|Brazil vs Germany: How do they compare?|
|Monday, July 07, 2014 8:00 PM|
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil and Germany are two of the most decorated teams in football, with eight World Cup titles between them. Both have their share of players among the all-time greats and both entered this tournament being touted among the main favorites.
So even without the injured Neymar, today's semifinal in Belo Horizonte provides an intriguing matchup for any neutral fan, as Germany and Brazil play each other at the World Cup for the first time since the 2002 final.
Here is a look at how the teams compare in 2014:
Manuel Neuer has been one of Germany's best players this tournament, especially in the knockout rounds. He bailed out Germany's erratic defense numerous times by rushing out to clear ball after ball in the second-round win over Algeria and made key saves to deny Karim Benzema an equalizer for France in the quarterfinals. The Bayern Munich No. 1 has won just about everything at club level and is widely regarded as one of the top keepers in the world.
Julio Cesar used to have that reputation as well but is arguably not quite the player he was during his best years at Inter Milan. He now plays for Toronto in Major League Soccer. He's been solid at this World Cup, however, where he has yet to concede more than one goal in a game. And the 34-year-old Cesar has come up big when Brazil needed him to, saving two penalties in the shootout against Chile in the second round.
Brazil has always been known for its attacking play but this World Cup squad arguably has more impressive names in defense — especially now that star forward Neymar is ruled out. However, the team's best defender — captain Thiago Silva — is suspended for the semifinal, a big blow for the back four. But Brazil has a good replacement in Bayern Munich's Dante to put in alongside David Luiz, while coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will have to decide whether to put Barcelona's Dani Alves back in at right back or stick with Maicon, who was a surprise starter in the quarterfinals. Real Madrid's Marcelo should guard the left wing.
Germany's defense looked downright awful against Algeria, and coach Joachim Loew responded by dropping center back Per Mertesacker for the next game and moving captain Philip Lahm to his favorite position as right back instead of midfield. The changes worked and Germany looked like its old solid self against France. With Mats Hummels back healthy to anchor the central defense — and even scoring the winning goal against France — the Germans have a reliable foundation in front of Neuer.
Germany's midfield has been given a big boost by Bastian Schweinsteiger returning to full fitness after a knee injury. Playing alongside Sami Khedira, Schweinsteiger can control the pace of the game while also helping out defensively, giving Toni Kroos room to work as the team's main playmaker. While Mesut Ozil has had a fairly lackluster tournament so far, he's one of the world's best passers and could still prove crucial for Germany.
Brazil's midfield will likely have a new look for this game as Scolari is expected to replace Neymar with a midfielder — probably Willian. The Chelsea player has enough speed and skill to cause defenders trouble but doesn't have the scoring ability of Neymar. Oscar, another Chelsea player, will also need to step up as a playmaker. Luiz Gustavo is back after a suspension, which should help shore things up defensively.
With Neymar in the team, the forward line was always a strength for Brazil. Without him, it's a glaring weakness. Fred has struggled badly as the team's center forward at the World Cup, scoring just one goal in five games. Hulk has looked lively throughout but has yet to score, while Jo has failed to make an impact when he's come on as a substitute.
Germany, meanwhile, has Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose as its main attacking options. Mueller has four goals so far in Brazil — one short of his tally in South Africa in 2010 — while the 36-year-old Klose has a chance to break the World Cup scoring record. Klose shares the record of 15 career goals with Brazil great Ronaldo, so the Brazilian defenders will probably be extra eager to shut him down. Germany also has better options off the bench, with Lukas Podolski and Mario Goetze to bring on.
Fans expect Brazil to overcome loss of Neymar
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — Brazil did it once without Pele and just about everyone in the country is waiting and hoping to do it again without Neymar.
The Brazilians advanced to the semifinals of the World Cup last week but they lost their best player in doing so. Neymar, the national team's star attraction with the same yellow No. 10 shirt that Pele made world famous, broke a vertebra after being kneed in the back and will miss the rest of the tournament.
That means Brazil will have to do without Neymar's quick moves and sharp shooting when the team plays Germany in the semifinals today at Mineirao Stadium. And for the final, if they make it that far.
"It will be difficult but we can win it without Neymar," said Matheus Christoff, a 22-year-old chemical engineering student from Belo Horizonte. "In 1962, we won without Pele, so we can win without Neymar."
Pele became a global star when he was only 17, scoring two goals in the 1958 final to give Brazil its first World Cup title. Four years later in Chile, he was injured in the opening round and was forced to sit and watch as his teammates won again.
But win they did, with Garrincha stepping up to carry the load.
This time around, there is no obvious goal-scoring replacement for Neymar, who cuts his hair in a fauxhawk and has become the face of the World Cup, at least on billboards and in TV commercials all over Brazil.
Or, instead of one person stepping up to provide the goals, maybe there is more than one.
