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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-04

France, who have thus far exceeded expectations at the 2014 World Cup, face Germany in what is set to be an epic clash between the two European powerhouses in the quarter-finals at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium on Friday.

Les Bleus have risen steadily under their coach Didier Deschamps, and are unrecognisable from their chaotic 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa, during which were eliminated during group stage.

At stake for the two teams is a slot in Tuesday’s semi-final against either Brazil or Colombia, which is set to take place at Belo Horizonte.

With Karim Benzema in top form, France are dreaming of their first World Cup title since their 1998 triumph on home soil. But for now their focus is solely on Germany.

"Everyone can dream, including me, but I'm a pragmatist and a realist, Friday is the only thing that counts," said Deschamps, who added that it was a “pleasure” to work with his harmonious squad and that they will "give it everything we've got".

Reflecting on France's ‘do or die game’ on Friday, Deschamps said, "We're not going there (to Rio) as tourists on Friday."

Test for Germany

The match, however, is a litmus test for Germany coach Joachim Loew, who has come under heavy criticism over his team’s unconvincing performance thus far in Brazil.

Acknowledging the challenge ahead, Loew said that France has come a long way since the last World Cup in South Africa.

"Didier Deschamps has turned France around since 2010, and we're looking forward to another classic," he said.

Germany’s 4-0 win over Portugal in their opening group match confirmed their status amongst the world's elite, but a series of unimpressive performances have seen Loew's Germans receive heavy criticism.

Having been held to a 2-2 draw by Ghana, then grinding out a 1-0 win over the USA in their final group match, poor finishing saw Germany labour to a 2-1 extra-time win over Algeria in Monday's last 16 clash.

Former captains Michael Ballack, Oliver Kahn and Lothar Matthaeus have all questioned Loew's selections with playmaker Mesut Ozil struggling and centre-backs Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Hoewedes being played out of position as wing-backs.

"That was the worst performance for years," Ballack reflected after the Algeria match.

Kahn was equally unimpressed. "This line-up isn't working any more," he said.

Loew, who took over the national team after the World Cup in 2006, has a contract with the German FA (DFB) until June 2016. A quarter-final exit, however, would put him under pressure to resign despite steering his side to the semi-finals of the last three major tournaments.

Equal footing

Honours are even in terms of recent meetings, with France claiming a 2-1 win in Bremen in February 2012, while Germany claimed revenge by the exact same scoreline in Paris 12 months later.

The French lead the series with 11 wins to Germany's eight in 25 previous meetings.

Both sides played down the relevance of their legendary 1982 World Cup semi-final, which Germany won 5-4 on penalties after a dramatic 3-3 extra-time draw.

The Seville game attained notoriety when Germany keeper Harald Schumacher shoulder-charged Patrick Battiston, leaving the Frenchman unconscious on the ground.

With the media quick to ask whether France can claim some World Cup revenge, both Loew and Deschamps pointed to the fact most of their respective players were not born at the time.

Germany will have centre-back Mats Hummels back after missing the Algeria win with flu, while Lukas Podolski is fit again after a thigh strain.

There is a question mark over midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger who came off with cramp, but gave the thumbs down when pointing at his knee, which blighted him with tendinitis before the World Cup.

It is also unclear if France defender Raphael Varane, who spent the night in hospital with dehydration after Monday's 2-0 win over Nigeria in the last 16, will be in shape to play.

Mamadou Sakho is fit again after knee problems, while it remains to be seen who Deschamps names as striker between Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann.


Date created : 2014-07-03

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