Teams headed by Messi, Schweinsteiger, Neymar (previously), and Van Persie are all that’s left in what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most exciting World Cups in FIFA history. These upcoming matches will be unpredictable, and no less exciting than the previous rounds.
The semifinals also have a bigger theme than just superstar-led teams; UEFA versus CONMEBOL. These past few years, the debate has been raging over which confederation is better in terms of players and quality of national teams.
This year, we may be closer to settling that debate. If the Final is Brazil vs. Argentina or Germany vs. the Netherlands, then the debate is over; at least until the next World Cup. If one team from each confederation makes it, then this round may just a prologue to an even bigger moment in the ever-growing rivalry between UEFA and CONMEBOL.
Will CONMEBOL finally dethrone UEFA in either this round or the next, or will UEFA be able to hold on to its crown for 4 more years? No matter what happens, the results are bound to resonate long after the final whistle has blown, long after the final piece of confetti has fallen at the Maracana and long after the last foreign fan has left Brazil.
Brazil vs. Germany
Although Neymar may still technically captain Brazil, he is out for the rest of the tournament with a spinal fracture. This has huge implications for the Semifinals, and potentially the finals as Brazil has made Neymar a key part of their attacking game.
Germany, meanwhile, has all of its starters healthy and ready to take on the hosts. Ozil and Schweinsteiger remain strong, while Brazil has to rely on David Luiz to stop them and needs Hulk to take more responsibility up top against the formidable German defense.
That all being said, I still believe in Brazil. Even without Neymar and Tiago Silva, Brazil is a tough team to beat, and the home field advantage is still with them. Brazil has made it clear that there will never be another situation like what happened in 1950; where they, as World Cup hosts, lost in the Final to Uruguay.
Germany may be tough, but beating them is not impossible, especially by a team that has rallied around both a sense of duty to their injured teammate, and a determination to not let history repeat itself.
Argentina vs. Netherlands
Argentina and the Netherlands are teams that have strong offenses, but the Oranje has the advantage over Argentina offensively. Argentina has often struggled to get that first goal, whereas the Netherlands has kept the goals coming, the previous game against Costa Rica notwithstanding.
In addition, the Oranje defense has been preforming better than their Argentine counterparts, meaning the Messi-led offense is likely to have trouble scoring while Van Persie and Robben score goal after goal.
Don’t be surprised, however, if Argentina suddenly rallies and keeps the score close for most of the game, or even if it goes into extra time, as neither team is to be taken lightly.
Argentina, despite its faults, remains a tough team to beat, and the Netherlands revealed their weaknesses to the world against Costa Rica. Argentina may be able to capitalize on a few of those weaknesses, but the Netherlands still remains a very complete team by any standard.