On the fourth of July, France and Germany face off in a duel of European heavyweights at the Estádio Maracanã. After both teams made tough work of defeating inferior teams, this is a match where both must show up with their best football or they will be punished. With no clear favourite having already emerged at this World Cup both teams harbour hopes, if not expectations, of winning the entire tournament.
Germany took on Algeria in the round of 16. Algeria were looking to avenge the 1982 World Cup where West Germany and Australia collaborated to put each other through agreeing to play out a 1-0 West Germany win at the expense of Algeria. Germany was looking to book their 16th consecutive quarter finals appearance in the World Cup. Die Mannschaft got there in the end but did not make it easy on themselves. Algeria was able to hold the Germans scoreless for 90 minutes and send the game into extra time. Only three minutes into the extra time Andre Schürrle opened the scoring with an exquisite back heel finish. Mesut Özil made it 2-0 in the 120th before Algeria pulled one back in injury time.
France took on Nigeria and were not nearly as convincing as they were at times in the group stages. It took two late goals to see France through to the quarterfinals. Paul Pogba took advantage of Vincent Enyeama flapping at a ball into the box to head into an empty net for the goal that ultimately sealed Nigeria’s fate. Joseph Yobo put the ball into his own net in the 90th minute making it 2-0. France progressed but were not particularly convincing in doing so.
Germany will get central defender Mats Hummels and winger Lukas Podolski back from injuries for the game against France. The Germans look like they will be without Sampdoria defender, Shkodran Mustafi. France’s only injury concern is Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho. He was forced to miss out vs Nigeria with a hamstring issue and may not be at full fitness to face the Germans.
Bad news for Germany as nine of the last 10 teams to advance after extra time in a World Cup were eliminated in the next round. Germany have advanced past the quarter finals in each of the last three World Cups. France have only made it to the quarterfinals in two of the last four World Cups, but have reached the final in the two years they did. France have only been eliminated in the quarter finals once in their World Cup history and that was back in 1938.
France’s key man is their number one striker and top goalscorer at this tournament, Karim Benzema. The Real Madrid star has impressed so far in this World Cup and will need to continue to impress for France to overcome the Germans. Didier Dechamps tried starting both Benzema and Olivier Giroud against Nigeria. It was very effective in their game against Switzerland in the group stage, but it did not have the same effectiveness against Nigeria. The former Lyon man was not as effective cutting inside and Giroud’s physical presence was not as useful. With the two of them failing to click against Nigeria, Dechamps will probably go back to having Benzema as his central striker and drop Giroud for someone that will give the team more width. If the Real Madrid man goes back to being the focal point of the French attack he will need to show his early tournament form or else it could be a long day for the French.
Chelsea winger Andre Schürrle may not even start this game but he could prove to be the key man for Germany. The Chelsea man is yet to start a game at this World Cup making three substitute appearances. The way the German manager, Joachim Löw, has decided play from the start has been with lots six midfielders and true strikers or wingers. This can be effective due to the technical ability of those players, but sometimes it is apparent that Germany need a direct threat on the pitch. With Lukas Podolski just coming back to fitness, the former Leverkusen man is almost certain to be that first guy off the bench to change the way the Germans are playing giving them a direct option. If Germany struggle early, Schürrle’s impact off the bench could be a big factor in deciding this quarter finals match up.
This is one of the tightest match ups in the quarter finals. With both teams being very equal in terms of quality, this game could come down to either team just having the player to produce that one moment of magic. I see this game going to penalties and we all know how good the Germans are at penalties.