As we move into the latter stages of the competition, we will look ahead to the enthralling encounters with three key tactical questions that could determine which way this game swings. Arnab Ray here has a look at the Brazil vs Germany World Cup Semi-Final clash.
The quarter-final clash I had most looked forward to was the game between hosts Brazil and their South American counterparts Colombia. In an absurdly physical contest, Brazil booted the Colombian team, and James Rodriguez, out of the tournament to book their place in the semi-finals. Joga bonito it most certainly wasn’t but progression to the next round was secured and the host nation have gotten a step closer to banishing the demons of Maracanazo.
In their way stands a German side which to be honest is the stronger of the 2 sides on paper. And yet Die Mannschaft have flattered to deceive on occasion at this World Cup after their demolition of Portugal in their opening game. There have been question marks over some of Loew’s tactics and whatever the circumstances, the semifinal in front of a boisterous home crowd should be a tough test.
Lahm the right-back or Lahm the central midfielder?
In the build-up to the tournament, the question of where Philip Lahm would play was a topic of much discussion in footballing circles. We’re heading into the last stages of the tournament and here we are once again still trying to see how Loew addresses the question. Loew’s problem has been compounded by a very simple fact: Lahm has been superb in his midfield role under Guardiola and he’s deservedly won much praise for his performances there for Bayern Munich. Thus, it has been tempting for Loew to throw his captain into the heart of midfield.
This has left Jerome Boateng to occupy the right-back position, one that is not unfamiliar to him by any means. However, Boateng’s attacking quality leaves a lot to be desired especially given the inevitable comparisons that can be made between him and Lahm. Even defensively, their wide areas have looked shaky as shown by a Ghana side set-up to play on the counter. The Ghanaians exploited the wide areas effectively as they held the Germans to a draw. The argument for Lahm at right-back is further strengthened when you consider the options that Germany boast of in central midfield. The trio of Khedira, Schweinsteiger and Kroos is a formidable combination of athleticism and technical quality.
In the absence of Neymar and the general ineptitude of Fred, Brazil could well be looking at the wide areas as the means to victory. The left hand side especially will be a key contest with Hulk and Marcelo looking to combine and create overloads on the German right-back whoever he may be. Loew’s decision could well be the difference between the next plane back to Germany and an appointment with greatness at the Maracana.
Will Oscar be the man to fill Neymar’s boots?
Oscar is the highest remaining Talent Radar entry in our list of 25 Young Players to Watch and could well be the man nominated by Scolari to fill the gaping Neymar-shaped hole in the Brazilian line-up. The young Chelsea player has perhaps become a victim of the fact that he is more than willing to put in a shift in terms of the defensive aspect of the game. Both at club and country level, Oscar’s work ethic has been praised and it’s no surprise that he has emerged as a key player for both sides. Neymar was understandably the main main in attack for Brazil but his free role meant a more conservative one for Oscar. Against Colombia too in the absence of the suspended Luiz Gustavo, it was Oscar who was tasked with dropping into deeper central positions as Paulinho joined in with the attack.
With Neymar’s injury though, Oscar might well see himself in the number 10 position behind Fred. This could see Willian or Ramires slot into the right hand side, perhaps the former will get the nod as he would present more of an attacking threat against Howedes. The added benefit of having Oscar in a central role is of course that he can contribute in a defensive capacity and try to shut down the metronomic German midfield from orchestrating proceedings.
The blow of Neymar missing is one that Brazil will feel acutely. In a tournament in which the acceptance of limitations and working with them has seen the likes of the Dutch and Brazil themselves succeed, a similar defensive approach will most likely be deployed. It is no coincidence that all three goals that Brazil have scored in the knockouts have been from set-pieces, something that Germany will be acutely aware of.
To false 9 or not to false 9?
The German side have oscillated between the use of a “genuine” 9 in the form of Miroslav Klose and a false one with the excellent Thomas Muller. Muller of course is a player who is equally adept playing on the right and in the false 9 role and on the other hand what Klose brings to the table is quite obvious given his incredible World Cup scoring record. Loew played Klose in the quarter-finals before he was substituted for Schurrle later in the game.
Muller is one of the most intelligent footballers in the World game and will definitely be Germany’s main attacking player whichever position he is deployed in. The combination of dropping into pockets of space and linking up with his team-mates and his finishing ability in front of goal make him the ideal false 9, if there is such a thing. If Muller is played as a false 9, then he could come up against club teammate Dante who is likely to replace suspended captain Thiago Silva. Yet another potentially intriguing sub-plot.
The repercussions of this decision is not limited to the above mentioned duo as seen in the match against France. The re-jig meant that Ozil had to play on the left with Muller slotting in on the right hand side. While the latter still managed to influence the game, Ozil put in a poor performance and was responsible for the break down of numerous German attacks. The impact of this positional shift on Ozil’s contribution will be another factor that Loew has to take into account.
Thank you for reading. What are your thoughts on the game and do you see some other important questions that need addressing? Let us know with a comment below. Please share this piece through one of the buttons below, you don’t have to but we’d appreciate it if you do!