BELO HORIZONTE - Hosts Brazil bid to bring the dream of 200 million compatriots a step closer to reality on Tuesday as they play European giants Germany in the first World Cup semi-final while an illegal ticket sales scandal enveloped a FIFA partner company.
Brazil are seeking their sixth World Cup trophy in all and to set aside memories of when Uruguay denied them their first trophy in the 1950 final in their historic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
However, after being rebuffed by FIFA over two disciplinary matters on Monday they will hope their losing streak doesn't extend into Tuesday when they face a German side, in Belo Horizonte, they have played just once at a World Cup in the 2002 final and which the Selecao -- coached then as now by Luiz Felipe Scolari -- won 2-0.
Having already lost their one star player Neymar to injury the Brazilians failed to persuade FIFA to rescind the yellow card handed out to captain Thiago Silva from the bruising quarter-final with Colombia which meant he is suspended for the semi-final.
Neymar, who fractured a vertebrae when Juan Camilo Zuniga kneed him in the back in the final stages of the quarter-final, has still found the strength to rally his team-mates ahead of the match.
Neymar fractured a vertebrae when Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga kneed him in the back in the quarter finals. PHOTO/AFP
His injury keeps Neymar out of any more World Cup matches this year. PHOTO/AFP
"The way Neymar spoke to the players made them understand that he had done his share and now we need to do our share," said Scolari on the eve of the game.
"Myself, the other players, all the Brazilian people. This match is very important, it could take us to the final.
"We are playing for our country, it is everything we imagined and dreamed of, and also for Neymar."
Scolari's German counterpart Joachim Loew, for whom this is a third successive World Cup semi-final and the second as head coach, said that his side would not be just playing the 11 men on the pitch but a whole nation.
"It's the battle of two continents, Europe against south America. Brazil have 200 million fans, so we're playing the whole country, it's something unique," said Loew.
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has been dubbed the "sweeper keeper" for his impressive defensive abilities. PHOTO/AFP
Germany will have to beat hosts Brazil to play in the final. PHOTO/AFP
The 54-year-old, who also guided Germany to the Euro 2008 final where they lost to Spain and to the Euro 2012 semi-finals, is concerned that the match referee Mexican Marco Rodriguez -- who was in charge of the Uruguay v Italy group game and did not notice Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini -- would stamp down quickly on the Brazilians robust tackling which has attracted a lot of criticism.
Brazil committed 31 fouls in Friday's 2-1 quarter-final win over Colombia and 28 in their last 16 win over Chile, compared to just 29 by the Germans in their two knock-out matches.
"I hope the referee Rodriguez will clamp down, because I have seen in the last few matches that Brazil's physical energy is going beyond of what we see in Europe," said Loew.
"If the games had been played in Europe, none of the 22 players would have finished the matches.
"I believe we have to see that these brutal and rude fouls are stopped."
Hosts Brazil bid to bring the dream of 200 million compatriots a step closer to reality as they play Germany tonight. PHOTO/AFP
Meanwhile off the pitch an ongoing investigation into illegal ticket sales saw it lap at FIFA's door.
Ray Whelan, a director at Match Hospitality, was detained at Rio de Janeiro's luxurious beachfront Copacabana Palace Hotel -- where FIFA president Sepp Blatter and other FIFA notables are staying during the finals -- days after 11 people were rounded up in a raid to dismantle the network.
Fabio Barucke, the case's lead investigator, said Whelan, 64 and who is a former agent of England football legend Bobby Charlton, faces charges of facilitating the distribution of tickets for their illegal sale and criminal conspiracy. If found guilty, he could face four years in prison.
Police say the international scalping syndicate sold thousands of tickets worth millions of dollars, going back to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
The scandal is the latest to hit FIFA, which is already battling allegations that members accepted bribes from a Qatari football official to secure support for the emirate's campaign to get the 2022 World Cup finals.
One of Match Hospitality's shareholders is Swiss-based Infront Sports and Media, headed by Philippe Blatter, the nephew of Sepp Blatter.