The hosts were already missing their most talented player, injured striker Neymar, but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said his side had absorbed the disappointment of his absence and were looking forward to Tuesday’s match in Belo Horizonte.
“The team will miss the way he plays, the happiness. I’m sure that tomorrow they will play for Neymar, but also for themselves and, above all, for the goal of the whole group – to qualify for the final,” he told reporters.
“He has done his share, now it’s up to us, myself, Thiago, the others and all the Brazilian people. This is the match where we are playing for everything we dreamed of, for each and every one of us, and for Neymar.”
Latin American fans are hoping Brazil meet their arch-rivals Argentina in soccer’s biggest showcase at the Maracana stadium, but the Netherlands and Germany stand in their way as four heavyweight teams slug it out in the semi-finals.
First up are Brazil, who have yet to shine at a tournament in which they are feeling the weight of 200 million people’s expectations on their shoulders.
Anything but winning the World Cup on home soil would be a national catastrophe, even though Brazil have won the trophy five times, more than any other nation.
When Colombia defender Juan Zuniga clattered into Neymar with his knee in the quarter-finals, breaking a bone in his back, there was a mixture of shock and anger among Brazilians who knew the injury was a major setback to their chances.
FIFA ruled on Monday that Zuniga would not be punished for the challenge, because rules prevent the ruling body from revisiting an incident that is dealt with by the referee on the pitch.
Thiago Silva, however, was still fuming.
“In my opinion, it was a cowardly tackle,” the suspended captain said. “I am a defender and you don’t do that. There’s no way you put a knee behind a player to get a ball in front, unless you want to cause a certain situation.”
Germany are undefeated in Brazil but have not faced a Latin American team yet. Their four wins were against Portugal, the United States, Algeria and France with a draw against Ghana.
The other semi-final, between Argentina and the Netherlands, will be played in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, and while the South Americans will look to forward Lionel Messi for inspiration, the Dutch have their own match-winner in Arjen Robben.
Messi, who many believe is the best footballer of his generation, has lit up the tournament with four goals and intelligent passing, and with him in the team Argentina have a good chance of winning the World Cup for the third time- Reuters