France vs. Germany: Low Fixes Germany's Defensive Line to Stifle Les Bleus

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France vs. Germany: Low Fixes Germany's Defensive Line to Stifle Les Bleus
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Germany progressed to the FIFA World Cup semi-finals courtesy of a 1-0 victory over France on Friday evening.

Mats Hummels opened the scoring early on from a set piece, and that ended up the difference, with les Bleus pushing and pushing but Die Mannschaft holding out for the win.

 

Formations and XIs

@stighefootball

France continued with the 4-3-3 that has served them so well, pushing Karim Benzema back into the No. 9 role from the start and bringing Antoine Griezmann in on the left.

Germany switched to a 4-2-3-1, played Miroslav Klose up front and brought Hummels back into the defensive line.

 

Germany with a No. 10

Germany strayed from the 4-3-3 for the first time in the competition, selecting a more basic 4-2-3-1 formation as they looked to iron out the mistakes of the first four games.

Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger sat in holding midfield and released Toni Kroos in the No. 10 role, then floated Mesut Ozil off to the left and Thomas Mueller outside on the right.

The difference was remarkable, even aside from Die Mannschaft's standard seven minutes of straight possession to begin with, as their passing gained purpose and began probing France's defence from the off.

FourFourTwo.com/StatsZone
Passes received by Kroos vs. France.

Kroos found a lot of space between the lines and received plenty of passes, then turned and fed either Mueller coming in off the right flank or Klose dropping off the centre-backs.

The quality of the link-up play, overall, was superb—a far cry from the drab possession that's haunted them thus far.

 

Germany's Back Line

After the initial spell of pressure in which France barely touched the ball, les Bleus felt their way into the game and began to find a passing rhythm.

Pushing Mathieu Debuchy forward from right-back drove the defensive line back, kept them honest and allowed Yohan Cabaye to get his foot on the ball.

The Germans, though, kept a pretty high line even when dropping off and invited balls in over the top. Antoine Griezmann stole in once and fashioned a chance, but more often than not the offside trap worked, or France mistimed their chips.

The most concerning thing about this for France was the lack of space to drive into, and that took away the threat of Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba surging into the channels and overloading the flanks three versus two.

Schweinsteiger and Khedira were very studious in taking them one versus one in marking, and Lahm brought balance to the defensive line.

Matuidi and Pogba's best attributes come when able to hurtle forward, yet the former managed a paltry two dribbles completed, per WhoScored.com.

 

Adjustments

Germany's changes were near-straight swaps, with Andre Schurrle replacing Ozil but swapping with Mueller on the flanks. Christoph Kramer came on late to see things out, and Mario Goetze made a cameo appearance.

Didier Deschamps was far more forceful, bringing in Loic Remy for Yohan Cabaye and swapping Mathieu Valbuena and Olivier Giroud in the second half.

FourFourTwo.com/StatsZone
Germany made four key blocks in their own area to deny France a goal.

In the end, les Bleus were in a 4-2-4-esque shape with two strikers and Benzema floating off them, but the lack of support in midfield continued to hinder Matuidi and Pogba's ability to shuttle forward with the ball at their feet.

Benzema squandered the best chance, skipping away and creating room in a crowded box for a shot. Hummels, the goal aside, had a ridiculously good game and thwarted les Bleus almost single-handedly.

 

Conclusions

After some very strong play in the first four games, France became a dark-horse selection to win the tournament for many.

Their free-flowing football had been a joy to watch, but were they ever truly tested? Switzerland, the only genuine chance of a battle, underperformed drastically when the two met in Group F.

It remains an exceptionally young side that can continue to grow ahead of Euro 2016 on home soil.

Germany advance, and that coach Joachim Low managed to fix his defensive line and get them playing so well with the click of a finger is very promising. France besieged the goal, but Die Mannschaft held firm and played the game perfectly.

 

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