Brazil vs. Germany World Cup Handicapping: Neymar and Silva absences
by Trevor Whenham - 7/7/2014
The good news for Brazil and their fans is that they beat Colombia and moved on to the Semifinals in their own World Cup. That is pretty much where the good news ends, though. Beyond that the semifinals were pretty much a disaster. First, captain Thiago Silva received his second yellow card in the game, and that means that he will not be available for the semifinal against Germany - though he can return for the final if they make it that far. Then, and far more significantly, Neymar, the most dynamic offensive force on the team and one of the top two or three players in the tournament, was injured. It was a very rough game, but Neymar paid the biggest price when he fractured his vertebra in a nasty, and seemingly malicious, collision. Losing their captain and their best player in one game. Ouch.
For bettors, this situation creates a massive and relatively unique challenge. Brazil was the favorite for this tournament years before the tournament started, and that feeling only intensified as the tournament neared. Their performance hasn't been nearly as dominant as people expected, though, and now they are seriously handicapped. So, does this mean that they don't stand a chance against a very good German squad? Or are they deep and talented enough to overcome these challenges and still assert their strength? In short, how do we handicap a game like this?
It is easy to panic about the loss of a player with the offensive talent of Neymar. In the entire tournament, only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have a bigger impact on the offensive efforts of their team than this youngster does. Estimates vary depending upon the methodology, but it is believed that Neymar adds somewhere between 0.3 and 0.5 goals per game to his team compared to an average international player in his position. That's a remarkable impact, and his loss will obviously be felt in a significant way.
There is one significant factor that needs to be remembered here, though - Brazil does not have a lot of average international players on their roster. There are a lot of options for replacement of Neymar, and we will likely see a combination of players, but guys like Bernard, Jo and Willian are all well above average themselves. They aren't at the level of Neymar, but they are all well above average. There will be a significant drop off without Neymar but not likely as big of a drop-off as most people will assume.
There is another key factor here. With Neymar going down, and going down in the way he did, the team has a rallying point - something to get fired up about. They can play for their fallen hero. Over the long term that wouldn't be enough, but we only need to be concerned about one game - for now anyway. Emotion is a big factor in the World Cup. The home squad hasn't pulled the energy from the home crowd that many expected as of yet, but this could be enough to help the team overcome the deficit caused by Neymar's absence - and perhaps more.
Silva is a defensive force on this team, and he's a veteran presence. Like Neymar, though, the impact of his absence is eased considerably by the fact that his replacement options are much better than the starters for most teams in the tournament. He will not just be replaced by an average player, so the impact of his loss won't be as large as people might expect. It is his leadership that could be more of a loss - coupled with a surprising creativity in offensive set pieces.
The biggest advantage here is that the length of the loss is minimized. It's not like his leadership won't be around the team leading up to the game, and the team knows that he will be back and fired up for the finals. On a psychological basis, then, this is not nearly the loss than that of Neymar. Of course, that means that it doesn't act as nearly as much of a rallying point, either.
There is one concern about the team regarding Silva's absence. They have reportedly formally asked FIFA to reconsider the suspension given the officiating in the Colombia game. That is almost certain not to happen, but it does call into question the mindset of their team. If they are whining and feeling sorry for themselves regarding the suspension then that could have a larger impact on the mindset of the team preparing for this game. They need to be able to rally around these setbacks - turn circumstances into a positive - if they want to succeed. If they can't do that - if they let the challenges weight them down - then Germany will eat them for lunch.
Add it all up
You can't underestimate or ignore the impacts of these two losses. The Brazilians are unquestionably a weaker team on paper than they were before their last game. Chances are very good, though, that the impact of the losses will not be as significant as the vast majority of public bettors will assume it to be. The media coverage of the situation has been intense, and that won't fade. This doesn't mean that there is suddenly massive value in betting on Brazil - it's not that simple. It does mean, though, that it would be very easy to overreact and to give Germany too much credit as a result. How you bet on the game depends on what your opinion of the two teams has been over the last three weeks, but don't let these losses scare you off of Brazil if that's what you otherwise like - or to jump on Germany because it seems like they can't lose now.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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