Brazil vs Uruguay | Wednesday 26 June | Estadio Mineirao | 21:00
An all South American clash sees the host nation Brazil encounter a seismically unpredictable Uruguayan side ebbing between bouts of the sublime and the ridiculous. Brazil have enjoyed a painless path into the last four, buoyed by the mesmeric displays of a certain boyish number 10. Neymar has chosen this tournament as the time to announce himself to the entire international community, a community who has periodically doubted the potential of the precocious striker. He seems to be thriving under Scolari, giving him free range to express his abilities in an increasingly solid unit. Uruguay are hard to gauge at this point, after losing depressingly against Spain they ground out a tight victory over the tenacious Super Eagles. Then there was the debacle that was Tahiti, hardly the ideal preparation to face Brazil in terms of match-day intensity. Saying that, they may find the passions of this South American heavyweight clash more amenable to their abilities than the technical difficulties that Spain had to offer.
To Win (90mins)
Jose Felipe Scolari has returned to the helm of perhaps the most prestigious managerial mantle in world football with deft aplomb. After failed experiments with Kaka, Luis Fabiano and Ronaldinho, he has settled on a format that is proving successful. The dynamism of the team has increased exponentially since the beginning of the tournament and in contrast to the hegemonic representation of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish first team, there is a far greater dispersion of footballing influence throughout the composition of the side. Perhaps that is somewhat responsible for their looser improvisational style in contrast to the technically faultless tiki taka style of Spain. Their performances have not been without error; they find themselves vulnerable to silly defensive mistakes, likely emanating from their forward orientated approach.
Neymar has been ably supported by the opportunistic Fred and Jo, players who have benefitted immeasurably from the playmaking skills of Neymar and Oscar. The Chelsea midfielder has gone a bit quiet, likely not fazed by the adoration lauded on Neymar. Hulk hustles and bustles his way through games to the deafening cacophony of packed arenas. Quite what all the fuss is for is somewhat beyond me if truth be told. The crux of the team actually lies in the central midfield pairing, where Scolari is juggling the defensive minded Paulinho and Gustavo, with the slightly more adventurous Hernanes drafted in on occasion. The engine of the team propels them forward, allowing Neymar to dazzle and Hulk to stumble in equal measure.
Brazil really look in good form at the moment, their defensive central pairing of David Luiz and Thiago Silva seems to be gelling far more coherently than some spectators anticipated. Even with Luiz getting injured, they have the treble winning Dante entering the squad, arguably strengthening the defensive attributes of the side. So all in all this should be nothing more than a stepping stone for Brazil against their South American rivals.
The prospect of Luis Suarez leaving Liverpool has loomed large over the talismanic striker the entire tournament, not that his performances have indicated any dip in concentration. His fiercely competitive spirit is the one shining hope for Uruguay in this match, which really sees them at an overwhelming physical and technical disadvantage, particularly in the midfield where they will likely be overran. The sight of Dante and Silva in the heart of the defence won’t deter Suarez, he might enjoy using his low centre of gravity against those two physical specimens. Edinson Cavani has been disappointing thus far and will need to come to the party for Uruguay. Diego Forlan has shown that he has lost the legs that have carried him to a distinguished representation of his country, but his clinical winner against Nigeria underlined his ability to exploit tactical deficiencies and finish with devastating accuracy if giving the opportunity. But it’s a struggle to see this Uruguayan team creating the necessary opportunities.
VERDICT: Brazil 7/20
This feels safe, and well, it probably is. Neymar will score one and make one because, well, that’s how he does things at the moment. Suarez or Cavani will pick up a consolation, but onwards and upwards for a team aiming to win their fourth Confederations Cup and be the first team to win it three times in a row.
The man knows his football, but even he gets it wrong from time to time. Feel free to share your view below.