Brazil count cost of Colombia clash, but set up Germany game
For what it’s worth, nobody scored in the World Cup quarter-final all-America clash between tournament hosts, and 21/10 favourites, Brazil and Colombia from open play.
Yet Phil Scolari’s side still advanced to set up a semi against Germany, who edged a France team that failed to turn up, but it came at a price which could find the Samba Boys wanting.
Captain Thiago Silva ghosted in completely unmarked at the back post to give Brazil a lead inside seven minutes from Neymar’s left-wing corner. Neither scorer nor supplier will be on hand to help their country over the penultimate hurdle, however.
Silva was subsequently booked, his second of the tournament, just before the amnesty for yellow cards meant previous indiscretions would be wiped. He must sit the Germany game out suspended.
World Cup poster boy Neymar, meanwhile, took one challenge too many in this clash with Colombia, which contained a staggering total of 54 fouls. His night ended on a stretcher after Juan Camilo Zuniga’s knee in the back broke a bone.
Scolari and opposition counterpart Jose Pekerman almost looked to have sent out their respective charges to specifically do ‘hatchet jobs’ on star turns Neymar and James Rodriguez, so both were almost booted off the park in Fortaleza.
When you consider that Brazil’s midfield destroyer Luiz Gustavo was banned, though, how did the hosts manage to commit 31 fouls and pick up just two bookings? At least the Samba Boys can thank David Luiz’s delicious dead ball for taking them through. His free kick proved to be the winner.
Neymar has netted 40 per cent of Brazil’s goals at this World Cup, and that ratio is maintained for the last 20 scored under Scolari. To whom will the goal burden pass now? Big Phil cannot rely on frontman Fred, who has lumbered in a lone attacking furrow without the clever movement of the Confederations Cup last year.
Could Chelsea’s Willian or young Bernard step into the breach? More is also needed from Hulk and another Stamford Bridge star Oscar. Neymar will not be winning the Golden Boot at the Brazil finals, but could Rodriguez, who had the final say by rolling in a consolation penalty, be top scorer? He is Coral’s odds-on 10/11 favourite in that market.
Only Argentina captain Lionel Messi (11/4) or Germany poacher Thomas Muller (11/2) are presently rated likely to equal or better Rodriguez’s mark of six. Bar those star names and flying Dutchman Robin van Persie (12/1), it’s odds of 20/1 and longer.
You can see parallels between Scolari’s side today with the Dutch of four years ago under Bert van Marwijk. Both teams share a ‘win at all costs’ mentality, which football purists will swiftly say is betraying their history. The brief given to Big Phil was simple, however: lift the World Cup in our own backyard. Methods were almost certainly not mentioned.
And that is the salient point. Nobody would’ve complained if the Netherlands had beaten Spain in the 2010 final, laying ghosts from 1974 and 1978 to rest. Total Football couldn’t get the job done on the global stage. It is a results-based business at every level, and that explains why the Samba soccer of Scolari’s second spell is a hybrid of functionality and flair.
On the subject of functionality, there is a Silva-shaped hole in central defence for Big Phil to plug. Given the next assignment is against Germany, Bayern Munich’s Dante is the only logical choice to cover for the suspended Brazil skipper.
Dante has plied his trade in the Bundesliga for five-and-a-half years now. Twice avoiding relegation with Borussia Monchengladbach, he then went on to qualify for Champions League football and made a modestly priced move to the Allianz.
At Bayern, Dante will mark the likes of Muller, Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze all the time in training. It is the knowledge of his club teammates that will prove vital to stopping Joachim Low’s lads from breaching the Samba Boys backline.
One thing is for sure, bookmakers like Coral expect the World Cup winning nation to come from this first semi-final. Germany are 9/4 second-favourites behind Brazil for global glory, yet odds-on to qualify for the final 5/6.
It’s evens that Scolari can steer his Samba Boys past Die Mannschaft, but to do so in 90 minutes is 7/4. Low has the luxury of being favourite at 17/10 for a win in normal time, but was keen to suggest his team are at a disadvantage. Germany should be grateful, however, that key personnel for Brazil at both ends of the pitch will be missing.