Germany fear 'brutal' Brazil without Neymar and Silva
Joachim Low calls on referee to get tough over fouls as Germany prepare to take on hosts
Brazil's posterboy Neymar may have been fouled out of the World Cup but ahead of the host's World Cup semi-final against Germany, Joachim Low is calling on the officials to "clamp down" on Brazil's "brutal" tactics in tonight's showdown.
After days of self-pity among Brazilians over some of the challenges they faced in the quarter-final against Colombia, Low has turned the tables on the whimpering hosts, accusing them of committing over-the-top fouls themselves.
Claiming that challenges in the quarter-final "went beyond the limits in Europe", he added: "When I saw that match... in Europe, 22 players wouldn't have ended that match." He wants Mexican referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez to take a tough line with the hosts in the semi-final in Belo Horizonte.
Maintaining his line of counter-intuitive invective, the German coach has also dismissed the idea that Brazil will miss Neymar and the suspended Thiago Silva in tonight's encounter, despite reports that the Brazilian squad is in "emotional turmoil" over the loss of Neymar.
A sports psychologist has even been called in to lift the players' spirits, but Low is not buying into the negativity. "You shouldn't believe the absence of Neymar or Thiago Silva will be a big disadvantage for Brazil," he argued. He predicted that Silva's replacement Dante "won't deliver a bad match", adding: "He's an excellent player, and others will feel invigorated."
So who will come in for Neymar? Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is keeping tight-lipped. "I know the starting line-up and when they walk on the field you will see why I made those choices," he said.
One thing that has been announced is that David Luiz will be handed the captain's armband in the absence of Silva, after the appeal against his ban failed.
Oddly, given their standing as footballing superpowers, Brazil's only previous World Cup encounter with Germany came in the 2002 final in Japan, in which Scolari emerged triumphant. But despite the belief that European sides cannot flourish in the South American climate, Low's side will be many people's favourites for this evening's encounter.
Spain's early exit from the World Cup means the Germans are now the world's number one team according to the Fifa rankings, but Low said he and his players were paying no attention to the their top billing.
"That's just statistics," he shrugged. "They're not relevant. We're concentrating on this match. The energy I've seen in the team remains outstanding. The team is totally focused and concentrated on the game ahead." ·