"They have another 22 players," said Patricia Mendes, a 35-year-old consultant in Belo Horizonte. "If they wear the yellow jersey, they can score."
Neymar did most of the damage himself in the first round, scoring four goals in the opening three matches to put Brazil at the top of Group A. The two strikers playing alongside him, Fred and Hulk, have combined to score only one goal, while defender David Luiz has provided the offense by scoring two in the last two matches.
A slumbering attack, now without its most important component, is going to make it hard against the Germans, who seem to have put their defense back together after a substandard performance in the second round. And the loss of Brazil captain Thiago Silva, who is suspended for the match after foolishly picking up a yellow card in the quarterfinal win over Colombia, is going to make things even tougher.
"I really don't think we can win without Neymar and Thiago Silva," said 23-year-old Rafael Seixas, who works at his family's convenience store in Belo Horizonte. "They are the best players in the team, and Germany is really good."
The thought of losing to Germany, however odious that may be for most Brazilians, is still better than considering one other possibility of this year's World Cup — an ultimate victory for Argentina on Sunday at the Maracana Stadium.
"That," Seixas added, "would be the worst possible scenario for the World Cup in Brazil."
FIFA takes no action over challenge on Neymar
RIO DE JANEIRO — FIFA will not take action against the Colombia player who injured Neymar and ended the Brazil star's World Cup.
FIFA said its disciplinary panel "cannot consider this matter" under the rules because the match referee saw the challenge by Camilo Zuniga and judged it at the time.
"In this specific case, no retrospective action can be taken," FIFA wrote in a statement on Monday, because the incident "did not escape the match officials' attention."
In a separate decision, the panel also refused to consider a Confederation of Brazilian Football appeal against captain Thiago Silva's yellow card in the 2-1 win quarterfinals over Colombia on Friday in Fortaleza.
Silva's second caution of the tournament triggered a 1-match ban which he will serve in the semifinals. Brazil will therefore be without its best player and its captain against Germany.
Neymar will be sidelined for about 45 days after sustaining a fractured third vertebra.
The panel studied video of Zuniga's 86th-minute challenge, where he kneed Neymar in the back when jumping into him at speed. Zuniga apologized on Saturday.
Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo did not show Zuniga a yellow card and FIFA's disciplinary panel considered the incident judged on the spot.
The seriousness of an injury could not be weighed in a disciplinary decision, nor was mistaken identity a factor in the case, FIFA added.
"First and foremost, the chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee (Claudio Sulser) wishes to state that he deeply regrets the incident and the serious consequences on Neymar's health," the statement added.
The Luis Suarez biting case earlier in the World Cup raised expectations that Sulser's panel would also punish Zuniga.
However, Suarez's bite of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder was missed by match officials. That allowed Sulser to use video evidence to ban the Uruguay forward for nine international matches and four months.
The Mexican referee in that case, Marco Rodriguez, will handle the Brazil-Germany semifinal in his first match duty since Uruguay beat Italy 1-0 on June 24.
Silva was booked against Colombia for impeding goalkeeper David Ospina who tried to kick the ball downfield.
The FIFA disciplinary code states that cautions can be canceled only in "exceptional circumstances."
Germany coach hopes for Neymar's speedy recovery
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — Germany coach Joachim Loew has expressed his regret that Brazil star Neymar will miss the World Cup semifinal between the two teams.
Loew tells the German football federation's website that Neymar is a "great player" and that "it's bitter and a great misfortune that he has to be absent now," for "himself, his team, the entire nation."
Loew says he wishes Neymar a speedy recovery, adding that people want to see "the best players" at the World Cup.
FIFA: All doping samples clean at World Cup
RIO DE JANEIRO — FIFA says all samples have tested clean in its World Cup anti-doping program, though no unannounced controls have been made in Brazil.
FIFA's chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak says analysis of all pre-competition and post-match samples was completed through the first quarterfinal match last Friday.
All 736 players have given blood samples for their individual biological passport. Two players from each team are randomly picked to give samples after each match.
Dvorak says no doping controls were taken on days between matches.
He adds all samples "arrived in good condition" at the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, where samples are tested. WADA revoked the Rio de Janeiro lab's credentials last year.
No player has tested positive at a World Cup since Argentina great Diego Maradona in 1994.
Bayern signs defender Juan Bernat from Valencia
MUNICH — Bayern Munich has signed Spanish defender Juan Bernat from Valencia on a 5-year contract.
Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer said Monday that the 21-year-old Bernat is "a very good investment for the future" of the Bundesliga champion. Bayern didn't disclose the transfer fee.
Bernat, a Spain under-21 international, joins fellow Spanish players Thiago Alcantara and Javier Martinez in coach Pep Guardiola's squad.
