BELO HORIZONTE - As Brazil and Germany prepare to do battle in their World Cup semi-final on Tuesday, old stereotypes of both countries' football philosophies are being rewritten. Amazingly for two World Cup powerhouses with 24 semi-final appearances, this will be just their second meeting in the competition after the 2002 final.
Back then a rugged German side that battled it's way to the final with a series of 1-0 wins on the back of the best goalkeeper in the tournament, Oliver Kahn, faced a Brazil side containing a magical front three of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo. That night an uncharacteristic Kahn mistake put Luiz Felipe Scolari's Brazil on their way to a fifth title.
However, the only constants from 12 years ago may be that Scolari is back as Brazil boss and Germany still have the best 'keeper in the tournament in Manuel Neuer. Even Neuer represents the German's style shift in the past decade with his sweeper-like ability to flee from his box and become an extra outfield player in building the play from the back.
Germany have played 500 more successful passes than anyone else in the competition and more than 1,000 more than Brazil, who still lag behind Chile despite having played a game more. Since committing to attack when hosting the tournament in 2006, Germany have scored 40 goals in the last three World Cups helping them a record run of four consecutive semi-finals. Their passage to the last four in Brazil by beating Algeria and France has also seen them lay to rest some ghosts of German football's less than glorious historical moments. West Germany's perceived collusion with Austria to knock out the Algerians and Harald Schumacher's assault on France's Patrick Battiston as they reached the final 1982 was seen as the height of their win at all costs mentality.
The German sides of recent years will be much more fondly remembered by the football world at large, yet that attractive football hasn't got them over the line in the final stages. Defeat in the final of 2002 was followed by semi-final defeats in 2006 and 2010. Brazil's approach to hosting the tournament has been rather different. Winning at their own World Cup is all that counts, no matter what reputations or opposing players take a battering in the process. Scolari's men committed 31 fouls in their hunt of Colombia and, in particular, James Rodriguez in Friday's quarter-final, the most of any side in a game at this World Cup. "I am all for hard, clean challenges, but there were one or two tackles which were over the limit," said Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger on Sunday. "The Brazilians aren't the magicians here of old, the team has changed and so has their playing style.
The Barcelona forward Neymar was the one residual element of the famous 'Jogo Bonito' left in this side. As 1970 World Cup winning forward Tostao concluded earlier in the tournament: "Brazil have two strategies: number one, give it to Neymar; number two give it to Neymar." Without his flair there seems little other option than to fight their way to the final.

 Key battles

Hulk v Hoewedes

Without star man Neymar due to a broken vertebrae, Brazilian hopes will fall on the broad shoulders of Hulk to carry his side to the final. The Zenit St Petersburg striker is yet to score in the tournament and missed a penalty in his side's shootout victory over Chile in the last 16. However, he was a constant menace in his side's 2-1 win over Colombia in the quarter-finals and was only denied by fine saves from David Ospina. The steady Hoewedes has been deployed at left-back throughout the tournament despite normally playing in the centre of defence by his club Schalke. Hoewedes should be able to physically compete where most defenders struggle against Hulk, but may not have the pace to prevent Brazil's man mountain cutting onto his dangerous left foot to shoot.

 

Gustavo v Kroos

Old Bayern Munich teammates Gustavo and Kroos symbolise the contrast in styles between Brazil's physical nature and Germany's ability to keep the ball. Gustavo missed the quarter-final against Colombia due to suspension, but is certain to return and will look to knock Kroos out of his rhythm in the same way Fernandinho and Paulinho ganged up on Colombia's James Rodriguez in the quarter final. With captain Philipp Lahm having returned to his traditional right back role in Germany's the quarter-final victory against France, Kroos has become a midfield reference point around which the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil feed. One area in which Gustavo may not be able to stop Kroos, though, is his excellent set-piece delivery which proved key in the last eight.

 

Luiz  vMueller

With Neymar injured and captain Thiago Silva suspended, Luiz is Brazil's best player in the lineup against Germany. Defensively Luiz has showed a discipline he rarely did in three years at Chelsea before sealing a £50 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain last month. And he is also Brazil's top goalscorer after Neymar, having netted against Chile in the last 16 and won the quarter-final against Colombia with a stunning free-kick. His toughest test yet awaits, though, in preventing Mueller from extending his stunning World Cup record of scoring nine times in 11 games. Mueller will be keen to make amends for missing the semi-final in 2010 through suspension and has had previous success against Luiz at club level.

 

Dante v Klose

Without star man Neymar due to a broken vertebrae, Brazilian hopes will fall on the broad shoulders of Hulk to carry his side to the final. The Zenit St Petersburg striker is yet to score in the tournament and missed a penalty in his side's shootout victory over Chile in the last 16. However, he was a constant menace in his side's 2-1 win over Colombia in the quarter-finals and was only denied by fine saves from David Ospina. The steady Hoewedes has been deployed at left-back throughout the tournament despite normally playing in the centre of defence by his club Schalke. Hoewedes should be able to physically compete where most defenders struggle against Hulk, but may not have the pace to prevent Brazil's man mountain cutting onto his dangerous left foot to shoot.

 

 

Squads

Germany

Goalkeepers:
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)(1), Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund)(22), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96)(12)
Defenders:
Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich)(20), Erik Durm(15), Kevin Grosskreutz(2) (both Borussia Dortmund), Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke 04)(4), Matthias Ginter (SC Freiburg)(3), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)(5), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)(16), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal/ENG)(17), Shkodran Mustafi (Samdoria/ITA)(21)
Midfielders:
Julian Draxler (Schalke 04)(14), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid/ESP)(6), Christoph Kramer (Borussia Monchengladbach)(23), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)(18), Mesut Oezil (Arsenal/ENG)(8), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)(7)
Forwards:
Miroslav Klose (Lazio/ITA)(11), Lukas Podolski (Arsenal/ENG)(10), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich)(13), Andre Schuerrle (Chelsea/ ENG)(9), Mario Goetze (Bayern Munich)(19)

 

 

Brazil

Goalkeepers:
Julio Cesar (Toronto FC/CAN)(12),
Jefferson (Botafogo)(1), Victor (Atletico Mineiro)(22)
Defenders:
Dante (Bayern Munich/GER)(13), David Luiz (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)(4), Henrique (Napoli/ITA)(15), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)(3), Daniel Alves (Barcelona/ESP) (2), Maicon (Roma/ITA)(23), Marcelo (Real Madrid/ESP)(6), Maxwell (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)(14)
Midfielders:
Fernandinho (Manchester City/ENG) (5), Hernanes (Inter Milan/ITA)(18), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg/GER) (17), Oscar (Chelsea/ENG)(11), Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG)(8), Ramires (16), Willian (both Chelsea/ENG)(19)
Forwards:
Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk/UKR)(20), Fred (Fluminense)(9), Hulk (Zenit Saint Petersburg/RUS)(7), Jo (Atletico Mineiro)(21), Neymar (Barcelona/ESP)(10)