MATCHDAY PREVIEW – For the first time in FIFA World Cup™ history, both semi-finals at Brazil 2014 will conjure memories of showpiece games from years gone by.
The Netherlands will tackle Argentina on Wednesday eager to avenge their Final loss in 1978, when La Albiceleste prevailed 3-1 after extra time on home soil. Before that, however, the honour of raising the curtain on the last-four stage goes to a pair of global giants, with five-time winners Brazil keen to repeat their triumph at Korea/Japan 2002, where Ronaldo and Co lifted the Trophy after downing three-time champions Germany 2-0.
Brazil now stand on the verge of another decider courtesy of a 2-1 success against Colombia. It was their most probing display of the competition so far, yet the hosts have been gripped by doubt ever since. The sight of Neymar leaving the pitch on a stretcher had Seleção fans biting their nails, and their worst fears were promptly confirmed when the gifted talisman was ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a fractured vertebra.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari must now choose between a like-for-like replacement and a tactical rethink, and his problems do not end there either. The suspension of captain Thiago Silva ought to mean Dante filling in at the back, and though the Bayern Munich stopper will know the opposition well, the hosts are hardly in prime shape as they vie to clinch a spot in the Maracana Final.
As for Germany, they have been building confidence with every passing victory, even if they lack their trademark air of invincibility. Joachim Low's side have been drawing strength from an ironclad defence, and they have looked even sturdier in that department since Philipp Lahm's return to right-back from midfield.
It is telling, too, that a quartet of Germany players feature in a list of the tournament's ten most prolific passers, with Lahm leading the way on 471 ahead of Toni Kroos (450), Per Mertesacker (324) and Jerome Boateng (315). With belief coursing back through their veins, Die Nationalmannschaft are now focused on going all the way.
Brazil-Germany, Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 17.00 (local time)
Did you know?
Last-four regulars: Germany have become the first team to reach four consecutive World Cup semi-finals, their run having started when they succumbed 2-0 to Brazil in the 2002 showpiece. They subsequently lost 2-0 to Italy after extra time at the last-four stage in 2006, before going down 1-0 to Spain in the same round four years ago – on each occasion losing to the eventual winners.
Dangerous defenders: Germany centre-back Mats Hummels has scored twice at Brazil 2014, registering against Portugal and France to become the first World Cup defender to manage a pair of goals since Korea Republic's Lee Jung-Soo in 2010. West Germany full-back Paul Breitner set the overall benchmark with a trio of efforts in 1974.
Klose encounters: Miroslav Klose will make history as the first player to contest four successive World Cup semi-finals if he takes to the field against Brazil. The Germany striker has graced this stage in the last three editions, putting him level with compatriot Uwe Seeler, while he has also appeared in 22 finals games. That places him ahead of Seeler, Diego Maradona and Poland's Wladyslaw Zmuda on the all-time list, and he can overtake Paolo Maldini (23) in second spot before the tournament ends – though Lothar Matthaus (25) lies just out of reach.
Victory machine: Brazil celebrated their 70th World Cup win in 102 games when they defeated Colombia in the quarter-finals. No team has posted more victories at this level, with upcoming opponents Germany their nearest rivals on 64.
Scolari success: Luiz Felipe Scolari has a record in his sights after overseeing his 14th World Cup win in the previous round. The Colombia success was Felipão's third in the current edition, following four with Portugal in 2006 and seven at the Brazil helm in 2002. That lifted him clear of former Seleção coach Mario Zagallo, who managed 13 victories in three World Cups – and just two shy of Helmut Schon's 16 wins for West Germany from 25 games over four editions.
Thiago Silva (BRA)
Treading the tightrope on one yellow card
Check it out
With Germany now just one step from the Final, FIFA sat down for a long chat with Matthaus, the last Nationalmannschaft skipper to lift the Trophy. The iconic former midfielder is optimistic about the current side's chances, urging Low's men to "bring the title home".
FIFA.com also spent time with David Luiz, who has emerged as the second most popular player in the Brazil squad behind Neymar. Impeccable on the pitch, the colourful centre-back has lit up the tournament thanks to his charismatic personality and ever-present smile.
Germany and Brazil may seem to be separated by more than an ocean, but, as FIFA.com recently discovered, links between the nations are legion, particularly in the realm of football. Take a closer look at the shared history of the two semi-final rivals.
On this day
Beaten 3-2 by Final opponents Argentina in Mexico's Estadio Azteca on 29 June 1986, West Germany were able to savour sweet revenge four years later on 8 July 1990. Facing the same side in the Rome showpiece, the Germans downed Carlos Bilardo's troops 1-0 to clinch their third World Cup title. Franz Beckenbauer won the tactical battle at the Stadio Olimpico, tasking the tenacious Guido Buchwald with the job of muzzling Maradona. Argentina's danger man had enjoyed a warm welcome in Naples five days earlier, despite ousting Italy with the decisive spot-kick following a 1-1 draw, but it was a completely different story in the capital. Singled out by the Olimpico crowd, Maradona struggled to keep his cool in a match decided by Andreas Brehme's 85th-minute penalty, while Argentina ended the game with nine men. For Beckenbauer, the victory earned him a second World Cup crown to go with the title he won as a player in 1974 – and he became only the second coach to triumph in both roles, Zagallo having steered Brazil to glory in 1970 after prevailing on the pitch in 1958 and 1962.
Play and win
You may not be the first person to kick one of these coveted balls, but your excitement will surely be unmatched if you are lucky enough to do it! Sponsored by adidas, the Kick-Off Ball Contest is your chance to win the actual Brazuca ball used in Germany's meeting with the hosts, following similar competitions for every game so far at Brazil 2014. So, come on – what are you waiting for?
We are ready for tomorrow!!! Let's go Germany!!! All together!! pic.twitter.com/PMz9q84Yc1
— André Schürrle (@Andre_Schuerrle) July 8, 2014