Tuesday 8th July, Belo Horizonte
Match odds: Brazil @13/8, Draw @11/5, Germany @19/10
The first Semi final appears to be incredibly tough to call, for different reasons. Firstly, much has been made of the absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva from the host’s line-up, and although they have the crowd on their side as the ‘twelfth man’ they will miss the leadership and defensive ability of Silva. Despite what people say, Dante (his replacement), isn’t on the same sort of level at reading danger and commanding his position as Thiago Silva. Neymar’s energy and ability to take the ball and run with it, past defenders, and almost scaring them into committing the foul is also a big loss because now they have to look elsewhere for that drive towards the opposition penalty area, and they need a new spark to instigate their attacks. This is why many people feel Germany have the edge and can cause an upset to the local fans and host nation.
However, after seeing Brazil take on Colombia in the manner they did, I think that Brazil have the team ability and passion as a collective to win the game. In such a tight game, I think this extra belief and spirit will give them that bit of extra energy to take them over the line. For all his critics and potential positional weaknesses, I think David Luiz is going to be a pretty inspirational captain on the night – he shows so much dedication and focus during the game, and this should rub off on the team. Germany will go in as a lot of people’s favourites, despite perhaps not being overwhelming in their play so far. It might be difficult for Brazil to expose Loew’s weaknesses, but one of which will be the pack of pace in behind – which the wing-backs Marcelo and Alves (or Maicon) could look to exploit down the flanks. One question to be answered is the make-up of the German defence – will Lahm be shifted back into midfield or will he stay at right-back where he looked comfortable against France, despite Loew’s unwillingness to lose him from the central midfield role.
The general consensus here is that not many goals will go in. It does seem that way from what we’ve seen so far and what the knock-out stages have provided us with up to this point. With both sides seeming quite resilient and determined, it is very easy to see this one going to extra-time. Brazil to win in extra-time @10/1 seems like good value to me because firstly, if it gets to 90mins or so with the scores level then both teams would want to risk very little and ET would probably be settled for. Brazil would then edge it as slight favourites for me because of the home advantage, but again it is very tough to call. If you want to gamble, then I would think about a goal in the first half and because of the close nature of the game, I’ll look to the half-time/full-time market. Germany/Draw @16/1 in ht/ft seems like good value here, providing there is an early goal, maybe just as plausible as Brazil/Draw as we saw in the host’s last game where they took the lead early against Colombia and conceded late – albeit winning 2-1.
Both sides have looked threatening from set-pieces. Hummels showed in the last round against France that he loves a header, and without the continuity and organisation of Thiago Silva in the Brazilian centre-back pairing tonight, they could be vulnerable. Then again, Dante and David Luiz are equally adept at scoring balls into the box. However, in terms of value, I would favour David Luiz to score first @20/1, purely because of the added threat from direct free-kicks, like we saw against Colombia. If anyone is going to want to be in the box looking for a header from a corner in a game like this, then its makeshift captain David Luiz. Plus, if it is to be a low scoring game, the first goal could well be deep into the second half.