Hummels hits France to rain on their World Cup dance
A header from Germany centre back Mats Hummels proved the difference, as Didier Deschamps’ French team were eliminated from the World Cup in the last eight.
The goal, which came in the opening quarter, was headed in by the Borussia Dortmund man, after a flighted free-kick from Toni Kroos went unchallenged by France in the area. Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane perhaps put his first foot wrong in the Brazil finals so far, offering very little resistance to the hungry Hummels.
On reflection, France created very few chances and looked almost a different side from the free-flowing one everyone had praised so far. Like England against Uruguay, they appeared scared to play football, allowing the threat of Germany’s attack to mentally destabalise them.
Following the goal, the first half looked tense and nervy; both teams restricted to half-chances, as hopeful balls for Karim Benzema to run onto remained just that. At the other end Miroslav Klose, restored to the starting lineup as the lone striker and still going for a record, attempted to win a penalty after a hard but fair challenge from Mathieu Debuchy. Needless to say, his protestations proved futile.
Germany came out for the second period, with one thing only on their mind; to finish the tie off. Klose twice went close in the area, while Kroos, Thomas Muller, and Mesut Ozil time and again dazzled defenders. France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris kept his side in the game, with a string of crucial saves.
As the last 45 minutes ebbed away, both teams made changes, though to no avail. Andre Schurrle, who replaced Klose, was presented with two clear chances, though his finishes were nowhere near the quality deserving of this World Cup, as Lloris went untroubled.
Germany take on Brazil in the semis, and coach Low insists the hosts have the advantage: “They will have a home advantage. The South Americans are fighting for their lives here.”
In response to his team progressing to the last four, Low continued: “There weren’t many goalscoring opportunities, which was part of our plan.
“We didn’t want to give France chances with the quality of strikers they possess. We closed them down well – and that was the key.”
He also acknowledged the effort of the French players, trying to get back into the match: “France gave everything to try to force the equaliser, but defenders [Mats] Hummels and [Jerome] Boateng were excellent and goalkeeper [Manuel] Neuer did well when called upon.”
France coach Deschamps admitted he was deflated about exiting the tournament though acknowledged the strength of the German team: “They are used to playing big matches and have a more experienced team. The players are a bit frustrated as there was not a massive gap but the adventure stops here.
“I am quite proud of what we have achieved so far. I’m hurt and disappointed but there are a lot of positive things happening with this team.”
Would injured star Franck Ribery, or the omitted Samir Nasri have made the difference for Les Bleus here? It’s a debate that will play out as the French team takes stock of their World Cup exit with a whimper.