The World Cup is coming to an end and unlike in 2010, most people will be sad to see this one end.
The first semi-final will be contested between the hosts and seemingly everyone’s second team, Brazil, and the clinical, efficient Germany.
On paper, especially pre-tournament, most people would have expected Brazil to go through after a tough game. Now however, Germany are the ones we expect to reach the final after reaching three World Cup semi-finals in a row.
Brazil are without two players, but they are not just any two players. They are about as close to irreplaceable as you can get.
Defender Thiago Silva, who was booked and received a yellow card to rule him out of the match after a needless challenge, and talisman and attacking star Neymar, who has a back injury so severe that we were told the player could not feel his legs in the immediate aftermath of the injury.
Now to lose one of these is a headache for Luiz Felipe Scolari. To lose both is an out and out disaster. If a team cannot defend, they can always rely on a sublime goal to save them and make the difference. If they cannot score, they have the chance to keep a clean sheet and steal one on the break.
What is the procedure then if you do not bank on doing either? Scolari will have to come up with that answer before kick-off and it will have to be better than praying to the heavens or expecting the home support to see them though.
There is no question that two players will have to have the game of their lives. David Luiz and Oscar have to stand up and be counted now more than ever – Luiz especially as a defender, not just as someone who scores cracking free kicks and marauds forward seeking a freedom Braveheart would be proud of from the confines of the back four.
Both had mixed seasons with Chelsea and Luiz now faces a future as the world’s most expensive defender – insert joke here – and life in Ligue 1. Oscar meanwhile has some serious work to do should he want to enhance his reputation from being a very skilled player who works hard and can be utter magic but fades in and out of games far too much to that of world class star.
Others of course have their part to play. Julio Cesar will need to be on his toes against the likes of Thomas Muller and the German attack, with the side showing that goals come from just about everywhere in their team from the defenders right the way through.
Marcelo has experience at the very highest level and will need to remember that bombing forward might look nice, but against Germany he has to be just as potent when defending. The fact that he will remind half the German side about their drubbing at the hands of Real Madrid last season will not hurt either.
The midfield, whoever Scolari choses to select, will have to do their jobs and standing up to Bastian Schweinsteiger and co is a much harder task than anything the hosts have encountered before. Both Chile and Columbia base their game on expansive, attacking football, using the width of the field and their outrageously talented forwards.
Germany are different. They are harder to break down. They wait for space and a chance on the counter if need be and will exploit the space left by the two full backs should they move forward and leave that room in behind. The wingers for Brazil will have to do their job tracking back too and help both Marcelo and should he regain his place in the line-up, Dani Alves.
Willian looks like coming in and taking the space Neymar has left vacant – and the Chelsea winger will feel he can step up and make the difference. Deploying Oscar in the number ten role and Willian out wide seems the most likely option and one that will pay dividends for Brazil. Willian is a worker. He will track back and make those tackles – he runs and runs. He tends not to fade in and out of a game either, no matter how lacking his forward play is, he will try and intercept and get the ball back in his own penalty area if need be.
The real worry for Brazil is the fact that Hulk, Jo and Fred are God awful. Fred has a record of scoring big goals when they matter most, but on the showing of this World Cup, that time has been and gone. What a way then to answer his critics if the forward can score and send Brazil though to the final.
Hulk looks overweight – there is no other way to put it – and walked a tightrope with his yellow card situation against Columbia. Jo meanwhile is an utter liability and quite how he made the squad when certain others were left at home is a mystery only Scolari seems to know the answer to.
It may come down to a single goal from a set play. This is a Brazil side who are the least ‘Brazil’ we have seen for many years, with tough tackling tactics and hoofing the ball used a fair bit – and they may moan about some of the tackles Columbia put in, but in reality they were just as suspect and set the tone for the whole game five minutes in.
It is the time for heroes and villains. Brazil will just be hoping they have more of the former than the latter come the full time whistle being blown.
Footyettes. Who do you think will come out on top tonight? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.