The opening clash of the World Cup 2014 quarter-finals sees Europe’s heavyweights face off in Rio de Janeiro, as France take on Germany for a place in the last four.
We’ve seen five out of eight knockout-stage matches go all the way to the wire with nothing to separate them after 90 minutes, and Friday’s clash could be the same with two of the best in the business locking horns.
Here, we take a look at both nations’ form heading into the match and assess who could come out on top.
Venue: Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
Date: Friday, 4 July
Time: 5 p.m. BST / 12 p.m. ET
TV Info: BBC One (U.K.) / ESPN2 (U.S.)
France in Good Shape for Victory
When France are in action, you just never know what they’re going to bring to the table.
A nation that is undoubtedly one of international football’s superpowers, the French have always had a wealth of class at their disposal; just, sometimes, they fail to use it.
A pattern is emerging in their recent World Cup record since failing to qualify for the 1994 tournament, starting with their win on home soil in 1998: finalists, eliminated at the group stage, finalists, eliminated at the group stage—2014?
Continuing such a record by reaching the final in Brazil means disposing of one of the tournament favourites, Germany, which have their tag for a reason.
Though they were held 0-0 by Algeria in 90 minutes in their round-of-16 clash, Germany have more than enough about them to pose the French a problem in Rio.
Many pundits have said that the Germans are just getting warmed up, but they don’t have a lot more time to reach their peak in Brazil and could be sent packing on Friday.
Two wins and two draws in their tournament so far doesn’t exactly tell the story, as they’ve been extremely shaky at the back—uncharacteristically so.
Famous for their efficiency and no-nonsense defending, Germany haven’t exactly been themselves in defence in Brazil, playing a high line of defenders with very little pace between them.
Gary Lineker was one of many bemused by the Germans’ setup against Algeria, and you can guarantee that France will take full advantage if they do the same on Friday:
The German high-line is bordering on suicidal. Cannot understand why they would play that way with Mertesacker.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 30, 2014
The French have looked incredibly dangerous on the counterattack all tournament, and that could be where Friday’s game is both won and lost.
Their playing style has won plaudits so far in Brazil, and the fact that they’ve kept three clean sheets in four matches speaks volumes.
With Germany likely to enjoy the majority of possession at the Estadio do Maracana, France could reap a lot of joy on the counter, as Ghana did during their 2-2 draw with the Germans in the group stage.
Germany are a determined bunch, though, and manager Joachim Low says that his side will be focussing on making big improvements from their clash with Algeria when they play France, as per Agence France-Presse (via FIFA.com): “We must be better for the match against the French. Today was a victory of the will. During the first half we were poor, we gave away a lot of ball, which invited Algeria to counterattack us.”
Low knows that France won’t let his side get away with it if they continue to show defensive frailties, as they have one of the fiercest attacking lines in the tournament.
Karim Benzema has been the star of the show so far, scoring three goals and impressing greatly when moved into the out-and-out striker role, as he looks a little lost when playing on the left wing to accommodate Olivier Giroud—as Rio Ferdinand touched upon:
Benzema on the left....does he look happy there??! Anytime France have looked dangerous Valbuena has been involved— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) June 30, 2014
For everything said about Germany’s defence, though, they’ve also kept three clean sheets out of four in normal time, but that’s mainly thanks to their goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer.
Neuer will be in charge of keeping Benzema and Co. out on Friday, but that’s not going to be an easy task, and he may be picking the ball out of his net once or twice.
It’s going to be an extremely tight match in Rio, and it would be far from surprising to see extra time unfold, but France may just have the edge when it comes to the midnight hour.
Prediction: France 1-1 Germany (France progress to semi-finals AET)