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Short handed Brazil, hungry Germany clash in first World Cup semifinal

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The 2014 World Cup has only the cream of the soccer crop left in the semifinals. In fact, two of the great World Cup champions of all time are meeting in the first semi on July 8, as five-time champion and host Brazil meets three-time champion Germany. Yet this isn't a semifinal where both teams are at full strength.

The Brazilians have had every advantage in this World Cup, but have struggled with it most of the way. Perhaps they will be more dominant now that the odds are longer against them, with Neymar out for the rest of the tournament and captain Thiago Silva suspended for this match due to yellow cards.

Nevertheless, despite these new problems and their struggles in past matches, the Brazilians are right where they wanted to be. They are two wins away from a record sixth title, as they now face the team they beat for their last championship in 2002.

The Germans have gone 24 years without winning it all, and are back in very familiar territory as they try to end the drought. This is Germany's fourth straight World Cup semifinal, although it has lost at this stage in 2006 and 2010 -- both to the eventual champions -- and won in 2002 only to fall to Brazil later.

Germany has had its own problems in this tournament, yet it was largely in control against France in the quarterfinals. Brazil is another matter entirely for the Germans, since they will not have home field advantage and since they can't afford to breathe too big a sigh of relief without Neymar and Silva there.

This is the World Cup semifinal that most people predicted from the start, even if Brazil and Germany stumbled more than expected along the way. Now one of these nations will be one step away from bringing home another title, which is technically old hat for them -- although it hasn't been for a long time.

Will Brazil be stronger now that they aren't expected to roll over the competition? Will Germany get over the hump and break an entire country's heart? The answers will start to come at 4 p.m. est on ESPN.

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