France 0 Germany 1: Highlights, key battles and what the result means
Published on Jul 5, 2014 2:42 AM
Germany marched on to a record fourth straight World Cup semi-final appearance with a tense 1-0 victory over France in Rio de Janeiro.
They went ahead within 15 minutes of the quarter-final tie, and had to rely on stout defending and a couple of outstanding saves from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to clinch the narrow win.
In the suffocating heat at Rio's Maracana Stadium, the Germans took the lead in the 13th minute. Toni Kroos whipped in a free kick from the left flank, and it flew straight towards an onrushing Hummels who flicked a deft header past Hugo Lloris.
With the lead, the Germans sat back in defence to lure the French into leaving space at the back for counter-attacks. However, France managed to come close near the end of the first half, when Mathieu Valbuena's goal-bound shot was acrobatically tipped away by Neuer.
France stepped up the pressure in the second half, but Hummels was immense in the German defence, marshalling his defensive partners superbly to keep the likes of Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann at bay.
German substitute Andre Schuerrle wasted a glorious chance to seal the tie, as he shot straight at Lloris despite being completely unmarked.
Then Neuer made a stunning point-blank save from Benzema deep into stoppage time, as Germany squeaked through to the semi-finals.
To repel the dangerous left-flank French duo Patrice Evra and Blaise Matuidi, German coach Joachim Loew decided to put captain Philipp Lahm back to his old right-back position instead of his current defensive midfield role.
While Lahm did not completely nullify the surging runs of Evra and Matuidi, he did at least repelled some of their attacks with astute tackles and incessant harassing. As a result, France found it hard to produce chance from the left flank.
Man of the Match
It is a close tussle between Hummels and Neuer, but the edge should go to Hummels for both netting the winner and keeping the opponents at bay throughout the match. He made a fine last-ditch block to keep out an attempt by Benzema, and swept up plenty of French passes into the box. And it was a fine, instinctive header that won Germans the match.
What the result means
For Germany, it is a mark of their consistency that they have reached a record fourth successive World Cup semi-final. Even when they do not find their best form and play their finest football, they somehow always find a way to win. They will feel confident, no matter if their semi-final opponent is Brazil or Colombia.
For France, it is another crushing loss to their old rivals, but at least this World Cup went a long way in erasing memories of their ugly 2010 meltdown. The French side under Didier Deschamps are vibrant and united, with some fine youngsters coming up like Griezmann and Matuidi. The future looks bright.