Having backed Germany to go all the way before the World Cup started back in June, I try and figure out what kind of threat the Brazilians pose to my prediction.
Brasil vs Germany
Tipping against A Selecao has has not worked out well for me so far: they scraped past Chile in the Round of 16, before knocking out Colombia, who were the best footballing side in the tournament in my opinion, on a 2-1 scoreline in the quarters.
On this occasion, however, they will be without the talismanic pair of Neymar Jr. and their captain Thiago Silva, a huge loss to the host nation.
A lot of focus will be on the absence of the injured Neymar and whether Brasil can cope without their best player. It’s likely that Willian and Dante will be their replacements, and there may be some hope for them yet.
The Barcelona player is superb in the role of star player, creating chances for himself and scoring them much in the same way as Messi is doing for Argentina, pulling this team to the brink of a World Cup final almost single-handedly.
On the basis of this past season though, the stats would suggest that Willian is built in the mould of a team player who is able to bring those around him into the game. He doesn’t score or assist in nearly as many goals, but is a better passer of the ball and creates a lot more chances in general play.
The one glaring disadvantage to this change of personnel is the players he would be trying to bring into the game: Fred is nowhere near the type of forward needed to win a tournament, Jo is, well, Jo, while Oscar has been desperately underwhelming, having disappeared following his goal in the opening win over Croatia.
I doubt few will argue that Brasil will be as good with Willian and Dante coming into the starting line-up, but how many international sides would love to have those two players to come off the bench?
Revered for decades for winning with a beautiful brand of football, Brasil are making enemies everywhere for the bruising, unattractive style they have adopted under Luis Felipe Scolari. Winning the trophy may only increase that antipathy.
Germany, meanwhile, have reverted to the type of football that, while successful thus far, attracted derision for a long time. Under Joachim Loew, this side was meant to provide attractive and direct attacking football, but perhaps they are missing Marco Reus more than everyone thought they would.
This could turn out to be quite a cagey affair. Brasil have won 12 of 21 meetings with Germany, but to paraphrase Gary Lineker, football is played by 22 men who kick and chase the ball for ninety minutes, and at the end…
Verdict: …the Germans win.