World Cup quarter-final: France v Germany
Head to head
Played 25: France 11 wins, Germany 9 wins, 5 draws.
Their last meeting was a sell-out friendly at the Stade de France, and saw the visitors come away 2-1 winners. Both squads were full strength and similar to the expected make up of tomorrow’s game, which might give the Germans an edge.
There isn’t a bad game when you get to this stage of the competition, but this could be a final quality match between two of international football’s big names.
Both sides came out of the blocks all guns blazing at this World Cup, but it is France that emerged as the surprise packet of the tournament.
After underperforming in all major competitions following the 2006 final loss to Italy, the French have managed to pull together a team spirit that few thought possible pre-tournament.
Germany on the other hand have been somewhat less impressive in recent matches while still getting the required results.
The big issue
Will Germany be able to rise to the occasion? Manuel Neuer almost single-handedly saved his team from their first Round of 16 exit ever, sweeping and swatting extremely well against Algeria.
The last minutes when Philipp Lahm was returned to right back, and Sami Khedira played alongside Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the middle, saw the Germans at their most solid all tournament.
Much rests on the fitness of both Khedira and Schweinsteiger, which would allow their captain to revert to his previous position.
The game breaker
Without Lahm in defence, the Germans play four centre-halves across the back, none of which have been convincing. Mats Hummels was out with illness last match and should be back for this clash, but Benedikt Howedes has been woeful this tournament at left back.
France on the other hand has shown their strength in wide areas, even without talisman Franck Ribery. Antoine Griezmann came on and turned the game around in their last match and will be in from the start this time. Playing two strikers did not work for France and with Germany’s weakness at fullback they will try to exploit the wide positions as much as possible. When your man in the middle is as in forma and versatile as Karim Benzema, they won’t need much of a sniff.
If these two sides’ previous adventures are anything to go by, this is going to be a hectic game. They are incredibly hard to split especially with France playing so well. But given the general Germany hardiness you feel, if they can put in a fearsome performance here, they will be ready to take this World Cup. It will go to the wire, and possibly penalties, but there will be goals. No result would be surprising, but 2-2 with Germany through on penalties is my prediction.