You could not think that the game was a quarter final game,the tempo was slow.HoweverGermany became the first team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup as Mats Hummels’ first half header gave them a hard-fought 1-0 win against France at the Maracana.
The Borussia Dortmund defender held off the challenge of Raphael Varane to loop home Toni Kroos’ free-kick with his head in the 13th minute.
Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann forced Manuel Neuer into fine saves but Les Bleus could not find an equaliser to force extra-time.
Joachim Low’s side will now face the winner of Brazil vs Colombia for a place in the final on July 13.
Well, they did it again. It’s four on the trot now — a record. Germany have not missed a World Cup semi-final date this century.
It was 1998, in France, when they last failed to be in competition in the last week of the tournament, and they will be there again, in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. Back here again a week on Sunday? There is no reason why not.
Germany did not have the best chances, or play the best football, but they were excellent in possession, decisive and sharp and found a way to win, as the best teams do. As Germany do, so often in fact.
That the goal came through Mats Hummels, a bold selection by coach Joachim Low, just adds to the evidence that Germany are simply at home in tournament football in a way other countries — you know who — are not.
France have a good record of going deep into the competition once out of the first round, too, but they met their match here. Germany were set up too well to let them pass, despite the best efforts of Mathieu Valbuena, Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema.
There was a lot of French pressure in the second-half, but the best chance fell to Germany. When Mesut Ozil broke down the left flank, his cross laid the ball on a plate for Thomas Muller, who should have claimed Germany’s second and took the last remaining tension from the game. Instead, he missed the ball, which fell to substitute Andre Schurrle who could not continue his run of five goals in consecutive internationals. Hugo Lloris saved with his feet.
Muller came close in the 71st minute, too, with a low shot that Schurrle could not convert, but this was far from the most impressive German performance of this World Cup.
That, in its way, makes it all the more impressive.
This is a team that finds a way to win, that cuts a path through — that didn’t even pack its suitcases for departure from Rio de Janeiro, because it had no contention of going home. Confident? Arrogant? Check the record. They have every reason to be both.
It was a first-half that vindicated German coach Joachim Low in so many ways. He made change before the match, big changes, brave changes.
Out went Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, in came Mats Hummels, returning after illness. Out went Mario Gotze and the false nine system, in came the veteran striker Miroslav Klose, 36 years old and a goal away from becoming the uncontested top goalscorer in World Cup history.
As for Philipp Lahm, the full-back turned central midfield player under Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich this season, he reverted to his more familiar role.
As with all major surgery at a World Cup, it divided opinion — but 45 minutes in there could be no question that Low’s judgement had the evidence on its side.
rance had the best chances, but Germany had the all-important goal — and it came from Hummels, as did a vital 42nd minute defensive block to keep the scores level.
Equally important was Low’s understanding that France’s best weapon was pace and a ball over the top — hence his decision to remove Mertesacker from the line of fire. No, Germany were not flawless in stopping France getting through — but there is little doubt this would have been a very tough afternoon for the Arsenal man.
Hummels goal came in the 12th minute, from a straightforward set-piece that found France’s defence wanting. Toni Kroos whipped the ball in and Hummels got the better of Raphael Varane, so impressive for France until now, to head past the helpless Hugo Lloris.
A reasonable penalty shout in the 25th minute aside — Mathieu Debuchy certainly appeared to pull Klose’s shirt, but the fall was needlessly theatrical and did the German’s case few favours — the best of it belonged to France.
Yet Germany’s ease in possession was impressive, as was their measured styled and, once again, the performance of their goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
He was talked of as Germany’s new sweeper after the match with Algeria, when he appeared to spend much of his time patrolling the outfield area behind the defensive high line, and that seems to be more of a deliberate ploy than a happy accident.
Low deserves credit for recognising that Neuer is as much footballer as goaltender and allows Germany to play in a different way.