Four teams. Four nations. The entire world watching. The World Cup Semi-Finals are upon us. History will be made, and we can all be part of it.
On Tuesday, Brazil and Germany will square off to decide which one of them is going to play on Sunday at Maracanã Stadium. These are arguably the two best World Cup nations ever. Together, they will combine for 210 matches at the end of this tournament. If one of them wins, they will combine to win the Cup nine out of twenty times. The three greatest scorers in WC history are from Brazil and Germany. Ronaldo and Klose share the lead with 15 goals, and Gerd Müller comes right behind, with 14.
Even with all that rich history, this is only the second time they meet in a World Cup match. The first one was the 2002 Final at Yokohama Stadium, in Japan. Back then, Brazil were the favorites, and they didn't disappoint, winning 2-0 with two Ronaldo goals and giving the Seleção their fifth championship.
Twelve years later, times have changed a little. Brazil are still one of the best football teams in the world, but they're the underdogs on this one. They probably would've been even if all their stars were available. But the abscence of team captain, Thiago Silva (second yellow card automatic ban) and world superstar Neymar -- back injury, out for the tournament -- hurt the hosts badly. They will enter the Mineirão Stadium with a Mission: Impossible script written all over them. The question is: can they make it a reality?
The German side is having a great tournament. They had little trouble on the Group Stage, had to overcome difficulty on the Round of 16 vs Algeria, but later dominated France in the quarter-final. Every Germany player is having a great time in Brazil -- just look at Lukas Podolski's Twitter feed -- and they were rooting for Brazil to beat Colombia, because they wanted to play this classic to validate their road to the Final. They have no injury issues, they're having a great time and they have a great team. Everything is good for Germany. Will all of this go back to hunt them?
Brazil hopes so. And the numbers are on their favor. These two sides have played against each other 21 times, with twelve Brazil wins and only four (!!!!!!!!!!) Germany triumphs. The last semi-final they played was at the 2005 Confederations Cup, and Brazil beat the hosts 3-2, in an unforgetable thriller.
The hosts of Tuesday's game won't have their leader and their best player. That won't stop 65,000 people to root for them at the stadium, and 200 million more watching at home. That might be the equalizer. If Germany can beat all that, they'll prove, once in for all, why they're World Cup royalty.
Big Phil Scolari tested FIVE different formations in Brazil's practice on Monday. Four of them had Willian replacing Neymar, the most obvious change. All five had Luis Gustavo returning to the lineup, and Dante in place of Thiago Silva. Dani Alves also appeared a couple of times, and don't be surprised if he starts on Tuesday. I might look insane, but there are three strong possibilities for Brazil's lineup, so I'll put all of them:
Brazil (4-1-4-1) - César; Alves, Luiz, Dante, Marcelo; Luis Gustavo; Paulinho, Fernandinho, Oscar, Hulk; Fred
Brazil (4-3-3) - César; Maicon, Luiz, Dante, Marcelo; Luis Gustavo, Fernandinho, Oscar; Willian, Fred, Hulk
Brazil (4-2-3-1) - César; Alves, Luiz, Dante, Marcelo; Luis Gustavo, Fernandinho, Bernard, Oscar, Hulk; Fred
Joachim Löw, as always, doesn't quite know what to do with the three forwards. Özil and Müller are certainties, but the third slot could belong to Klose, Götze or Schürrle. Klose got more practice time, so he might have won the race.
Germany (4-3-3) - Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Hümmels, Höwedes; Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Kroos, Özil, Klose, Müller
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