BRAZIL VS. GERMANY
Where: Belo Horizonte. Time: 1 p.m. PDT.
TV: ESPN, Univision.
The buzz: Brazil, a five-time champion and playing at home, meets Germany, whose three titles are second-most in the tournament's modern era. Both teams are unbeaten, but the matchup lost much of its luster when a hard tackle from Colombia's Juan Zuniga knocked Brazilian star Neymar out of the tournament with a cracked vertebra.
Brazil will also be missing captain and central defender Thiago Silva after his second yellow card of the World Cup. Chelsea midfielder Willian is expected to make his first start for the national team as Neymar's replacement while Silva's place probably will be taken by Dante, who has played six years in the German Bundesliga, most recently with Bayern Munich, also home to seven members of the German World Cup team. But the burden of making up for those absences will fall most heavily on midfielder Oscar and defender David Luiz.
Luiz probably will inherit the captain's armband, since he's been Brazil's best player so far in this World Cup. Brazil is under enormous pressure to win at home, a big reason why the team has been visited by a psychologist at least twice in the last week. Germany is also feeling heat from its fans.
The only country to reach the semifinals in four consecutive World Cups, Germany hasn't won a title since 1990, its longest drought since World War II. Germany has looked far more composed in its five games here than Brazil, but it has grown tentative in front of the net, scoring four goals in the opening game and just four more in regulation time in the four games since.
Although Manuel Neuer has been overshadowed by spectacular performances from Tim Howard of the U.S., Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa and Costa Rica's Keylor Navas, the German goalie has been the best keeper in the tournament, pitching three shutouts and allowing just two goals in regulation. Meanwhile, Thomas Mueller, tied for second in this World Cup with four goals, hasn't found the back of the net since group play.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times