Rio, Brazil. In Rome it’s often said, No Totti no party, well same applies in Brazil, no Neymar no Samba party. The World Cup party however would go on without Neymar and its Semi-final day, Brazil v Germany and Argentina v Netherlands.
Brazil came through what was meant to be their most difficult test yet against Columbia in the Quarter-final albeit after a late scare from James Rodriguez. The match was as physical as it could possibly get with both teams adopting a strong approach against both Rodriguez and Neymar with the later suffering a broken vertebra in his back ruling him out for the rest of the competition. With Neymar out fear is Brazil would fail to tick, while that might be a little closer to the truth it is far from reality. The Germans are as good a team as there is in the competition, no single outstanding player carrying the whole team, everyone working together as a unit. That’s what Brazil need in the Semi-final, a team effort. With Neymar chances are we would get an individual effort with a supporting cast from the rest of the team. The match in the Round of 16 against Chile was a perfect example, a physical approach from Chile should have prompted the Brazilians to play as a team….well that didn’t happen, Neymar still held on to the ball and got his knee and thighs bruised. Now against Germany they would be forced to play as a team and divert attention elsewhere, makes for a fascinating contest. Key for the Brazilians would be defender and Captain for the day David Luiz, with Thiago Silva suspended the onus is on Luiz to lead the defence and team. And also Oscar, with Neymar absent he is the only one with the skills to drive the Brazilians forward and cause Manuel Neuer problems.
The Germans are as consistent as they get, making it to their record 4th straight semi-final of the World Cup. The only problem is they have not made it to the final since 1990, that’s 24years ago. There has always been a missing link and it doesn’t appear to be fixed. In the competition so far, they have only convinced against Portugal, struggling somewhat with Ghana, the USA, Algeria and France. The match with Brazil poses a different kind of obstacle, the host nation with a whole country behind them. Key for the Germans would be top scorer Thomas Muller and Goalkeeper sweeper and False 5 Manuel Neuer. Neuer is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world with fantastic performances all tournament, he would need another against the Brazilians.
The Brazilians should be too much for the Germans especially on home soil with their speed and skill causing them problems. The Germans however do have a stronger midfield but would find it difficult to control if Fernandinho plays like he did against Columbia. Brazil might scrape through but Neuer would have other ideas.
Second Semi-final pitches Argentina against Netherland. Lionel Messi has finally begun to live up to his talent on the international stage with 4 goals so far in the tournament and a bunch of assists. He has led his team with inspiring performances and would again be key against the Dutch. With Angel Di Maria out as well, focus would shift unto Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi to support Messi and take their chances when it comes.
The Netherlands have a new king in Louis Van Gaal, much credited for his decision to bring in Tim Krul for the penalty shoot out against Costa Rica. Krul made two saves and all hail Van Gaal. The Dutch would be looking for a repeat performance in the 2010 World Cup, were they made it to the final and lost to Spain. Here however they would be looking to go one better and actually win the competition.
They have been inspiring so far in the competition beating Spain, Chile and Australia, however they came unstuck against Mexico and Costa Rica needing two goals in the last two minutes against the former and penalties against the latter. Key for them has been talisman Arjen Robben who is the Netherlands answer to Lionel Messi. All his skill would be required against an Argentine defence that struggled somewhat against Nigeria.
Expect a cagey affair with both teams feeling each other out and then the match exploding into life late on, Robben being to hot to handle for the Argentine defence and the Dutch midfield winning the day. Messi on the other hand, looking for that one moment to change the whole landscape.
In conclusion the semi- final is going to be an interesting affair for different reasons, Neymar out, Messi so close to fulfilling the only dream left on his resume, the Dutch looking to banish past painful memories at the World Cup and Germany looking to avoid the tags of the nearly men. Whatever happens hold on tight to your seat belts and enjoy the ride.