A European team is guaranteed to make the last four of the World Cup as Les Bleus take on Joachim Loew’s men at the Maracana on Friday after both overcame African opponents in their round of 16 matches. It has been a difficult World Cup for many traditional European powers but the continent is assured of at least one participant in the semi-final with France facing Germany at the Maracana on Friday.
It is a fixture that immediately recalls memories of the famous World Cup semi-final clash between the sides in 1982, when Germany won on penalties following a 3-3 draw best remembered for Harold Schumacher’s brutal challenge on French forward Patrick Battiston.
Germany are playing in their ninth World Cup quarter-finals in a row, but Joachim Loew’s side have failed to impress in Brazil since their thumping 4-0 victory over Portugal in their opener. Last time out, they scraped past Algeria with a 2-1 win in extra-time that has prompted a huge debate back home over the team’s performances, tactics and style. One crucial issue for Loew as he debates his line-up is whether to play captain Philipp Lahm in midfield or at right-back. Another is the poor form of the likes of Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze.
The Germans should be boosted by the return of Mats Hummels after he missed the Algeria game with an illness that struck the camp, but Shkodran Mustafi is out of the tournament with a hamstring injury. In attack, Andre Schurrle is expected to start after scoring as a substitute against Algeria, while Thomas Muller will continue to lead the line, meaning Miroslav Klose will have to come off the bench if he is to break the World Cup scoring record. While Germany have looked exhausted after a gruelling schedule that included group games in the north, France come into the clash as the fresher side after beating Nigeria 2-0 in the last round.
The French were unconvincing in the last 16 but have played some slick football during the tournament, with Didier Deschamps intelligently using his attacking options. The stage is set in this last eight clash for Paul Pogba to show why he is considered one of the best midfielders in the world at the age of just 21. The Juventus man has been inconsistent so far in his first World Cup but has shown flashes of his match-winning ability and scored the crucial opener against Nigeria. Mamadou Sakho is fit after a hamstring problem but may not regain his place in the side after Laurent Koscielny impressed against Nigeria as Les Blues kept a cleansheet. Deschamps has tinkered with his team in previous matches but the only anticipated change is the introduction of Antoine Griezmann for Olivier Giroud after the Real Sociedad winger added a much-needed zest to France’s attacking firepower as a substitute against Nigeria.
There have been 17 goals scored in the three previous World Cup meetings between France and Germany, an average 5.7 goals per game.
Germany have scored two or more goals in each of those World Cup matches and are unbeaten since their first World Cup clash with France in 1958 (3-6 defeat), winning in the 1982 clash on penalties (3-3) and winning in 1986 (2-0).
The two sides last met in a friendly in February 2013. France took the lead through a Mathieu Valbuena strike in the first half, before second half goals from Thomas Müller and Sami Khedira secured the victory for Germany.
Germany have reached the semi-finals of the last three World Cups. No nation has ever made the last four in four successive tournaments.
Germany are unbeaten in 15 internationals (Won-10 Drawn-5), longer than any other side still involved at the World Cup.
On the last five occasions that France have progressed past round 1 in the World Cup, they have reached the semi-final stage (1958, 1982, 1986, 1998 and 2006).
All of France’s goals during this World Cup have come from inside the box (10).
France have lost only one of their 10 games played on Brazilian soil (Won-6 Drawn-3).
France are the first team to benefit from two own goals in the same World Cup.
Les Bleus have hit the woodwork more often than any other team at this World Cup (6), which is the highest tally for a team since Poland and Argentina in 1982 (both 6).
Thomas Müller (four goals, two assists) has been directly involved in six of Germany’s nine goals (66.7%) at this this World Cup.
Karim Benzema (19) has fired in 12 more shots than any other French player during this tournament.
André Schürrle has scored five goals in his last five competitive matches for Germany.
Miroslav Klose needs one more Runescape 3 Gold to be the World Cup’s highest scorer. He is currently joint-top with Ronaldo (15 goals).