The Telegraph
Friday , July 4 , 2014
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Keen to see two professors fight it out in battle of tactics
- Joachim’s boys could prove to be too hot to handle

Luiz Felipe Scolari and Jose Pekerman

When the quarter-finals kick off on Friday night, all of us would remain glued to the television sets to watch the mouth-watering contest between Germany and France. However, from the tactical point of view, I would wait keenly for the Brazil-Colombia tie.

It could turn out to be a wonderful strategic combat between the two coaches Luiz Felipe Scolari and Jose Pekerman.

Both are called “the professor” by their respective students and the duo is certainly among the best brains in South American soccer.

Though Brazil are overwhelming favourites, there are two people who can upset their applecart. If James Rodriquez is the one who should not be allowed any space by the Brazilian midfielders, the Colombia coach could also turn out to be a big hindrance to hosts’ aspirations.

Pekerman has learnt his coaching the hard way. He once worked as a taxi driver to earn his livelihood but then went on to lead Argentina to three Youth World Cup titles. I was amazed to see how the “El Professor” pushed Jackson Martinez, the man who struck twice against Japan, to the wide allowing Rodriguez to run into the space against Uruguay.

It was the masterstroke that won the match for Colombia.

I give more credit to Pekerman because Colombia without Radamel Falcao is like Argentina without Lionel Messi and Brazil without Neymar.

Pekerman orchestrated the entire Colombian campaign like a true concertmaster. I am sure that Pekerman would continue to play his pressing football in the attacking third. In the midfield, the Colombians would naturally continue to play deep to thwart the Brazilian attackers.

Scolari has a bigger problem in hand. Firstly, Neymar’s injury is a worrying factor. Even if Neymar plays against Colombia, one is not sure how much workload he would be able to take. The absence of Luiz Gustavo is also a drawback. The holding midfielder is a key man in Scolari’s scheme of things.

While Scolari would definitely ask Fred and Hulk to start making things happen, He might also play Fernandinho in place of Paulinho because of the former’s better technical abilities.

All said and done, Germany have impressed me most, especially after the way they clinched the deal against Algeria. The Africans were able to contain Thomas Mueller, who, perhaps, is the biggest danger man in the attacking third, but they had no answer to the way the Germans increased men in attack.

German passing game was absolutely smooth and always had two extra men to receive the ball. To do it with such monotonous ease was a classic act. If skipper Philipp Lahm can return to his old form, the Joachim Loew’s boys could be difficult to beat.

France’s biggest plus point so far is their consistency. Didier Deschamps has the amazing ability to strike to the right combination in every game. Like Pekerman, the French coach, too, was struck by bad luck before the World Cup as Franck Ribery got injured. But he made Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud develop into a fine combination. However, against Germany, Deschamps might ask Benzema to keep moving through the middle as it would give France more control over the match.

From the coaching point, I always maintain that a team needs a good strategy to win important matches. But there are times when one or two players make all the difference with their prodigious abilities. Lionel Messi is surely one of them.

The Belgian coach Marc Wilmots could be having lots of plans to contain the Argentine captain but everything might fall flat in a momentary flash of brilliance from Messi. And Wilmots knows it more than we do. Let us be prepared to witness yet another one-man show in a team game.