Reda Maher

Brazil 360: Loew aims broadside at Brazil fouls as hosts continue to obsess over Neymar

Reda Maher

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“We will beat Brazil, and we should in theory win the final,” Jens, from Cologne, stated with the confidence of a man expecting victory.

“Brazil are nothing without Neymar, and they have become obsessed with him being injured. We are just hitting form, and have a few gears left.

Argentina have lost Di Maria, so if we get them in the final it’s just Lionel Messi. We have a team, and we always beat Argentina.

“And if we get Holland in the final… well, the boys all know what Arjen Robben does, cutting inside from wide to shoot or dive, and if you shut him out of the game, that’s it for them.

“Given who he’s playing against, I think we can say he’ll be frustrated."

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Strong words indeed. But that confidence – bordering on arrogance – was a recurrent theme when I spoke to Germany fans ahead of the World Cup semi-final against hosts Brazil in Belo Horizonte.

A group of supporters at Rio Santos Dumont airport were joking about by how many – not if – Germany would beat Brazil.

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Boss Joachim Loew – usually understated with the media – refused to be drawn into such trash talk.

Indeed, in his pre-match press conference Loew expressed his disappointment at Neymar’s absence.

“I'm incredibly sorry for Neymar. He's an amazing footballer and it's really bitter and hugely unfortunate that he's going to miss out - for him, for his team and for the whole nation.

“I hope he recovers and is playing again as quickly as possible and that he can deal with this setback positively.”

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While fans and pundits are positive of a Germany victory, Loew was a bit cooler.

“I'm looking forward to it so much, and everybody in the squad is too,” he added.

“I think all Germans are also, and one thing's for sure - we desperately want to play in the Maracana in Rio again on July 13.

“We're not done yet."

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All very charming stuff.

But Loew couldn’t resist a tiny dig at Brazil, who tried and failed to get Colombia’s Juan Zuniga retrospectively banned for injuring Neymar, while having the cheek to appeal Thiago Silva’s suspension, which was also rejected.

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“Colombia against Brazil was a real fight with numerous fouls from both sides, not just that one on Neymar.

“Refs have to protect players.”

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He was referring, of course, to Brazil’s rough treatment of James Rodriguez.

It is doubtful that Germany’s supremely fit outfit will suffer physically at the hands of Brazil, but by turning the conversation back on the hosts he has created an environment whereby his own team’s tendency to win free-kicks can be put to effect.

It’s the first time Loew has really engaged in any mind games at this World Cup, but he has picked a good time to start, with Brazil obsessing over perceived injustice.

They have allowed themselves to get distracted by the Neymar issue – there’s a difference between a siege mentality and emotive statements about “tears and catastrophe”, as Luiz Felipe Scolari indulged in.

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Big Phil tried to dampen the drama of the past few days by saying his team “can cope without Neymar”.

“I have a great squad and I’m sure that we are going to play for ourselves, for Neymar, but also to reach the final.

“Neymar is not here, but he is still with us, and us with him.

“The part where we get sad is over and we left that behind when we knew he wouldn’t be with us anymore.

“He told his team-mates that he had done his bit - now it’s us up to us to do our bit, not just the team, but the fans.

“We will we be playing not only for ourselves but our country’s hopes – and for Neymar.”

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Perhaps Brazil will channel that emotion. But, as is clear from Felipao’s press conference, they are still obsessing over Neymar.

It’s hard to imagine the Germans allowing such a distraction at this stage of the tournament – and it’s just as difficult to imagine them losing.

Eurosport’s Reda Maher is on location in Brazil for the duration of the 2014 World Cup - follow him on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport

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