Brazil v Germany preview
Brazil tends to care deeply about competitions that pit them against European teams and a date with world champions Germany in the Maracanã is about as big as it gets. This is the first meeting between the countries since the Seleção’s harrowing 7-1 defeat in the 2014 World Cup. However, Rogerio Micale’s men will have to be careful not to engage too heavily in the ‘revenge’ narrative circulating around sections of the Brazilian media. The CBF, in a fit of emasculated pique, offered to play Germany in a friendly immediately following the 2014 World Cup, an invitation Germany declined.
“Germany, your time has come,” the Maracanã sang as they watched their team consummately defeat Haiti in the semi-final. However, Rogerio has distanced himself from talk of 2014, “What happened then doesn’t concern me,” he told the press, “I only care for tomorrow.” The coach tinkered with his side tactically after a pair of muted 0-0 draws with South Africa and Iraq in the opening games of the competition.
He moved away from a 4-3-3 shape and brought Grêmio’s all action attacker Luan into his line-up, creating a gutsy 4-2-4 formation which relied on winning the ball back quickly from opponents and high up the pitch. The results have vindicated him, with a 4-0 win over Denmark, a 2-0 victory against Colombia and a 6-0 thrashing of Haiti in the semi-final. However, Denmark and Haiti were always going to be on the back foot against Brazil, while Colombia became too engrossed in trying to intimidate Brazil physically to display their full attacking talent. Germany are a different prospect.
Micale insists that, injuries permitting, he will pick the same team in the same shape for the Germany game. The Germans are by far and away the most accomplished team that Brazil have faced. In Serge Gnabry, they boast the tournament’s top scorer, along with Sven and Lars Bender. Gnabry in particular has caught the eye, playing almost as an old fashioned inside forward. He likes to dart in behind the right-back and looks either for slide rule passes from Lars Bender, or else he likes to combine with Davie Selke, playing wall passes with Germany’s centre forward to break into the channel.
Germany play in a 4-2-3-1 shape and Selke’s role at the tip of the formation is very much to feed the three players behind him- Brandt, Gnabry and Meyer- as they look to break into the area at speed. Selke both provides and receives for the rotating trio behind him. Brazil’s defence will need to be wary of speedy combination play from the German attack and full-backs Douglas Santos and Zeca will need eyes in the back of their heads, as German attackers constantly look to run in behind them. Rogerio might want to consider another central midfielder, like Thiago Maia and Rafinha, to deal with that threat.
Rogerio will also want to make Germany worry about Brazil, however. In Luan, Gabriel Barbosa, Gabriel Jesús and Neymar they have comfortably the best attack in the competition. The Bender brothers at the base of the German midfield will need to keep a close eye on Luan, assuming he plays. Luan has helped to link the midfield and the front three and make the Seleção less predictable. He plays centrally but with freedom to roam and bring the play to the front three.
It promises to be a very absorbing encounter in the Maracanã, as the two standout teams in the tournament meet. For fans and commentators, a revenge narrative will loom large over this match; the players however, must not become absorbed by it. There is already huge pressure on the team as they bid to win Brazil’s first ever Olympic gold and on home soil to boot. The pressure was too much for the team in the 2012 Final in London and in the Maracanã- the citadel of Brazilian football- the ghosts of the 1950 Maracanazo and of the 7-1 defeat in Belo Horizonte two years ago will peer on from the shadows.
PREDICTED LINE-UP; 1.WEVERTON (Atlético Paranaense), 2.ZECA (Santos), 3.R.CAIO (São Paulo), 4.MARQUINHOS (PSG), 6.DOUGLAS S. (Atlético Mineiro), 12.WALACE (Grêmio), 5.RENATO A. (Beijing Guoan), 7.LUAN (Grêmio), 9.GABRIEL B. (Santos), 11.G.JESUS (Palmeiras), 10.NEYMAR (c) (Barcelona).
Predicted score: BRAZIL 1 (Neymar) -1 GERMANY (Brandt) AET. Brazil to win on penalties.