France vs Germany World Cup 2014 preview: The key men for each team in the quarter-final

Who will France and Germany look to as they fight for a place in the final four?

Two European heavyweights go head-to-head in the Maracana on Friday afternoon, hoping to reach the final four of the World Cup.

We look at the three key men Didier Deschamps and Joachim Low will rely on in Rio de Janeiro and what they must do to ensure it is their team in the semi-final.

Read more: Philipp Lahm divisions add to Germany ill feeling
Five reasons why France will beat Germany
Five reasons why Germany will beat France

France

Raphael Varane

The classy young defender has started all three of the games France have won in this tournament and despite his tender years, the 21-year-old has not looked at all out of step on the world stage. France have conceded just twice in their four games so far and both of those came when they were already 5-0 up against Switzerland.

He will have to be at his very best to cope with the movement of 'false 9' Thomas Muller, who is anything but a traditional centre foward.

Paul Pogba

Sir Alex Ferguson, wherever he has been watching the World Cup, will still be kicking himself every time the centre midfielder plays. That Manchester United somehow allowed the infinitely talented Frenchman to leave Old Trafford for free still boggles.

Physically imposing and lighting quick, Pogba is graceful on the ball and possesses a fearsome strike. He is a sight to behold when driving at pace from midfield. Paul Pogba (centre) produced a man-of-the-match performance against Nigeria in the last 16 Paul Pogba is both graceful and destructive in the centre of the French midfield

Karim Benzema

The Real Madrid striker started the tournament brilliantly, scoring three goals in the opening two matches as France romped to victories against Honduras and Switzerland. But in the two matches since, Benzema has been off-colour and was well marshalled against Nigeria, though he did have a shot cleared off the line.

He will need to be back to his best and take any chances given to him by a stern German defence.

Germany

Manuel Neuer

The Bayern Munich keeper was sensational against Algeria, recording a quite amazing 21 touches outside of his area. Playing almost as a sweeper, the 28-year-old is the primary reason Germany are able to play such a high pressing game, despite Per Mertesacker's lack of pace.

When he's not resembling an outfield player, Neuer remains one of the best goalkeepers in the game, calm under the high ball and an excellent shot-stopper.

Philipp Lahm

There has been plenty of discussion surrounding which position the German skipper will play. He is so good in a holding role, capable of breaking up play and starting attacks but he is easily the best full back they have.

Low has opted to play Lahm in the midfield and use four central defenders across his back four - however, against Algeria the Germans were a much bigger attacking threat with Lahm pouring down the right. It will be interesting to see what Low opts to do. Philipp Lahm is excellent in midfield but better at full back Philipp Lahm is excellent in midfield but better at full back

Thomas Muller

The Germany hitman didn't have the greatest of games against Algeria, but he was still a constant threat. Whether he plays through the middle or out wide, Muller's superior movement gives defenders nightmares. He doesn't always appear to be completely involved in the game but he is the man to step up for the Germans when it really matters.

Nine goals in 10 World Cup matches are testament to that.

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