Germany are the first World Cup semi-finalists in Brazil after a Mats Hummels header proved enough to beat France 1-0.
The first World Cup quarter-final was an age-old European battle, which this time was hosted by the Maracanà in Rio de Janeiro. Germany made several changes, moving Philipp Lahm to right-back rather than central midfield, dropping Per Mertesacker and starting Lazio veteran Miroslav Klose. A flu bug was spreading through the squad, as Jogi Low complained “a third” of his players had contracted it. Paul Pogba of Juventus again started with Antoine Griezmann coming in on the left, as Les Bleus were fast becoming one of the favourites for this tournament.
It kicked off at 13.00 local time in searing heat, particularly for two European teams. Mathieu Valbuena dinked up a pass for Karim Benzema to turn wide, but Germany had the better start and took the lead.
Toni Kroos floated in a free kick for the head of Mats Hummels, who managed to steer the ball despite wrestling with Raphael Varane at the time. It confirmed a weakness for France, as six of the last nine goals conceded have been from set plays.
Klose went down too theatrically with Mathieu Debuchy holding his shirt, but Les Bleus threatened when Manuel Neuer stuck out a hand for a great reaction save on Valbuena and Benzema’s follow-up was deflected over from six yards.
Debuchy was decisive to clear before Klose could pull the trigger, accidentally smacking the ball into Sami Khedira’s face in the process.
Benzema had penalty appeals for handball, but replays prove his header struck Hummels on the stomach. The Real Madrid striker aimed another effort straight at Neuer before the break.
Patrice Evra failed to make the most of a free header, Kroos horribly scuffed wide and Neuer plucked a Varane header out of the air.
Thomas Muller pounced on a Mamadou Sakho error, but his angled drive seemed to take a deflection to go wide, even though no corner was given.
France had to pile on more pressure in the final 15 minutes, as Hummels flung himself at Benzema to block the shot and Neuer’s gloves were stung by Blaise Matuidi at the near post.
Germany went on the counter from a French corner, but Muller hit a fresh-air shot and when it came through to the unmarked Andreas Schurrle he scuffed the finish, allowing Hugo Lloris to parry with an outstretched leg from 12 yards.
For all their attacking, France looked more likely to concede a second than score an equaliser. Schurrle had another shot charged down by Varane after Muller burst past Evra on the right.
There was one last chance in stoppages when Benzema went clear, but he tried to fire in at the near top corner from a tight angle and found only a big Neuer hand.
France 0-1 Germany
Scorers: Hummels 13 (G)
France: Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Sakho (Koscielny 72), Evra; Pogba, Cabaye (Remy 73), Matuidi; Valbuena (Giroud 85), Benzema, Griezmann
Germany: Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Hummels, Howedes; Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Kroos (Kramer 92); Ozil (Gotze 83), Klose (Schurrle 69), Muller
Ref: Pitana (ARG)
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