After three weeks of soccer, we are down to just four teams remaining. The class of the tournament now remains, and it's Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, and Argentina. Four of the top names in international soccer meet over the next two days to determine who will meet at the Maracana on Sunday. Tomorrow will see Argentina play the Netherlands, but today all the focus is on Brazil and Germany.
This game is going to come down to roster decisions on both sides. For Brazil, the question is solitary and obvious: who will replace Neymar? The 22-year-old winger/striker/all-round attacker was the pivotal piece of a Brazilian side that looked for him to provide in the attacking third, and his injury leaves a gaping hole. Look for Brazil to move Chelsea midfielder Oscar into the middle to link defense and attack. Willian - a pacy, direct player who puts pressure on the defense with runs behind the back line - and Bernard - a diminutive winger full of tricks with the ball at his feet - look to be the most likely options to step into the starting eleven.
For Germany, the questions are more technical but no less important. Is Klose the man to lead the line and push Brazil's CB backs deep? If not, will Andre Schurrle be called upon to step into the lineup to try to run behind the defense? And what role should Mesut Ozil have? Germany is undefeated in the tournament, but Coach Jogi Low's strategies have been questioned, especially his deployment of a the waves of talented midfielders the side possesses.
Whoever pulls the right strings in the midfield will likely be the winner today. If Germany's attacking players can push Brazil's defensive line back far enough that their midfielders are afforded time on the ball, the killer pass will eventually come. On the other hand, if Oscar is able to lead the Brazilians in harrying the German side into playing too quickly, the counterattacking opportunities against Germany's paceless defenders will leave goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with plenty of work to do sweeping up behind them.