The various permutations for the World Cup final make for intriguing discussions – in an ideal FIFA world, they’re probably hoping for a clash of the South American titans, Brazil v Argentina. If the diplomats have their way, it will be Brazil v Netherlands or Germany v Argentina (please, no). But given the law of coincidence often delivers the unlikely in football, Germany v Netherlands – exactly 40 years after the two nations met in Munich, will be a classic. I am sure that this has not been lost on the Dutch, who have been waiting four decades to get their revenge on the Germans.
However, Germany have to beat the host nation to make this a reality, and emotions will be running high on Tuesday night in Belo Horizonte. With Neymar sidelined and Thiago Silva injured, the Brazilians have been shorn of their two best players. They have been very much a one-man show and without the talismanic Barcelona player, Brazil will look very workmanlike.
Brazil’s approach to this competition has confirmed once and for all that “jogo bonito” died in Italy in 1982. You can thank Paulo Rossi for that. It’s more Dunga than Didi.
Brazil have not convinced anyone in their five games so far. Only against Cameroon have they demonstrated their heritage, and let’s face it, that is not much to boast about. Against Croatia, they were scruffy, but had to thank Neymar; against Mexico they were a blunt instrument; they were downright lucky against Chile; and Colombia were only marginally beaten. They have complained about the treatment of Neymar, yet their own handling of James Rodriguez was, at times, brutal. And Fernandinho was lucky to stay on the pitch.
1970 legend Tostao has said in public that Brazil have two tactics: 1 – give it to Neymar; 2- give it to Neymar. It doesn’t bode well..
Brazil’s road to Belo Horizonte
Croatia W 3-1 (Neymar 2, Oscar)
Mexico D 0-0
Cameroon W 4-1 (Neymar 2, Fred, Fernandinho)
R/16 – Chile D 1-1 (Luiz) won on pens
QF – Colombia W 2-1 (Thiago Silva, Luiz)
Appearances (including sub apps.)
5- Julio Cesar, Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Oscar, Neymar, Fred, Ramires ; 4- Alves, Paulinho, Gustavo, Hulk, Luiz; 3- Willian, Fernandinho; 2- Hernanes, Bernard, Jo; 1- Henrique, Maicon
Germany, with the exception of the opening game against Portugal, have been underwhelming at times. But as always, they are professional in the extreme, efficient and economical with their mistakes. They have a lack of firepower – a country of their standing should not be relying on a veteran like Klose for goals (although he has done it again!). But they have players that can run at, and get behind a defence, like Ozil, Mueller and Schurrle, who has looked good in his appearances as substitute.
Given that Brazil’s defence is lacking the excellent Silva, Ozil and Mueller could prove to be the hosts’ undoing.
Germany’s road to Belo Horizonte
Portugal W 4-0 (Mueller 3, Hummels)
Ghana D 2-2 (Goetze, Klose)
USA W 1-0 (Mueller)
R/16 – Algeria W 2-1 (Schurrrle, Ozil)
QF – France W 1-0 (Hummels)
Appearances (including sub apps)
5- Neuer, Boateng, Howedes, Lahm, Ozil, Goetze, Kroos, Mueller; 4- Khedira, Hummels, Schurrle, Mertesacker, Schweinsteiger; 3- Mustafi, Klose; 2- Kramer, Podolski
Surprisingly, Brazil and Germany have met just once before in World Cup action, and that was the 2002 final in Japan.
Brazil have been on this “date of destiny” trip since the competition started and there’s something a little presumptious about it all. They used to be everyone’s second favourite team, but this attitude of “we are on a journey to win the World Cup” is starting to grate. That said, their route to the final is all become a little inevitable, and having disposed of Chile and Colombia, both teams that are arguably better than Scolari’s selection, the tidal wave of emotion will be expected to take them over the penultimate hurdle. But never, never write-off Germany. It will be a tense night and all we can ask for is an exciting semi-final to compensate for a lousy batch of quarter-final ties.