Estadio Maracana, Rio De Janeiro
Friday, 4th July; 1600 GMT
Estadio Maracana provides the perfect setting for the world cup quarter finals between the two neighbours and traditional rivals, France and Germany. Both teams are yet to convince the footballing world of their potential to go all the way in this World Cup, but a good performance and success in this match would certainly silence the doubters.
Germany come into this one on the back of a laboured performance against a spirited Algeria side. The Germans needed extra time to beat the African team and thus came in for a lot of criticism from their country’s media. The only players absolved of it were Andre Schurrle and Manuel Neuer. Although their tournament started brightly with a 4-0 win over Portugal, they haven’t looked the same side thereafter. Only managing a draw with Ghana and a narrow win over the US did not help the cause. Even though they finished top of their group, it seemed that the side were lacking the renowned German efficiency.
Similar to Germany, France also come into this match as table-toppers in the group stage. The scorelines might suggest that Les Blues look in ominous form, however on the field they have been far from convincing. Two late goals in the round-of-16 match against Nigeria were only just good enough to see them through on the day. They will have to be more clinical in front of goal if they want to have a chance of going into the last four.
Team news and Tactical Brief
Joachim Low’s men are under pressure to perform, following their poor showing in the round-of-16 match against Algeria. The German camp had been hit with a flu bug which resulted in Mats Hummels missing the last game, but he is expected to return for Friday’s game. His replacement Shkodran Mustafi suffered a hamstring injury during the game and has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament. Bastian Schweinsteiger also limped off during the game but is also expected to be back.
What will worry Low most, apart from the injury concerns, is the drop in form of Mario Gotze. The Bayern Munich man has been a shadow of his former self and looks likely to be dropped to the bench in favour of in-form Chelsea man Andre Schurrle. If he does start, he will be a part of Low’s 4-3-3 formation with skipper Phillip Lahm sitting in front of the defence. Both Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng looked a bit suspect against the pacy Algerian forwards; however, they will likely take their place again in defence. The in-form Thomas Muller will lead the line in attack, while Mesut Ozil and quite possibly Schurrle take up the wings. Midfield generals Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger will take their place in their usual central positions.
Although Lahm’s playing position has been of much debate recently, the Bayern Munich player plays an important role in breaking down plays. His distribution skills and reading of passes will be an added bonus. Neuer playing as a fifth defender (or a sweeper keeper as they are calling it) will also boost the fragile looking defence. Up front, Andre Schurrle’s excellent performance against Algeria might be enough for him to win his place in the starting eleven while Muller will look to add to his hat-trick he scored against the Portuguese.
Possible starting lineup (4-3-3): Neuer (GK), Boateng, Hummels, Mertesacker, Howedes; Lahm, Kroos, Schweinsteiger; Schurrle, Ozil, Muller
On the contrary, France have almost no injury concerns coming into this match. Mamadou Sakho has recovered from a hamstring injury and may win his place back in the centre of defence. Laurent Koscielny, who replaced Sakho in the last match, put in a good performance against Nigeria and it would be interesting to see if Didier Deschamps goes with the former or the latter.
Much criticised (for his on-field temperament) Paul Pogba has been in the news recently for all the right reasons. The 21-year old midfielder put in a Patrick Viera-esque performance and earned the praise of his manager. The major concern for France will be the dip in Olivier Giroud’s form. He has struggled to get the goals on a consistent basis in this tournament and might be dropped in favour of Antoine Greizmann. The latter played a major role since coming on as a substitute in the game against Nigeria, even notching up an assist for the second French goal. This may also mean that Benzema plays a more central role in attack.
France will be expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation similar to Germany’s. Yohan Cabaye will likely do the “Lahm role” for Les Blues. Apart from the aforementioned dilemma that Deschamps faces in the center of defence, the rest of the eleven really picks themselves. Patrice Evra, Rapaheal Varane and Mathieu Debuchy are almost sure to keep their place in the side. Blaise Matuidi and Pogba will provide the attacking impetus for France in attack. Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena are also almost certain to start.
Possible starting lineup (4-3-3): Lloris (GK); Debuchy, Varane, Koscielny, Evra; Cabaye, Pogba, Matuidi; Greizmann, Benzema, Valbuena
1. Miroslav Klose is one goal shy of beating the Brazilian Ronaldo’s record of 15 goals in world cup finals.
2. Since the German unification, France have beaten Germany 4 out of 6 times in world cup meetings.
3. The last time these two sides met in a world cup quarter final was in 1986. France beat Germany 2-0 on the day.
Player to watch out for
Mathieu Valbuena (France)
The diminutive winger impressed one and all with his work-rate in the match against Nigeria. In a team which lacked a bit of passion on the day, Valbuena seemed to make up for it all on his own. Him, along with Pogba, were the best players on the pitch for France. He will play a key role down the right-wing where Benedikt Howedes looked a bit out of his depth in the last match.
Germany 2 – 1 France
Although France have the upper hand against Germany in world cup matches, the latter have experience on their side. With the likes of Lahm and Schweinsteiger having more than 100 caps each to their name, they should be able to make it count and get through to the final four – albeit with a narrow margin.
Blast From The Past