After being stretched to the limit in disposing of Algeria in the round of sixteen, the German roadshow moves onto Rio’s famous Estádio Maracanã, and a potentially mouth-watering meeting with another old rival, France. Since their opening 4-0 thrashing of Portugal it has been something of a rough ride for the Nationalannschaft and their coach Jogi Löw, who has found himself up against his side’s indifferent form, the German media and a flu bug that appears to have struck at the heart of the German camp.
If this was all not enough, they now face a France team that unlike their 2010 counterparts has looked slick, confident and – most crucially – united. While Les Bleus would be the laughing stock of South Africa 2010 with their internal squabbles and training ground tantrums, 1998 winner Didier Deschamps has jettisoned the trouble-makers, polished the rough edges and built a squad that has gathered momentum as the tournament has gone on.
Should both teams play to their potential, another classic encounter is on the cards.
Head to Head Record and History
Germany have played their French neighbours on twenty-five occasions, winning nine – including the famous penalty shootout in Spain – drawing five and losing eleven. Surprisingly, the two countries have only met three times in competitive international – all at the World Cup finals.
The first meeting would take place in Sweden in 1958, when France would win a goal-packed 3rd place playoff against a weakened Germany side. On that day the Nationalmannschaft would put up a fight and find the back of the French net three times, but they would have no answer to the tournament’s top goalscorer Just Fontaine, who would hit the target four times as Les Bleus ran out 6-3 winners.
There would be twenty-four year wait until the next meeting, which would be that much-written about semi final in Seville. In a frenetic encounter that would see Jupp Derwall’s German side come back from 3-1 down in extra time with two special goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Klaus Fischer to force a nerve-shredding penalty shootout, the game will always be remembered for the charge by German ‘keeper Toni Schumacher on Patrick Battiston. Probably the most memorable match in all my years following the Nationalmannschaft, the “Thriller in Sevilla” would have everything.
The French would have an opportunity to exact revenge at the same stage four years later in Mexico, but this time the key player would be the French goalkeeper Joël Bats. After just nine minutes Bats would allow a low free-kick from Andreas Brehme to squirm under his body, and try as they might they could never get a foothold in the game. Rudi Völler would wrap things up with a last-minute clincher, and Germany would reach their second World Cup final in succession.
While Germany have edged things in the three competitive meetings, Les Bleus have had the upper hand in friendlies played between the two countries. Until their 2-1 victory in the two teams’ last meeting in Paris in February 2013, the Nationalelf would finally break a winless spell stretching back to a victory by the same score in Berlin in the autumn of 1987.
Having finished behind Spain in their qualifying group and coming back from a 2-0 first leg deficit in the resulting playoff against Ukraine, Deschamps’ squad – ranked seventeenth before the tournament – have grown in confidence in Brazil. A 3-0 triumph over Honduras would be followed by an emphatic 5-2 demolition of a highly-rated Swiss side, and having already secured in their place in the last sixteen Les Bleus would finish their group fixtures with a scrappy 0-0 draw against a ten-man Ecuador.
A hard-fought 2-0 win against Nigeria with both goals scored in last eleven minutes would see the French through to their first quarter-final since 2006.
While Germany have strung together a fifteen-game unbeaten spell, the French have gone nine games without defeat, the last coming in their first leg of their playoff in Kiev in November 2013.
Last eight matches (latest first): WDWWWDWW
The highly-talented French team is packed with dangers.
Arguably the biggest threat comes in the form of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema who has scored three goals already, and although seemingly out of form Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud is another who poses a threat to the slightly shaky German defence. Perhaps the biggest threat however could come from the twenty-three year old Antoine Griezmann of Spanish side Real Sociedad, who would turn the game against the Nigerians on its head with a blistering cameo display.
In addition to the front men, a talented squad also boasts the highly-rated Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, the short and squat – and very Häßlerian – Mathieu Valbuena, and PSG hard man Blaise Matuidi.
Only two players from each of the two twenty-three man squads were born when Germany beat France in Seville in 1982: Germany’s Miroslav Klose and Roman Weidenfeller, and France’s captain Patrice Evra and reserve ‘keeper Mickaël Landreau.