Brazil v Germany: Joachim Loew's men seek to break home hearts as titans clash
In only the second meeting between the sides in the competition, Europeans are out to gain revenge for their loss in the 2002 final
Germany will meet tough-tackling Brazil head-on when football's titans clash in their World Cup semi-final with the host nation desperate to win the title for injured superstar Neymar.
Joachim Loew's Germany want to avenge their 2002 final loss by knocking the hosts out in Belo Horizonte and reaching Sunday's final in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil are forced into a reshuffle without playmaker Neymar and suspended captain Thiago Silva as they look to realise dreams of a sixth title on the home soil of the Maracana.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, with his reputation on the line, has vowed to win the World Cup. Known as "Felipao" or "Big Phil", depending on which of the many countries he has been working in, Scolari managed the Brazil side who won the World Cup for a record fifth time in Japan in 2002.
If he succeeds he will become only the second coach, after Italy's Vittorio Pozzo (1934 and 1938), to win two World Cups.
But without Neymar as he goes into a semi-final against Germany, Scolari knows his nation, still traumatised by their defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 tournament they hosted, will not tolerate an upset.
"If I feared challenges, I wouldn't have achieved anything in my career," the 65-year-old once said.
Scolari said after the quarter-final win against Colombia that his side had "one hand" on the trophy. Scolari accepted the chance to return to the national side in November 2012, after Mano Menezes was sacked.
Born in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, Scolari was a limited player, but he has distinguished himself as a coach, travelling the world over the past three decades.
He has worked in Kuwait, Japan and Uzbekistan but has not been successful everywhere - Chelsea's demanding owner Roman Abramovich sacked him after just seven months running the English Premier League side.
Nevertheless, he won the Copa Libertadores, the greatest prize in the South American club game, with Gremio of Porto Alegre and Palmeiras of Sao Paulo, and took Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 as well as the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup.
Now his mission is clear. "I took on the national side to be champion," he said after his return. And if he does that, he might even shave off his most prized possession.
"I don't have any authorisation to get rid of the moustache - but we shall study proposals."
Meanwhile, Brazilians may be lamenting Neymar's misfortune, but the Germans wish he was fit to face them.
"It's always better when the opponents have all their best players, besides it'll bring the [Brazil] team together and they'll want to win the title for [Neymar]," said Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Brazil paid the price for their rough treatment handed out to James Rodriguez as Colombia met fire with fire before Juan Zuniga's challenge on Neymar left the Selecao star in hospital.
Schweinsteiger has kicked off the mind games by insisting the referee must pay close attention to the Selecao, who made 59 fouls in the past two matches, compared to the Germans' 29.
"The Brazilians here aren't the magicians of old, the team has changed and so has their playing style," said Schweinsteiger.
"Hard challenges are definitely a part of their game, it's something we have to be careful of and the referee too."
Remarkably for two World Cup powerhouses with 24 semi-final appearances between them, this will be just their second meeting in the competition after the 2002 final.
"It's an honour to play against the hosts, but it would be better to play Brazil in the final," said Schweinsteiger.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters