NYT: FACT THAT SOUNDS UNTRUE BUT ISN’T

While Germany and Brazil have combined to win eight World Cups, and while at least one of them has played in the final four of every tournament since 1938, they have met only once in the World Cup. That came in the 2002 final in Yokohama, Japan. Brazil won, 2-0. Its coach that day? The same one it has now — Luiz Felipe Scolari.

BRAZIL’S PLAYER TO WATCH

Dante is expected to start in central defense for Brazil in place of the team’s suspended captain, Thiago Silva, who picked up a yellow card against Colombia on Friday. On paper, Dante for Thiago Silva is a losing proposition for Brazil, but there’s a wrinkle: Dante has played for Bayern Munich since 2012, and since Germany uses as many as six players from Bayern in its starting lineup, that familiarity could be invaluable. (He’s not alone: another hard-edge Brazilian with recent time at Bayern, midfielder Luiz Gustavo, is back from a yellow-card suspension.) Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger seemed to acknowledge that Dante’s availability might help Brazil make the best of a bad situation.

GERMANY’S PLAYER TO WATCH

Müller has the freedom to go where he wants and do what he wants under Coach Joachim Löw, and that often means he pops up in the perfect position. He has nine goals in 11 career World Cup matches, 1 more than Diego Maradona had and 6 fewer than his teammate Miroslav Klose and Brazil’s Ronaldo, who share the record of 15. It may not be long before they are both looking up at Müller, who is still only 24.

WILD CARD

Willian. He practiced Sunday in the position normally played by Neymar, Brazilian’s injured North Star. Willian is a terrific player — Chelsea paid more than $50 million to acquire him last summer — but there is only one Neymar, and the deification he has received in Brazil since a fractured vertebra ended his World Cup will not make it any easier to be his replacement.

WHY GERMANY CAN WIN

The Germans have seemingly been built for this moment. Six of their projected starters for Tuesday were members of Germany’s 2009 European under-21 championship team (side note: another member of that team was Fabian Johnson of the United States) and the core of the team made the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After cruising past France in the quarterfinals hours before Brazil’s slugfest with Colombia, the German players appear to genuinely believe their moment has arrived. It’s about time: Germany has not won a major international title since the 1996 European championship.

WHY BRAZIL CAN WIN

Brazil hasn’t lost a match at home since 2002. Any time someone says it has no chance against the Germans, remind them of that fact. Then point out that Scolari has never lost a World Cup match as Brazil’s coach, a record that includes that 2002 title run. Also, it’s Brazil. And Brazil is never overmatched against anyone.

THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE

FIFA’s choice of referee for Tuesday’s match, Marco Rodríguez of Mexico, seems an odd one since he completely missed one of the seminal moments of the tournament: Luis Suárez’s bite of Giorgio Chiellini in the Uruguay-Italy match in the group stage.

Neither Rodríguez nor his linesmen saw the play, which resulted in a long suspension for Suárez and worldwide condemnation of his behavior. But Rodríguez also seems a strange choice for another reason: He has a reputation for a quick trigger. In his first two matches in Brazil (Belgium-Algeria and Italy-Uruguay) he issued six yellow cards and one red. That came after he showed nine yellows and two reds in two games in the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, and 12 yellows and 2 reds in two games in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

With Brazil playing extremely physical soccer in its past two games, and Germany never one to back down, that could be a combustible mix. It would be a shame if a red card decided who goes to the final.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/sports/worldcup/in-brazil-vs-germany-and-argentina-vs-netherlands-dynamic-south-american-teams-face-european-stalwarts.html