By Ken Boehlke
Brazil vs. Germany (A1 vs. G1)
2 way line – Brazil PK (-110) Germany PK (-110)
3 way line – Brazil (+175) Germany (+165) Draw (+225)
Outright Winner – Brazil (-105) Germany (-115)
Total – Over 2 (-130) Under 2 (+110)
Side: The Brazilians keep marching on, but their last match took a major toll on the hosts. The terrible injury to Neymar which has him out for the remainder of the World Cup coupled with the yellow card accumulation suspension for Thiago Silva has the Seleção wondering where they are going to turn. Both are devastating blows for Brazil as they now must find a new focal point on the offense and have to replace half of the dominant central defense that is a huge reason why the Brazilians are still alive. However, the injury has completely changed the expectations on the pre-tournament favorites. Now they are seen as a slight underdog to Germany, and the country who came into the tournament preaching a win-or-bust mentality suddenly have the pressure lifted. Therefore, it may allow them to play a more free-flowing game like the Brazil of old rather than the somewhat subdued version that’s shown up so far. It’s more than likely that Dante will be the man who takes Thiago Silva’s place, which is obviously a dropoff, but not one Brazil cannot overcome, but it’s the decision on who plays in place of Neymar that could ultimately determine the outcome of the match.
Brazil is well known as a side that loves to play on the front foot, put pressure on their opponent, and use creative play in the final third to break down even the best defense, but with their superstar sidelined, it may be best to choose a more defensive minded side. Bringing on Willian or Bernard would provide just that. Even though each of those players is an attacking threat, they both have the ability to track back and defend which Jô would not. Another benefit to using a midfielder is that it leaves an attacker on the bench as a possible sub in the event that the Brazilians fall behind. As for the matchup with the Germans, it actually sets up pretty well for Brazil. Teams that have played at a high pace have given Germany problems thus far. Obviously Brazil cannot play at the same pace without Neymar, but they still should be able to bang the ball around the midfield quickly and then release down the flanks. Fernandinho, Oscar and Paulinho should be able to control the ball through the center, and it’s possible that without the Neymar-centric focus they’ve had, it may allow Hulk and Fred more opportunities. As long as the defense can hold it’s shape they should be able to slow down the German attack that still doesn’t look completely comfortable with the false-nine or Miroslav Klose leading the attack. It’s possible the loss of Neymar completely derails Brazil, but it’s also very possible they ban together and play an even more inspired game. Plus, there’s still that stat that says the Brazilians simply don’t lose in Brazil (last loss in 1975) and European sides still can’t seem to get it right against South Americans in this World Cup.
The German machine returned in the quarterfinal match with France. Germany did not look particularly great in the match, but at the same time they were in control for just about the entire 90 minutes. The reason they controlled the match so easily was due to their dominance of the midfield. After scoring early they stopped pressing forward as much as was to be expected. However, the Germans completely took the French attack out of the game by not allowing them any time on the ball to send it up to Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezman. A similar tactic must be deployed if they want to keep the dangerous Brazilians away from the net. Germany has to get good performances out of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos. Both must maintain possession of the ball and frustrate Brazil’s midfield. In the matches against Algeria and Ghana, two teams that took the game to Germany, the German defense was exposed over the top and down the wings. Brazil is not a team that plays a lot of long high balls, but they do switch the field of play very well and can catch Germany out of position if the Germans aren’t careful. The good news for Germany is their style of attack should neutralize the dominance of David Luiz in the center of the Brazilian defense. Brazil has done a solid job of slowing down strikers through the center, but dealing with Thomas Müller is a different story. The randomness in the positioning of Müller’s runs may cause problems for the now make-shift Brazilian defense. All Germany has to do is catch Dante out of position one time and they will find the net. Finally, the Germans have to find a way to take the 12th man out of the match as early as they can. It’s most easily done by scoring, but with the fragile state in which Brazilian supporters are in, it may only take a couple extended spells of possession. If they can do it, Germany can control the match and use their clinical style to grind down Brazil, but if they don’t they’ll feel like they are playing against 22 men instead of the 11 that are actually on the field. Pick: Outright Winner – Brazil (-105)
Total: The losses of Neymar and Thiago Silva should actually offset each other when it comes to predicting a total number of goals. The game will likely be played mostly in the neutral third as both teams boast stellar midfield players. However, each team believes they have a shot to take advantage of the weaknesses of their opponent’s defense. The Germans will utilize Thomas Müller as a conduit from the midfield into the attacking third and then he’ll have the task of setting up his teammates or receiving the return ball and finishing. As for Brazil, they will have to control the ball in their midfield and then launch attacks through the wings. Hulk, who’s had a tough tournament, must play even better than he did in his best game of the tournament against Colombia. Hulk is the rare combination of speed and strength that could cause either Philipp Lahm or Shkodran Mustafi problems. Also, Fred has to come out of the shell he’s been in thus far and return to his Confederations Cup 2013 self. The Brazilian attack can no longer rely on Neymar, so they will have to play together as a unit to break down this solid German defense. Both teams have done an excellent job defensively through the first two knockout round matches, but the loss of Silva and the matchup problems Brazil will cause for the German defense will lead this one to be an open, exciting match. Pick: Over 2 goals (-130)