Brazil and Germany are the two most winning sides in the history of the World Cup. Brazil have played six finals and won five. Germany have also played six finals, and won three. The final of 2002 was between these two sides, and it was surprisingly also the first time that the two sides met in a World Cup!
In 2002 Brazil won 2-0 to become world champions.
It is therefore a special match tonight as the two greatest footballing nations in terms of history play one another for a place in the final at a World Cup in Brazil.
And the German have every reason to be optimistic: they have played well if not spectacularly, pacing themselves with the tournament. They are confident and well prepared physically and tactically.
In the meantime pressure is growing on the Brazilians, who must also be feeling a bit of nerves having lost two of their best players for the semifinal: Neymar is out with his fractured vertebrae and Thiago Silva is out with a suspension. Neymar has been the creative player for the Brazilians while Thiago Silva has held the feeble defense together. It seems Dante will now play alongside David Luiz in central defense. Dante, from Bayern Munich, will know the Germans well, but the Germans will also know that while both Dante and David Luiz are great players, they sometimes have a tendency to make silly mistakes.
One mistake can be decisive.
Brazil has been criticized a lot for not playing "Samba" football. Many people have short memories. When did Brazil play the style that they became famous for last time? In my view 1986, with the last breath of the team that had delighted the world with a stunning team, if not a somewhat naive 4-2-2-2 lineup that the clever Italians knew how to handle in the now legendary 1982 match.
In 1994 when Brazil became world champions for the first time since 1970, they certainly did not play entertaining football in any way. Instead, they were defensive, with holding midfielder Dunga in a central position and depending on Romario's incredible scoring abilities.
In 2002 Brazil almost did not qualify, and midway through the tournament Scolari decided to substitute Emerson in the midfield with the more offensive Kleberson, who gave Brazil more offensive depth and fed balls to Ronaldo. It was offensive efficiency, well played, but still not the type of samba we connect Brazil with.
Scolari is a clever man. He knows that you cannot waltz your way to a title, but you need cynicism as well. And certainly against Colombia he showed that he can play tough as well. But of course, with the pressure they are under, Brazil cannot afford to throw everything into playing football that pleases the eye. This Brazil rather plays on getting the free kick balls, a solid defensive, and occasional burst of brilliant creativity. This is much more what many connect with the Germans of yester-years. And ironically, the Germans are perhaps playing a more offensive game, more reminiscent of Brazil in 2002, than Brazil itself!
As everything in the world (and most people seem to be ignorants of this), football evolves. Brazilian and German football have both evolved into something different than they were in 1970, 1982 or 2002. That is part of the fascination of football.