Muller a sweet selection

  • By: Ian Ogg
  • Last Updated: July 8 2014, 18:54 BST

Ian Ogg previews Tuesday's World Cup semi-final between Brazil and Germany and is backing Thomas Muller to score first.

Could Thomas Muller provide the spark that separates the sides?
Could Thomas Muller provide the spark that separates the sides?

No European side has won the World Cup in South America.

Could this be about to change?

Brazil v Germany, semi-final, Belo Horizonte, 2100 BST

Pre-tournament favourites Brazil have been distinctly underwhelming and have had their share of good fortune thus far in the competition.

Neymar has undoubtedly lived up to his star billing but the Selecao must now step up to the plate without their matchwinner who has been ruled out of the tournament with injury.

Hulk and Fred's contributions have been about as monosyllabic as the names they're known by while Oscar has been more Golden Raspberry than Golden Globe but he did show up a little brighter in the quarter-final.

These are not bad players, however, and this is not a bad side even if it is one that falls short of the mythical Brazilian teams of Pele, Zico, Jairzinho etc.

David Luiz has done his bit to provide some flair and he, accompanied by Marcelo and Dani Alves, have provided rather more excitement than their attacking counterparts at both ends of the pitch and therein lies the problem.

There's no doubt that Brazil are vulnerable at the back and they have had Julio Cesar - who is arguably fortunate to be eligible for this game - to thank for conceding as few goals as they have. Captain Thiago Silva is out with suspension and that is a huge blow, one that some pundits have argued is of greater significance than the absence of Neymar.

Brazil appear to be feeling the weight of expectation and pressure on their shoulders, it has been evident at almost every turn of their tournament and could prove too much but the absence of their talisman may produce a stronger, united outfit where one or two of their undoubtedly talented players assume more responsibility.

Germany have been, dare I say, efficient - or at least reasonably so - but they have not been an outstanding outfit either.

They accounted for France comfortably enough and thrashed an abject Portugal but have proved unconvincing in beating the USA, Algeria while only drawing with Ghana. Indeed, as the market suggests there isn't one team in this tournament that has wowed or convinced with Marc Wilmots labelling Argentina 'ordinary'.

The odd star name has made a difference. Messi for Argentina, James Rodriguez for Colombia, Neymar for Brazil while Thomas Muller has scored four times for Germany.

There has been criticism with Joachim Low coming under pressure for his team selection. Many felt he was right to drop Per Mertesacker and move Philipp Lahm to full-back and there are calls for Mesut Ozil to be dropped with Paul Breitner commenting 'nine men are torturing themselves for 90 minutes and he's going for a walk."

Germany have kept four clean sheets in five matches and that lack of stardust for the hosts could make the difference in a game where the Europeans seem certain to create or be granted chances and it could be argued that they have the greater cutting edge too.

That would point to a Germany victory and, in many respects, they would be an 'easy' tip as a clear and decent case can be made for them but the bookmakers aren't convinced and, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on, neither am I.

They top the betting in some books but not in others, some layers just can't separate the pair and I feel that's a better reflection of the match than the air of gloom and despondency that appears to be surrounding the claims and abilities of the hosts.

The knockout stages have been tight with few goals and the markets reflect that. Under 1.5 goals is tempting at a general 13/8 (longer in places) but it isn't a price that seems demonstrably wrong or the case for that outcome demonstrably strong enough to take the price regardless.

Given his record, a stronger case can be made for backing Muller to open the scoring - either on the nose or each-way with the few firms that offer it - while Oscar is widely expected to assume a more central position and to be given more attacking licence in the absence of Neymar and he needs considering in the same market or to provide an assist given that he has laid on two goals already.

Half of the 12 knock-out games have gone to extra time with half of those going to penalties and the odds available about winning in a shoot-out or in extra-time make some appeal if you're willing to chance your arm.

Another area to consider is yellow cards and bookings as Brazil have collected eight yellows with Germany shown just two so there could be some scope there but I'm struggling to find an angle to approach the game which could be decided by one mistake or one moment of brilliance.

Verdict: Brazil 1 Germany 1

Best Bet (with Sky Bet): Thomas Muller to score first at 9/2

Opta facts:

The Seleção have lost none of their last six semi-final matches, winning five and drawing the other.

Germany are the first country to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in four consecutive tournaments. However, they have reached the final just once (2002) in their previous three appearances at this stage.

Brazil have won just one of their last four World Cup matches against UEFA opposition. That victory came in the Group Stages of this tournament against Croatia (D1 L2).

Germany's only defeat in their last nine matches against South American opposition at the World Cup came in the 2002 final versus Brazil. They have won six and drawn two of the other eight.

Germany's last six goals in the competition have been netted by six different players. Only Thomas Muller (4) has scored more goals for Germany in this competition than centre-back Mats Hummels (2).

Against Colombia, Brazil conceded 31 fouls; more than the Seleção have conceded in any single World Cup game from 1966 onwards.