World Cup 2014 quarter-final preview: France v Germany
If anyone would have said four years ago that France would reach a World Cup quarter-final next time around, the rest of the globe might have thought they were drinking the same ‘Kool-Aid’ as Raymond Domenech; France’s former national coach, who picked his team based on star signs.
Les Bleus have been perhaps one of the best sides to watch at this World Cup, and are a respectable 9/4 to beat Germany in 90 minutes of their last eight tie. Karim Benzema genuinely looks interested in the round leather thing, and is haring about all over the place. As a result he’s netted three times, and is 6/1 to open the scoring against a German defence that is waiting to be put to the test.
Joachim Low’s side, however, seem to have gone backwards since their 4-0 demolition job on Portugal, though are still 13/10 favourites to progress to the semis in 90 minutes. Thanks to Thomas Muller, they have got this far, and with four goals the Bayern Munich striker is just one off the pace. He is a predator, and France need to watch to him. Anywhere in the penalty area; left foot, right foot, head, chest or the spectacular, he is almost magnetised to the ball. Seeing him make the net bulge with ruthlessness is like watching a marksman hit his target blindfolded.
As a result odds of 11/2 for Muller to strike first in 90 minutes are viewed as generous. Especially as he is a ‘big-game player’, against better opposition. If that wasn’t enough, he will want to top-score for a second World Cup in a row as much as his teammate Miroslav Klose yearns for that elusive tournament record. The Lazio, and former Munich striker, is just one goal from setting a new mark as the highest ever scorer in the competition. Odds of 6/4 to notch at anytime in 90 minutes would be deemed generous in most circles.
Interestingly, France have a better head-to-head record against their opponents, winning 11 and losing eight. However, since Germany was reunified, they have only beaten Les Bleus once, in 2013. Muller and Sami Khedira netted the goals for Die Mannschaft that day, while Mathieu Valbuena [6/1 to score at anytime in 90 minutes] was on target for the French.
Paul Pogba lit up the pitch against Nigeria in the last 16, and is starting to show exactly why he’s being billed as one of the best central midfielders around. His bullet-header summed up his game, after he dictated the tempo and forced goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama into a number of quality saves. Backing Pogba to net anytime in 90 minutes at 11/2 will be like printing money.
Against Algeria, Germany improved slightly in chance creation, though were stifled on a number of occasions by the impressive Rais M’bholi between the sticks. Andre Schurrle’s finish for the opener was instinctive, and to repeat that against France the Chelsea man is 6/1. The forward was a livewire when he came on, and his movement and direct running created spaces between the Algerian midfield and defence, stretching their rearguard.
Mesut Ozil opened his account, firing his ruthless left-foot finish from a tight angle through a myriad of players on the line. He was also largely impressive, and France need to be on their guard. Drifting into small pockets of space, he can pick out the likes of Muller at ease, especially if opponents are committed forward. At 10/3 to strike at anytime in 90 minutes, he could be worth a punt.
France are no fools, though, and if they play to their potential, Germany have a lot to worry about.