Tributes flow for Real Madrid great Di Stefano
MADRID — Tributes flowed as quickly as the news of Alfredo Di Stefano's death spread across continents, with Pele joining modern stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among the thousands praising the Real Madrid great as a luminary of the game.
Di Stefano, the Argentine forward who helped lead Madrid in its glorious era in the 1950s and 60s, passed away on Monday aged 88, two days after he was hospitalized following a heart attack.
"Don Alfredo leaves us but his memory will last forever in our hearts," Real Madrid star Ronaldo wrote on Twitter. "Legends never die. Thanks for everything Maestro."
Messi, the Barcelona star who is in Brazil preparing to lead Argentina into the World Cup semifinals against Netherlands, said: "The world lost a legend today, Don Alfredo Di Stefano."
"An amazing man on and off the field," Messi added in a Facebook post. "My thoughts are with his family and friends."
Pele posted a tribute on Twitter from Brazil, writing the "the openness between Latin American players and European clubs is very much due to the work of Alfredo Di Stefano."
"He was a trailblazer and most of all, he was a legend of the game. God rest his soul."
Football's official hierarchy responded swiftly to note Di Stefano's contribution to the game, with FIFA president Sepp Blatter describing him as his "favorite player" and "the most complete player I've seen."
In a club that has been home to some of the world's leading players, Madrid's club website trumpeted Di Stefano as "the best player of all time," putting him above other leading players and "galaticos" to have donned Madrid's all-white uniform, which include Ferenc Puskas, Raul Gonzale, and Zinedine Zidane among others.
Dubbed "La Saeta Rubia" — or 'The Blonde Arrow' — for his speed, Di Stefano helped Madrid win five straight European club titles from 1956-60 and eight Spanish league titles. He was voted European player of the year in 1957 and '59 and named Real Madrid's honorary president in 2000.
The club's president Florentino Perez said "Real Madrid's best player has left us.
"He changed the history of this club and the history of football as well. He helped transform this club into the biggest sporting institution in the world."
Jose Emilio Santamaria, 84, played with Di Stefano and described him as " the most complete football player of all time."
Barcelona, Madrid's arch rival which came close to luring Di Stefano when he moved to Spain, joined other clubs in expressing its sympathies.
Di Stefano played for Argentina and Spain but fate conspired against him playing at the World Cup.
Veteran defender Ashley Cole joins Roma
ROME — Roma says veteran English defender Ashley Cole has joined the Italian capital club.
The 33-year-old left back was a free agent after his Chelsea contract expired, having been restricted to 17 Premier League appearances last season.
Roma wrote Monday on its website that Cole's 2-year contract has the option to extend it for a further season.
Cole, who earned 107 caps for England, retired from international football in May after being passed over for the World Cup in Brazil.
Cole won the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League and four FA Cups at Chelsea, which he joined contentiously from Arsenal in 2006.
Japan forward Kakitani to join Swiss club Basel
TOKYO — Japan forward Yoichiro Kakitani is set to join Swiss champion FC Basel.
Kakitani's J-League first-division club, Cerezo Osaka, announced the move on Monday. The club said he would join Basel on July 16.
Kakitani was third in the J-League in scoring with 21 goals last year but only has one goal in 13 games this season.
He played in two games at the World Cup in Brazil, where Japan was eliminated in the group stage.
The Basel move will give the 24-year-old Kakitani an opportunity for playing time at a club that will compete in next season's European Champions League.
Basel has won the Swiss Super League the last five seasons.
Yedlin returns to Seattle, European interest rises
TUKWILA, Wash. — DeAndre Yedlin has rejoined the Seattle Sounders with a far higher profile than he had when the United State gathered for World Cup training camp nearly two months ago in Northern California.
After his impressive performance for the U.S. during three appearances in the World Cup, the question is just how long the Sounders will be able to hold on to their homegrown star.
Yedlin took part in training Monday and is expected to be available for both of Seattle's matches this week against rival Portland — first in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday and then in MLS play Sunday. His return to Seattle comes after a flurry of attention after the U.S. was eliminated from the World Cup by Belgium in the round of 16 and amid reports that a deal is already in place for Yedlin to make the move to Europe.
Yedlin did not comment directly on reports coming from Italy about a pending deal that would see the 20-year-old defender move to AS Roma in 2015 after completing this season with Seattle. Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer issued a statement saying if a deal with a foreign team is finalized the team will announce it.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid sounded almost resigned that eventually Yedlin will leave Seattle and get his shot at playing in one of the top leagues in the world.
Yedlin was a surprise selection by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann for the final 23-man roster that made the trip to Brazil. The roles Yedlin ended up playing were even more of a surprise. He came on as a late substitute playing in the midfield against Portugal and Germany in the group stage.
But it was his performance against Belgium that grabbed the spotlight. Coming on in the 32nd minute after defender Fabian Johnson was injured, Yedlin was a consistent offensive threat on the outside. But he also used his speed to remain solid on defense.