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Small team of students can help break Latin American hegemony

THAT no European team has won any of the previous six World Cups in Latin America is not a daunting prospect for Germany as they head into tonight's World Cup semi-final against hosts Brazil, according to assistant coach Hansi Flick.

Germany can be first European side to win in Latin America
Germany can be first European side to win in Latin America

Germany are confident that two years of meticulous university research, combined with their own scouting and preparations for the conditions, will give them an edge against five-time winners Brazil on their home turf.

"We're very, very well prepared and we're looking forward to playing Brazil," Flick said asked about how Germany planned to ended the dominance of Latin American teams in their own region. "We've been working on this project for the last two years and our entire system has been built up for that."

Germany are undefeated in Brazil but have not had to face a Latin American team yet: their four wins have come against Portugal, the United States, Algeria and France, with a draw against Ghana.

Major European rivals such as Spain, Italy and England have already been beaten or knocked out by South American teams.

Flick said to get ready for South American teams Germany have benefited from a giant database put together by a team of about 50 students at Cologne's sport university over the last two years. That information, combined with scouting reports, has been used for detailed analyses of Brazil and their players.

"The sports students in Cologne have been studying in great detail our opponent and put every play they've run, every newspaper article on them, and everything about them out there under the microscope and made all that data available to us," Flick explained.

"We've got this enormous database to draw upon and, together with our scouts, we're able to take a close look at our opponent and make our plans for the match. It's a project we've been working on intensively for the last two years. We've been able to cull some very high quality information from all the data from the students. It's very much helped us prepare."

Germany have only taken on Brazil once in World Cups - that in the final of 2002. Dietmar Hamann, the midfielder who played in that match, dismisses the notion that the team has ghosts to lay to rest. The latest crop of Germans, he says, are made of different stuff.

"Back then we were a very efficient group that worked well together, but we had nowhere near the same kind of flair our lads have today," he said. "Our creative department consisted primarily of Bernd Schneider, and to a certain extent Torsten Frings, but he played at right-back. And that was it. Today we've got five or six players who can create chances.

"The only way we could win our games was by keeping things tight at the back and maybe scoring one ourselves at the other end. Today they have enough quality to score four, five or six in a game."

Hamann believes that Brazil will struggle to cope with the loss of their talisman, Neymar, to injury. "Brazil now need someone to stand up, shoulder the responsibility and fill in for him. I think Hulk is their best bet, but they'll miss Neymar's moments of magic.

"Now we'll see whether or not their attack is still strong enough to cause Germany some problems."

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