Your daily World Cup tip sheet for who’s playing when, and what to watch for. We'll deliver a new briefing the evening before every game day, setting up the matches and pinpointing the underlying storylines.
Losing a star player tends to have an impact a team in one of two ways: it serves as a galvanizing rallying call on the way to victory or provides a convenient excuse for the losses that follow.
This is where Brazil finds itself after striker Neymar suffered a broken vertebra in the quarter-finals against Columbia. The face of the tournament is gone, leaving a gaping hole in the Seleção attack. Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari will also be without suspended captain Thiago Silva, so his lineup decision for this rematch of the 2002 final will be closely scrutinized. Dante would seem to be the natural replacement for Silva on defence given his familiarity with German soccer. A Bundesliga player since 2008, Dante could slot in beside David Luiz in the back four and feel right at home trying to shut down the likes of Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose. Trying to replace Neymar’s creativity and finishing (four goals in the tournament) is an impossible task, leaving Scolari little choice but to hope that Hulk and Fred can rediscover their touch around the net.
The Germans have been their typical clinical and efficient selves, finding a way to get the job done against Algeria and France in the knockout stage without ever looking to be in serious danger of exiting the tournament. Manager Joachim Loew doesn’t have any roster concerns heading into the semi-final and sounds confident."This is a highlight now; it's something special and amazing. I'm looking forward to it so much, and everybody in the squad is too,” he said in an interview with the German Football Association. “I think all Germans are also, and one thing's for sure - we desperately want to play in the Maracana in Rio again. On July 13. We're not done yet.”