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Jul 6, 2014

Brazil vs. Germany: 50-50 Challenge

BrazilBrazil
GermanyGermany
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7
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Brazil have been rocked by Neymar's back injury, while Thiago Silva will also miss the match through suspension.

Brazil are one step away from reaching the World Cup final in the Maracana -- and a shot at redemption following the Maracanazo in 1950. Germany, however, stand in their way after reaching a record fourth semifinal in a row. Jack Lang (Brazil) and Susie Schaaf (Germany) preview the showdown in Belo Horizonte.

Sum up your tournament so far

Jack Lang: Brazil have reached the last four but the journey has not been nearly as smooth as many predicted. Below par in the group stage -- aside from the second half against a Cameroon side with nothing to play for -- the Selecao then put their fans through the wringer with a tense, emotionally charged triumph over Chile in the round of 16.

Brazil finally found their stride in the first half against Colombia but the positivity dissipated with the news that Neymar had broken a vertebra. The country has felt like it is in mourning ever since.

Susie Schaaf: Pleasantly surprised. After a fairytale start in Group G with the demolishing of Portugal, Germany were forced to get down to the nitty-gritty with a draw against a tough Ghana side and a 1-0 win over a resilient United States.

Algeria were a real scare but coach Joachim Low steadied the ship with a clinical defensive performance over France. Low and his mature core group of players are more flexible these days and have found different ways to win.

World Cup history between the two countries

JL: Despite having 24 semifinal appearances between them in World Cups, Brazil and Germany have met only once on the biggest stage. Fittingly, it came in the final in 2002, when a Ronaldo-inspired Selecao put the ghost of 1998 to bed with a comfortable 2-0 win over the tournament hosts. Luiz Felipe Scolari will be looking for a repeat of that as he closes in on his second title.

SS: These two sides, plus Italy, are the most successful internationally and as Jack says, it's strange Brazil and Germany have not met more often.

The final in 2002 handed Brazil their fifth World Cup while Germany's wait continued. They haven't won it since 1990, while Brazil also got the better hand of Tuesday's opponents in the Confederations Cup in 1999 and 2005.

What are your expectations for the rest of the tournament?

JL: It felt like the real Brazil had arrived at the World Cup during the first half against Colombia, with Scolari's men at last finding some momentum and suffocating their opponents.

Expectation levels for the semifinal were tempered, however, when captain Silva picked up a silly yellow card, meaning he is suspended against Germany. Then came Neymar's heartbreak, which robs Brazil of their best player and talisman. Without those two, winning this one will be a tough task.

- Duarte: Neymar injury tournament's loss

SS:  During the build-up to the World Cup, I said I thought Germany would lose to Brazil in the semifinals. There were so many off-field issues and fitness problems to contend with, I thought Low's men would eventually come undone. Then the tournament actually started and now I'd like to amend what I'd previously stated.

Unrelenting dominance over Portugal and a measured "typically German" 90 minutes over France suggests Germany are in ominous form.

Low has surprised many with his smart substitutions and prudent tactical changes. He is helped by having a fully fit squad to choose from, and I find myself taken in by the thought that Brazil are beatable.

Key battle

JL: With both sides strong at the back and lacking firepower in the penalty area, this game is likely to be decided in midfield. With Philipp Lahm returned to full-back, Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira ran the show against France and provide a perfect balance of control, energy and defensive diligence.

Scolari could opt to replace Neymar with Willian, which would mean a more central role for Oscar. Alternatively, he could restore Luiz Gustavo alongside Fernandinho and Paulinho.

That trio, while lacking the star quality of their Germany counterparts, would at least give Brazil a little more clout in the centre of the pitch.

SS: Dante and David Luiz versus Thomas Muller. Silva's suspension is a huge setback and it'll be up to his centre-back teammate David Luiz to try to tame mercurial Muller, with a little help from Dante.

The versatile forward (who started on the right wing against France) has mostly been used in a more central attacking role throughout this World Cup.

Dante and Muller may be teammates at club level but he won't be able to read the Bayern Munich man's game, according to fellow Bayern star Schweinsteiger: "We know Dante very well and know the strengths and weaknesses he has. Of course, he also knows how we play -- except for Thomas Muller. Even we never know that, exactly."

- Honigstein: Germany come of age

Prediction

JL: Brazil 1-2 Germany. I think Brazil will come out fighting despite key absences, perhaps taking an early lead. But Germany have greater quality in important areas and could put an end to the hosts' World Cup hopes in Belo Horizonte.

SS: The loss of Neymar will be felt keenly in Scolari's side but Silva's suspension is likely to disrupt them even more. The tournament hosts, however, have the support of an entire nation behind them.

It's a tough ask to play the home team so far along in the competition, but I think Germany-- should they retain their defensive composure -- can win. I'll go for a 2-0 or 2-1 victory, with goals from Muller and Miroslav Klose.

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