France 0 – 1 Germany (Hummels 12)
Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels delivered a fatal blow to France as his first half strike took Germany into the final 4 of the World Cup. On a game played at a moderate pace under the sweltering heat of Rio de Janerio, it was Germany who won pretty comfortably, despite having been played till extra time by gritty Algeria and then suffering an illness scare in midweek.
The match was billed as the biggest contest between these two footballing giants since the infamous 1982 World Cup clash is Seville, a match which ended 3-3, West Germany advancing 5-4 on penalties to the final, but mainly remembered for German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher’s reckless challenge of France defender Patrick Battiston.
Mats Hummels returned to the squad, having missed the Algeria game due to illness, and replaced Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker, Philip Lahm took his customary right back position, in place of former Everton defender Shkodran Mustafi. Sami Khedira started in defensive midfield along with the explosive Bastian Schweinsteiger, while there were starts for Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller and Toni Kroos too. Miroslav Klose, who needs 1 goal to become the all time leading scorer in the World Cup’s started up top. Mouthwatering.
For France, Laurent Koscielny missed out, with Sakho partnering Varane in defence. Germany looked more settled from the off, and it was no surprise when they took the lead as Mats Hummels held off Raphael Varane to head home the opening goal in the 12th minute off a Toni Kroos free kick. France were left shocked, as this was the first time they had conceded first in the tournament, and the first time they had conceded a goal in the first half this World Cup.
It could have been worse, when minutes later Argentine referee blew away German appeals for a penalty after Newcastle right back Mathieu Debuchy bought down Miroslav Klose in the box. Replays showed the German forward had probably gone down too easily. France’s midfield trio of Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye were struggling to make inroads against the well oiled German trio of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira. Mathieu Valbuena, who has been influential for Les Bleus, looked dangerous at times, but lacked the support he needed.
Germany continued playing their defensive high line, with Manuel Neuer playing as a keeper sweeper, and were dangerously exposed when Soceidad winger Atoine Griezmann crossed for Valbuena, whose left footed effort was well saved by Neuer. The rebound fell right into the path of Benzema, who failed to put the ball in the back of the net. Germany were slowly feeling the effects of the heat, as Benzema twice powered his way into the German final third, but lacked the cutting edge to draw the French level.
The Fench continued with the same vigor in the second half, by now gaining control of midfield, thus allowing ample wingplay as Germany started looking weary. Griezmann and Valbuena were constant threats, but most French attacks fizzled out, owing to Germany’s tightly knit defence. The only chances worth noting were a Varane header, and a Blaise Matuidi effort, which causes Manuel Neuer no real danger.
Klose was taken off, for Chelsea striker Andre Schurrle, and the spring was back in the steps of the Germans who looked to counter attack. Valbuena came off for Giroud, with 5 minutes left, and the Arsenal striker almost set up Karim Benzema for the equalizer in extra time, but Manuel Neuer pulled off a fantastic save to ensure Germany’s passage into the semi-final.
With this Germany have another chance to win a major trophy, with a squad as talented as theirs at the moment. France, however, can reflect on what has been a tournament that promised so much, but eventually fizzled out in extremely humid conditions of Rio de Janeiro.
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