the chances of an already pumped up German outfit, feel pundits. Germany started their World Cup campaign on an ominous note by blanking Portugal 4-0, but since then has struggled to maintain the same intensity. On the other hand, Brazil's campaign has sputtered and they have just about achieved victory without ever completely dominating their opponents. They have been too reliant on Neymar and his strike partners Hulk & Fred have been largely off-colour. Fred, in particular has been very disappointing. It remains to be seen how Brazil respond to the vacuum created by the absence of Neymar. Their problem is complicated by the forced absence of their captain Thiago Silva. Germany have no such problems to worry about and they are well oiled machine is looking to rev up the final accelerator. Joachim Leow has a golden chance to remedy one blot in his CV – that of not reaching a major final. By the looks of things, Scolari will place David Luiz in Silva’s position and Oscar will move up to a more attacking role in Neymar’s position. Dante/Dani Alves is expected to fill the void in the back-line. There is however, another school of thought suggesting that William/Jo/Bernard will have a presence in the attacking third. Whatever strategy Scolari takes, it is pertinent to have men in position to mount a challenge to the supremely confident German team. Thomas Muller will be a constant threat and if he is neutralized, Klose will be looming to break the record for most number of World Cup finals goals. Bastian Schweinsteiger is an expert operator in the midfield and Oscar & company will have their work cut out to tackle and win balls in the midfield.
By no means will Brazil, however, be a pushover and teams have known to come back and hit hard when they are down – Brazil circa 1962 is a golden example. They need to take spirit from that and be ready to die on the field. Scolari will need to be proactive and ring in the substitutions, Fred has been poor and there may be a case to have Jo/Bernard start upfront. There is also a threat that this match may be marred by rough play – Brazil employed similar tactics against Columbia. The referee needs to be aware of that. All in all, a mouth-watering clash is on offer and football loving public all over the world expect to see a wonderful match.
PS: Being a traditional Brazil fan, I am inclined to say that this will be 2-1 in favour of Brazil!