France vs Germany match report World Cup 2014: Mats Hummels heads Germany into the semi-finals

France 0 Germany 1

Brazil 2014 has been the story of neurotic defences and  liberated, attacking football but at some point it was a fair bet that the goals would dry up as the stakes were raised. It just happened to be the Europeans who interrupted the party, although that will matter little to Germany.

FOLLOW OUR WORLD CUP LIVE BLOG HERE

On march Die Nationalmannschaft to their fourth successive World Cup semi-finals, a record for any country. This is not a lavishly talented German team and given opportunities to score further goals they displayed none of the old ruthlessness we expect of them but, well, they got the job done. Mats Hummels scored the winning goal with just 12 minutes of the game played and the Germans closed the deal with confidence.

It is 18 years without a trophy on the international stage but they rarely fall short when the pressure is on. Afterwards, Joachim Löw, who tinkered successfully with the side that eliminated Algeria in the previous round, dropping Per Mertesacker, reminded the press that Germany had won 28 out of their last 31 official World Cup finals matches: “It’s quite a performance.”

This game was not in keeping with the ebullient mood of the tournament but it showcased what this current Germany team are best at. Hummels was the outstanding player in the centre of defence although once again Manuel Neuer ran him close, stopping the French attacks on the few occasions they managed to get a shot on goal, most notably efforts from Mathieu Valbuena and then, late on, Karim Benzema.

Löw said that he believed he the conditions in Brazil suited the Latin American countries, although that is the last time his team will have to kick off at 1pm. “In Germany in 2006 all of the four semi-finalists were European,” he said. “Now the South Americans are fighting for their lives. They know the climate and it does have an effect. Of course they have an advantage playing on home turf.”

 

It was a bad day for Didier Deschamps and France, one in which their shortcomings were exposed. The inexperience in this young team meant that they allowed themselves to be bossed in midfield at times and they could not take the few chances that came their way. Their manager insisted more than once that there was not much between the team, and he was right, but Germany’s victory demonstrated what a good tournament side they have become.

“Sometimes you need a bit of luck,” Deschamps said. “Sometimes you need to be faster. Neuer made some good saves. I don’t think there was a huge gap between the teams. We had some chances, but we weren’t as efficient or as lucky as we could have been.”

Yet in the closing stages, when Deschamps’ team were trying to rescue the game, it was Germany who had the better opportunities on the counter-attack, most notably the substitute André   Schürrle. France started this tournament with such ambition, eight goals in their first two games, but they had precious little to spare in the heat of the Maracana.

It was a big decision from Löw to drop Mertesacker, uncomfortable holding the high line played against  Algeria that caused his team such anxiety. The Arsenal man has neither the pace nor the mobility to do it, but it was notable that with Jerome Boateng switched to the centre once more, Löw’s defence played much deeper.

France players were inconsolable at the final whistle France players were inconsolable at the final whistle Like all elite coaches, these are big decisions and by the end of the game, as Mertesacker left the pitch with his arm around his Arsenal team-mate Laurent Koscielny, Löw could feel vindicated. His defence had dealt with the three in France’s attack of Benzema, Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann, the latter preferred to Olivier  Giroud. What the defence had not coped with, the gloves of Neuer did.

Before the break, France did not test that German back four which was made to look so vulnerable against Algeria. Instead they found themselves often overrun in the midfield where the Germans seemed to have it all their own way, using the spaces around Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba and what felt like an extra man at all times. Only at the end of the half did France come back into the game.

They had gone behind to Hummels’ header on 12 minutes glanced off the cross of Toni Kroos whose free-kick came from the left wing. There were no points for assertiveness for Raphael Varane who, right from the start of Hummels’ run across the box, allowed himself to held at arm’s length by his fellow defender.

For all their possession, Germany did not test Hugo Lloris again before the break. There was some nonsense from Miroslav Klose in the area on 24 minutes when he threw himself to ground as Mathieu Debuchy unwisely grabbed a handful of his shirt. The Argentinian referee saw nothing wrong with it.

Valbuena had made France’s first chance, a cut-back to Benzema which the latter put wide. Later, with 11 minutes to the break, Valbuena had France’s best chance of the game. Griezmann, who had wandered out to the right through what looked like frustration, hit a cross to the back of the post for Valbuena to meet. His shot was saved well by Neuer. The rebound fell to Benzema but Hummels managed to get his effort up and over the bar.

Deschamps seemed unwilling to let his team off the leash in pursuit of the equaliser until late on. Indeed, his first substitution was to replace Mamadou Sakho with Koscielny. Shortly afterwards he brought on Loic Rémy and played the Newcastle United man on the right.

France could not get in behind the Germans, even with their wealth of attacking talent. Matuidi had a chance, a shot blocked by Neuer from the left side. Hummels continued his fine game, stealing the ball away from Benzema at crucial times. Schürrle was on for Klose and Thomas Muller pushed forward into the centre-forward position.

Schürrle had two chances in the last 10 minutes. The first came when Mesut Özil crossed, Muller missed the ball and it fell to the Chelsea man. Lloris saved. Later, Varane threw himself in front of another shot. There was one final chance for France, a break down the left channel by Benzema. His shot was pushed away by Neuer. France had not got close to beating him.

France (4-3-3): Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra; Pogba, Cabaye, Matuidi; Valbuena, Benzema, Griezmann.

Subs: Koscielny/Sakho 72, Remy/Cabaye 73, Giroud/Valbuena 86

Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Hummels, Hoewedes; Schweinsteiger, Khedira; Muller, Kroos, Ozil; Klose.

Subs: Schurrle/Klose 69, Gotze/Ozil 84, Kramer/Kroos 90

Referee: N Pitana (Argentina)

Man of the match: Hummels

Booked: Germany Khedira, Schweinsteiger

Rating: 5

Attendance: 74,420

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen