Germany take on France in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Friday at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, in a match that should prove to be quite an evenly contested affair.
German coach Joachim Low hasn't had the most comfortable route to this stage in the competition, with disappointing performances against Ghana and Algeria still fresh in the memory, and will be offering the utmost respect to Didier Deschamps' side.
France have impressed most throughout this tournament with a solid attacking principal, based on the foundations of a defense that simply doesn't let anything through. Having conceded just two goals in the four games they've played so far—both of which coming once they'd convincingly overcome Switzerland—Low's biggest concern will be breaking down their back line and scoring goals.
Furthermore, the German coach may be even more concerned about the suspect form of his chosen two wide players, Mario Goetze and Mesut Ozil, who have been incredibly hot and cold throughout the tournament.
Although the Arsenal playmaker scored in Germany's last game, he hasn't looked his best in a number of games this summer. Often drifting through games entirely, the attacking midfielder looks a shadow of the player who broke onto the scene in South Africa four years ago.
Similarly, Goetze-Marco Reus' able replacement forward has been thrown into this side and really struggled to settle into Low's 4-3-3 system. Off the back of a very plain season for Bayern Munich, the former Dortmund star has only shown his quality in the final third in brief sparks of life.
If the German coach is looking for attacking influence, he may have to look elsewhere.
One of France's most notable strengths is the fact that their entire squad is packed with world-class players. Each position is stocked with at least one quality player who can play that role perfectly well and could potentially handle any German throw at them.
As such, Low will have to turn to the tactics board if he has any hope of overcoming Deschamps' side. Here he may well find a chink in the French armour.
What the two goals conceded to Switzerland showed us is that it isn't impossible to break through this defence, but when we take a look at how the Swiss side chose to attack, we find an even more notable path to goal.
If we take a look at the chances Switzerland created in that game, via the Squawka graphic above, we can see that there was space to exploit just in front of France's defence. A spot in the field usually taken up by Yohan Cabaye.
This is simply because the former Newcastle midfielder is more of a deep-lying playmaker rather than the more conventional defensive midfielder. And when Paul Pogba or Blaise Matuidi are further up the field, the central midfielder is vulnerable to counter-attacks and leaves the centre of the French defence wide open to offensive moves.
This is where Switzerland found success, and it's also where Germany will have to strike if they hope to overcome their opponents on Friday.
Although other players such as Ozil and Thomas Mueller have created more key passes throughout the World Cup, Germany will need to rely upon attacking midfielders like Toni Kroos who can play through the centre of the park and create chances on the edge of the box.
As we can see from the graph above, when it comes to creating goalscoring opportunities for the front three, Kroos has taken it upon himself to impose his attacking flair on Germany's midfield. According to Whoscored.com, the Bayern midfielder has completed eight key passes in the four World Cup games thus far, while second-placed Bastian Schweinsteiger struggles to come close with just four.
Germany's best hope is that the central midfielder is able to overcome his opposite number in the French side and exploit the faults in Cabaye's defensive game. If Kroos can do this, and get into that space behind the French midfield, then we should expect to see some effective chances for Mueller to finish.
Amongst the injuries to Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, and the inconsistent form of the front line, Kroos has quietly gone about his work for Germany in this competition with the kind of consistency that his side could certainly learn from.
No player in Low's side would be more fitting and well suited to performing to the best of his abilities on Friday and knocking out this fearless French side.
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