Four of the best: World Cup Semi-Finals preview

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So, we are left with in theory the best four international teams on the planet. Argentina, Brazil, Germany and The Netherlands. All four will play two more games, but which pair will compete in the third place play-off and which duo will face off in the final? Read previews of the two semi-finals below, a stage where all four will definately be competing.

Tuesday

Brazil vs Germany – 9pm GMT – Belo Horizonte

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The hosts are without their captain and star player, but looked to be back to their best against a strong Colombia side in the quarter-finals. Can Germany, who beat France in the last round, spoil the party?

The Key Battle: Hulk vs Philipp Lahm

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If Hulk does indeed get switched to the left wing to feel the void left by Neymar, this may be Brazil’s best form of attack. The Zenit St Petersburg forward has had a quiet World Cup so far but if he wants to leave a name on this tournament here’s a match he needs to step up if his country are to remain in the competition.

The loss of Neymar is a huge one for Phil Scolari’s side, meaning the pressure on Hulk is possibly even bigger than the burden the Barcelona forward faced.

Joachim Löw made a big call by moving captain Philipp Lahm from midfield to full-back for the France quarter-final, but his decision paid off, and everything felt more solid and more logical in defence.

They may not have Neymar to deal with in Belo Horizonte, but that doesn’t mean that the danger is gone. The German defence will have to be on their guard throughout the match, something which skipper Lahm will need to monitor and take control of.

Team News

Brazil

  • Neymar will miss the rest of the tournament due to a back injury suffered in the 2-1 win over Colombia on Friday, so Willian should start in his absence, though the Chelsea ace is a doubt.
  • Thiago Silva is suspended having been booked against Colombia with Dante expected to come in alongside David Luiz at centre-back.
  • Luiz Gustavo returns from suspension and should take Paulinho’s place in midfield.
  • Dani Alves is also in line for a return to the back four having dropped to the bench in favour of Maicon against Colombia.

Germany

  • Miroslav Klose will likely drop to the bench following an underwhelming performance against France.
  • André Schürrle may get the nod ahead of Mario Götze to start in the attack alongside Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller.
  • Joachim Löw is expected to persist with the same defence which comfortably held France on Friday, meaning Per Mertesacker will be forced to settle for a spot on the bench.
  • Shkodran Mustafi is injured and will miss out.

Previous Meetings: Brazil wins = 12 / Germany wins = 4 / Draws = 6

Last Meeting: Germany 3-2 Brazil (10th August 2011)

In a game dominated by a resurgent German side, all five goals were scored in the last half an hour of this international friendly in Stuttgart. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s penalty opened the scoring after Toni Kroos had been fouled in the box, whilst Mario Gotze’s superb finish from an impossible angle doubled the Germans’ lead. Brazil then won a penalty of their own, which Robinho converted coolly, before Andre Schurrle restored the two goal lead for the Europeans. In the dying embers of the game, Neymar pulled another back for Brazil but they couldn’t find an equalizer.

Stat of the match

Brazil and Germany have played more World Cup matches than any other side (102 and 104 respectively), but have only met once before at the tournament. That was the 2002 final, won 2-0 by the Brazilians.

Where can I watch it?: BBC One

My Prediction: Brazil 0-2 Germany

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Wednesday

Argentina vs Netherlands – 9pm GMT – Sao Paulo

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Whereas an early goal was enough to see Argentina through their quarter-final, The Netherlands were taken all the way to penalties by the stubborn Costa Ricans, where they won 4-3, thanks to the goalkeeping heroics of Tim Krul, brought on as a substitute in the last seconds of extra time.

The Key Battle: Marcos Rojo vs Arjen Robben

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After missing the quarter-final tie with Belgium through suspension, Marcos Rojo will likely come straight back into the Argentina defence and hopefully pick up before he left off.

Before his absence, he played in all four of Argentina’s games and scored one goal, picking up one of the three Argentina scored against Nigeria in the final group game. At the back, in his four games played, the South Americans conceded just three goals and kept two clean sheets.

Rojo likes to attack, running up and down the left wing all of the time, something which has attracted Premier League interest in the form of Liverpool and Chelsea, the latter of whom Arjen Robben, Rojo’s probable opponent in Sao Paulo, played for earlier in his career.

Although the Dutchman was a key player in the majority of his time at Stamford Bridge, it has been in the last few years where has really excelled, whilst Brazil has also seen the 30 year old at his magical best.

With three goals and one assist in five games, Robben has been the star man in Louis Van Gaal’s side, and will no doubt continue to be thanks to the confidence that both he and his manager have in him.

Able to take on and beat defenders at the drop of a hat, Robben’s ability to get to the byline and deliver in accurate crosses or cut inside a bend a shot into the far corner instills fear into any defence.

Team News

Argentina

  • Argentina will have to do without the injured Ángel Di María, though the Real Madrid-man is hoping to be fit should Sabella’s side progress to the final.
  • Sergio Agüero should be fit enough to come back into contention, but may struggle to regain his place after a poor start to the tournament.
  • Martín Demichelis should keep his place ahead of Federico Fernandez at the back, while Marcos Rojo returns from suspension and should replace Jose Maria Basanta on the left.

Netherlands

  • Nigel de Jong remains sidelined, while fellow midfielder Leroy Fer was not among the substitutes against Costa Rica due to injury.
  • Louis van Gaal was lauded for bringing on Tim Krul for Netherlands’ penalty shoot-out victory over Costa Rica but Jasper Cillessen will keep his place in goal in normal time.
  • Ron Vlaar is a slight doubt with a knee problem so Joel Veltman could come into contention, or a switch to a flat back four is possible.

Previous Meetings: Argentina wins = 1 / Netherlands wins = 4 / Draws = 3

Last Meeting: Netherlands 0-0 Argentina (21st June 2006)

With both teams guaranteed a place in the knockout stages of the 2006 World Cup, they played out a 0-0 in the final game of Group C in Germany, meaning the Argentines topped the group on goal difference.They came closest to scoring when Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz deflected a Juan Roman Riquelme free-kick on to the post.

Stat of the match

The Netherlands have had seven different goalscorers at this World Cup – more than any team.

Where can I watch it?: ITV

My Prediction: Argentina 3-1 Netherlands (aet)

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