You can call it boring. You can call it frustrating. You can call it snoozer. But you can’t deny the fact that Germany knows how to control the game and win by any means. Under blistering warm weather, Germany played defensively and placed their faith in keeper Manuel Neuer, shutting out France 1-0.
The temperature at Rio de Janeiro was 82 degrees Fahrenheit with 70% humidity, enough heat to wear down a player in 60 minutes. Given those circumstances, Germany held it down on the defensive end and forced France to play themselves to exhaustion. The French struggled to set up a perfect attacking opportunity throughout the match and forced the issue on the final third multiple times to no avail, and towards the end of the match the team lacked the energy to push forward and mount a comeback.
The Germans opened up the scoring in the 12th minute off of Mats Hummels header. Toni Kroos found the defender on a free kick and Hummels nudged his header above the keeper, off the top post and into the net.
In the 34th minute, French winger Mathieu Valbuena received a cross in the box off his chest from Antoine Griezmann and played it to the right of the German goal. After playing off his touch, Valbuena delivered a screaming shot at goal, but Neuer made a diving save to maintain his clean sheet.
French defender Raphael Varane almost levelled the score in similar fashion as Hummels when his teammate Yohan Cabaye delivered a long ball into the box. Varane connected with a header, but saw his effort easily caught by a jumping Neuer.
Andre Schurrle was brought off the bench to help his team find a much-needed insurance goal to secure their lead. In the 82nd minute, the Chelsea winger came close to make it 2-0 for Germany. On a counterattack run, Mesut Ozil sought out Thomas Muller from the wing, but the Bayern Munich midfielder missed the low pass badly. The ball rolled to Schurrle who then fired the shot, but unfortunately he delivered it straight to the keeper.
France grew desperate in the closing minutes of the match but was sapped out of energy, slogging along the pitch without any urgency. However, 4 minutes into injury time, the French pressured in the box as Karim Benzema muscled through a short one-two pass with Giroud and broke into the box. The Real Madrid forward took the shot, but saw his attempt blocked by the consistent Neuer, ending France’s World Cup dreams.
While possession of the match was around even with France controlling the ball 49% of the match while Germany held on for 51%, the French took more shots than the Germans. Les Bleus went for the net 13 times with five attempts being on target while the Germans took 9 shots with three attempts on target.
Regardless of these numbers, this match demonstrated that Germans know how to win regardless of their disadvantages. Although France came into the match hoping to impose their attractive style of football, the Germans were technical and effective throughout the match and knew how to keep the French at bay. Heading into the semifinals, the Germans are looking more like the favorites to win the tournament.
Man of the Match
Mats Hummels was a constant force on the defensive end and rightly deserved to score his second goal of the tournament. His solid defending made Neuer’s life much easier as France was only able to create a shot from a tight angle, giving the keeper an easy save. His presence alone made it difficult, if not impossible, for France to find a clean shot from the middle of the box.
Tweets of the Match
Manuel Neuer saving Benzema’s shot pic.twitter.com/TUZZv9QcHE
— GeniusFootball (@GeniusFootball) July 4, 2014
This is like watching two mid table premier league sides play out a meaningless last game of the season #WhatQuarterFinal
— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) July 4, 2014
Best French word I can come up with right now: Malaise.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 4, 2014
Germany has now reached a record 4-straight semifinals. They are now one step Klose to their ultimate goal. pic.twitter.com/YhfZDrR8qq
— ESPN (@espn) July 4, 2014
I pretty ‘Shaw’ that maybe this last time Evra ever kick football!
— Evil Kagawa (@evilkagawa) July 4, 2014