7 July 2014 15:31
Brazil will be looking to prove that Neymar’s injury did not spell the end of their FIFA World Cup hopes when they lock horns with Germany.
Much has been made of the host nation’s reliance on the Barcelona forward as they strive to be crowned world champions on home soil, but they will have to do without him in Tuesday’s semi-final at Estadio Mineirao.
The sight of Neymar being carried off in the closing stages of Friday’s 2-1 quarter-final win over Colombia overshadowed the fact that Brazil stand just two victories away from World Cup glory.
A collision with Juan Camilo Zuniga left the mercurial 22-year-old with a fractured vertebra, ruling him out for the rest of the tournament and dealing a major blow to Brazil’s hopes.
Brazil will also be without captain Thiago Silva, who serves a one-match ban after being shown his second yellow card of the tournament against Colombia.
Shorn of arguably their two most influential players, Luiz Felipe Scolari will expect the supporting cast to rise to the occasion against a Germany outfit that will take some beating.
Brazil raised their game to see off a Colombia side that had been so impressive en route to the last eight, and Scolari must now fill two major voids as he plots Germany’s downfall in Belo Horizonte.
Chelsea midfielders Willian and Ramires are contenders to replace Neymar, as well as Hernanes and Bernard, while Dante is expected to come in for Thiago at centre-back.
Luiz Gustavo is expected to return in midfield after serving a one-match ban.
Germany came in for criticism following their lacklustre display in the round-of-16 clash against Algeria, but they were far more convincing against France last time out.
The outstanding Mats Hummels scored the only goal of the game with a first-half header as Germany qualified for a fourth successive World Cup semi-final.
Joachim Low has a fully-fit squad at his disposal for the last-four showdown, but knows the hosts pose a major threat to their hopes of reaching a first World Cup final since they lost to Brazil in Yokohama, South Korea, 12 years ago.
“We all know how strong Brazil are,” Low said. “They were the big favourites right from the start and the players have mostly coped with this role outstandingly.
“They underlined at the Confederations Cup last year that the expectation levels lift them further and the pressure doesn’t numb them.
“What they’ve done is good for the whole tournament; it’s good when the hosts go so far, but we’re self-confident and we’ve gelled more as the tournament has progressed.
“We’ll devise a good plan and give Brazil a real fight. The chances are even and it’s going to come down to something really minor [to determine] who reaches the final.”
Either Argentina or the Netherlands will be the opponents for the winners in Sunday’s final at the Maracana.