Group stage play at the FIFA Confederations Cup have wrapped up and now it is time for semifinal action on Wednesday and Thursday. Although the winner of each tie is not known, what is known is that it will be a match of a South American team and a European team in the final on Sunday.
In Wednesday’s semifinal to be played in Belo Horizonte, hosts Brazil will play South American rival Uruguay. Brazil comes into the game having won all three of their group stage games, and Neymar stepped up by scoring three goals and assisting on several others. Uruguay advanced having won their last two group stage games after opening the tournament with a 2-1 loss to Spain.
There are several factors that make this Brazil-Uruguay game as a must-watch. First and foremost is the attacking talent that both teams have at their disposal. For Brazil, Neymar has shown why he is an emerging star on the cusp of super stardom. Accompanying Neymar up front are Oscar and Fred, who have formed a potent attacking trident that is lethal on the counter.
Uruguay are not lacking with talent forwards as they have Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Forlan playing up front for the Celestes. These three will be fielded in a 4-3-2-1 formation with Suarez as the lone striker with Cavani and Forlan playing support roles.
Aside from the tactical battle this game presents, the other big reason this is a must watch is because these two South American foes have a rivalry that date back to the early 1900s with the 1950 World Cup Final defining it. In that game, Uruguay defeated Brazil in what has become known as the Maracenazo (played in the Maracana Stadium).
The key tactical matchup in this match will be Luis Suarez against Thiago Silva and David Luiz and or Dante. While Silva and Luiz have been strong so far in this tournament, Silva had some trouble against Mario Balotelli in his last match, while Luiz left with an injury.
If Suarez is able win the matchup against Brazil’s central defenders, it could go along way to determining if Uruguay could pull the upset in a game where they are considerable underdogs.
In the other semifinal to be played in Fortaleza on Thursday, a rematch of the EURO 2012 Final will be played as Spain takes on Italy. Coming into the game, Spain has won all three of it’s group stage games while Italy won their first two group stage games, but lost their final game to Brazil.
The Spaniards will be at full strength while Italy will be without Mario Balotelli and Ignazio Abate, both of whom have been ruled out for the rest of the tournament because of injuries. In their place, Alberto Gilardino and Christian Maggio will be expected to take their place in the starting 11 for the Azzurri.
The key will be how well Andrea Pirlo is able to play coming back from a injury that kept him out the game against Brazil. When both teams played in group stage play at EURO 2012, Pirlo was able to trouble Spain with his deep lying playmaking style while in the final, Spain rendered Pirlo ineffective by overrunning the Italy midfield and pressing higher up.
For that reason, along with the fact that Italy will step up their play as a result of taking on Spain, I expect to see a closer game than many will think will play out. After both semifinals are played out, I still expect to see Brazil and Spain to move on to play in the final that many expected and wanted to see before the start of the tournament.