France vs Germany. The history between these two nations is endless. Much of it is unpleasant to say the least. Of course, there is World War II, which saw the two nations and their respective allies fought a brutal, savage war that lasted six years, and millions of lives lost.
The 1982 semifinal in no way compares to the horrors of WWII, but it did intensify feelings and emotions between the two nations. The bad blood rose on the soccer pitch in Seville, when West German keeper Harald Schumacher flattened French defender Patrick Battiston with a crushing blow, as both men were going for a loose ball. Many observers thought that Schumacher deliberately tried to injure Battiston and thought the keeper should have been shown a red card. But the Dutch referee thought otherwise and didn’t call a foul. West Germany went on to win the match on penalties. France were furious. Battiston went to the hospital with a broken jaw and a concussion.
The two countries will renew acquaintances at the legendary Maracana Stadium in Rio to see who will go the semifinals at the 2014 World Cup.
After topping Group E, France weren’t impressive, but did enough to defeat an uninspired Nigeria side in the Round of 16. Germany needed extra time to defeat Algeria in a cagey affair that disappointed the neutrals.
The French have lined up in a 4-3-3 formation throughout the tournament with success. Don’t expect a change from Didier Deschamps.
Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Valbuena are expected to be the starting front line. Benzema leads Les Bleus with three goals at this World Cup, but missed some glorious scoring chances against Nigeria. The Real Madrid forward will need to be more clinical around the penalty area. Giroud has struggled in this World Cup with his stamina and quality. It is possible that Antoine Griezmann could make the team sheet ahead of the Arsenal man. Valbuena was impressive against Nigeria with his pace causing difficulty for Nigerian defenders.
Paul Pogba was named Man Of The Match against Nigeria, and the award was deserved. The Juventus midfielder scored the first goal and was a creative, dynamic force for the full 90 minutes. Blaise Matuidi was pragmatic and effective against Nigeria, but he will have to provide a moment or two of brilliance against Germany. Yohan Cabaye will lay back and keep an eye on Thomas Muller in the middle.
The back four will have its sternest challenge in this tournament. Left back Patrice Evra laboured against Nigeria, as the ManchesterUnited defender lacked pace and form. The likes of Muller and Andre Schurrle could find joy along the right flank if Evra struggles again. Raphael Varane suffered a hamstring knock, but should be ready for the Germans. Laurent Koscielny was excellent against Nigeria, and will need to stay on form. Mathieu Debuchy is a rising star at left back.
Hugo Lloris hasn’t been busy at this World Cup, but that should change against Germany. The Tottenham keeper will face an onslaught like he hasn’t seen so far, and he must be at his best for France to advance.
If France goes 4-3-3, expect Germany to do the same and go toe-to-toe. Joachim Low won’t be afraid to match up, knowing he can match up with anybody in the world.
Thomas Muller was mentioned earlier and with good reason. The Bayern Munich forward leads Die Mannschaft with four goals in the competition but was off-target against Algeria. Andre Schurrle showed more pace than Mesut Ozil against Algeria, so expect the Chelsea forward to be placed on the team sheet, on Muller’s right side. Mario Gotze has been somewhat disappointing for Germany, but he is capable of raising his game to another level.
The fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger is always a concern. The Bayern Munich midfielder is nursing a nagging knee injury that simply won’t go away. Schweinsteiger is expected to start, but how long he can go is a big question in this match. Toni Kroos is expected to start along the left side.
Many German supporters want Philipp Lahm to start at full-back but the German captain is expected to be in the central midfield spot he has patrolled at this World Cup. Lahm is the most versatile player on this German team, and with the return of Mats Hummels to the starting eleven, Lahm will stay in the midfield.
Speaking of Hummels, the Borussia Dortmund central defender is expected to move to right back as Shkodran Mustafi tore his hamstring against Algeria, and will miss the rest of the tournament. Benedikt Howedes should start at left back. Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng should be the centre backs. All four will have to be at their best against a unified French side.
Manuel Neuer has been slightly shaky between the sticks. The Bayern Munich keeper hasn’t been at his absolute best and if his struggles continue, Germany could be in trouble.
The pressure is on Germany to win. Many in the German media are expecting a fourth World Cup for Deutschland and anything less is unacceptable. The French are a younger team that wasn’t expected to win the tournament. Germany could take advantage of an ailing French back four, who are struggling with injuries and inconsistency. France are a cohesive unit, but this particular unit have never been in a pressure cooker like the World Cup quarterfinals. Germany usually rises when the pressure mounts and they will do so again. It won’t be easy, but Germany wins 2-1, and they will advance to the semifinals.
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