Germany reach semis

LONDON - Joachim Löw's young Germany side beat France 1-0 thanks to first-half goal from Mats Hummels at the Maracana to reach the semi-finals of the 2014 Fifa World Cup yesterday.

So many German players rose to the occasion last night, driving their team through to the semi-finals.

Hummels blocked and scored. Manuel Neuer made a couple of unbelievable saves. Bastian Schweinsteiger dominated midfield. Thomas Muller, the dynamo of Deutschland, never stopped running.

France failed because too few of their major players responded to the German challenge. Karim Benzema had a couple of chances but never imposed himself properly. The vaunted midfield was largely quiet. The French fans’ desire to avenge results in 1982 and 1986 was never sated. France went out with a whimper. The Germans were too strong, too organised and too clinical.

Some German fans donned Angela Merkel masks, others wore lederhosen while one confidently sported a replica shirt declaring “1954, 1974, 1990 - let’s do it again”. They outnumbered the French fans. They powered through their national anthem. Supporters and players were primed for this, no question. They believed. France, for all their talent, didn’t.

France froze, seemingly in awe of their former nemesis, certainly showing far too much respect. They sat off the Germans, who responded ruthlessly, taking the lead after only 12 minutes. Toni Kroos curled in a free-kick from the left and Hummels was far too strong and canny for Raphael Varane. Hummels bullied the 21-year-old, giving the Real Madrid defender a harsh lesson in the need to stick tighter to an opponent, to lean into him, even to block the run. Varane was too generous, Hummels too determined.

Never losing sight of the ball, the Borussia Dortmund centre-half met it with a flicked header that kissed the crossbar gleefully on its way into the net. Hugo Lloris had no chance. Varane enjoyed a good season for Real Madrid, ending the club season as a European champion but he looked an ingenu when Hummels came calling.

Since the 2002 World Cup, the Germans have now scored with 15 headers, seven more than any other side. They were typically well-organised, so primed for the French. They played a high defensive line, squeezing the space in midfield. They pressed from the front, Muller as industrious as ever. Muller again highlighted his versatility by shifting right with Miroslav Klose arriving at the point of a 4-2-3-1 system.

Germany’s tactics worked. Joachim Low reacted to Didier Deschamps’ anticipated inclusion of Antoine Griezmann by switching his captain, Philipp Lahm, to right-back, to combat the threat of the tricky Real Sociedad winger, who had so impressed when coming on against Nigeria in the round of 16.

With Lahm at full-back, Low moved Jerome Boateng across to partner the outstanding Hummels and dropped Per Mertesacker. The Arsenal defender waved to Arsenal fans serenading him with their “BFG” chant as he warmed up behind Neuer’s goal.

France were too timid for half-an-hour, too nervous. Mathieu Debuchy tugged Klose’s shirt but the veteran fell too theatrically for Nestor Pitana’s liking. The Germans were in charge, their excellence obvious all over the tastes. Muller was driving down the right, socks slightly down, ambition always up, brought down by Patrice Evra. Neuer whipped a perfect right-footed ball to Lahm. Boateng rose above Griezmann to clear. They built inexorably towards their goal.

Hummels was the most influential performer of the game. He made two vital blocks as France gradually came to life. When Griezmann hooked the ball back across goal, Mathieu Valbuena controlled the ball and then shot. Neuer made a marvellous reflex save, keeping the ball out with his left hand. Benzema threatened to maintain the pressure but Hummels cleared with his right knee. No wonder the Dortmund fans call him “Mr Indispensable”.

France still seemed energised, throwing off their cloak of caution. Pogba turned Kroos with a mix of athleticism and elegance. But for Hummels and Neuer, France would have equalised. When Evra crossed, Benzema directed a downward header which Hummels cleared. Benzema cut in from the left, creating space for the shot well, but Neuer was in the right place at the right time.

France’s coach, Didier Deschamps, who was famous for his rallying cries as a player, must have had a word at the break but it was not enough. Benzema immediately got on the wall, working space for a cross. France France moved up a gear but Germany were too organised. Again Hummels defied them, making two clearances. Griezmann escaped from Sami Khedira, who tugged him back and was deservedly cautioned.

The Germans were in control, defending well and counter-attacking at times. Mesut Ozil was quiet on the left, partly because Muller and Lahm were commanding the ball down the right. Bastian Schweinsteiger did engineer a move down the inside-left channel, cutting the ball back in for Kroos, whose shot swept wide.

Schweinsteiger was delivering for Germany in the centre, tracking back to assist his defence, cutting out a Matuidi cross. Neuer clutched a header from Varane. Hummels then resumed his defensive master-class. When Benzema turned Lahm and got a shot in, Hummels blocked. Immer Hummels. Always.

French fans were frustrated and subdued, breaking briefly into “Allez Les Bleus" but the more vociferous sections were the Brazilians, many chanting “Flamengo". Loew set the French more problems, withdrawing Klose and sending on Andre Schurrle on to the right, shifting Muller into the centre and using their formidable energy to disrupt France. Schurrle almost scored when Muller missed Ozil’s cross but Lloris saved.

The life was draining from France’s World Cup dream. Loic Remy had come on, so too did Olivier Giroud but German’s defence was too resolute. They almost scored a second when Muller laid the ball off to Schurrle, whose shot ploughed into Varane. France almost forced extra time but Neuer palmed Benzema’s fierce left-footed drive away. Germany go through, deservedly so. Hummels and Neuer, Muller and Schweinsteiger deserved it. – Telegraph

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.