Ahead of Friday's quarter-final meeting, we find a few reasons for Didier Deschamp's France to be feeling optimistic against the Germans.
1. They are the best they’ve been since 2000
French teams are prone to implode, it’s happened all too often before. But this time, Didier Deschamps has overcome the infamous Gallic mood to create a harmonious dressing room that contains genuine quality. They may have needed until the final 10 minutes to score past the brilliant Vincent Enyeama – one of the keepers of the tournament, by the way – but make no mistake, this is the best French team since they won the 1998 World Cup and European Championships in 2000. Deschamps has a settled first team that is a mix of youth and experience, pace and craft and in Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema they have two of the best performers of the tournament so far. The manager also has an impeccable record at World Cups as both player and coach; in 10 matches (spanning 1998 and 2014) Deschamps is unbeaten with eight wins and two draws - he won the only other World Cup he was involved in.
Video: France prepare for Germany clash
2. They have something to prove
France have not performed at a major international since Zinedine Zidane dragged them to the World Cup final in 2006 (just don't mention Marco Materazzi). France are a proud sporting nation and another early World Cup exit would not have been tolerated; however they manoeuvred through the group stages with ease and turned it on when they needed to against Nigeria. They will not fear Germany.
3. France can stifle Germany
Germany are predominantly a team who like to play through the middle, with a false nine and a lack of width. If they continue with that tactic against Les Bleus, it should be easy for Deschamps’ men to nullify the German threat. In Pogba and midfield partner Blaise Matuidi they have two of the most athletic midfielders in the World Cup. Germany like to pop the ball around quickly in the middle third, dragging teams and players out of position, but Pogba and Matuidi, along with Yohan Cabaye should he start, are up to the challenge of keeping up with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
4. The Germans are overrated (and ill)
This could come back to haunt me. France’s opponents may have put in the best performance of the tournament so far when they thrashed Portugal 4-0 in their opening game, but since then Joachim Low’s side have not been up to scratch. They were lucky to draw with Ghana, scraped past the USA and needed extra-time to beat Algeria. France will have learned a lot from that last-16 match – the North Africans exposed Germany’s lack of pace in defence; expect Deschamps to be drawing up a game plan to do the exact same thing. Despite Low confirming his squad were back to full fitness it would be surprising if a couple of players were not still feeling the effects of an outbreak of flu in the camp earlier this week, seven players were laid up in total.
5. The Germans are due an 'early exit'
Since World Cup 2002, Germany have only once failed to reach at least the semi-final stage, when they failed to get out of the group stages in Portugal. In those other tournaments they have finished third three times and been beaten finalists on two occasions. It's time they gave someone else a turn in the final four...
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