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When and Where
12 PM ET, Estadio Do Maracanã, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Last Match: 2-1 win vs Algeria
The Algerians gave Germany everything they could handle, as the two squads needed extra time to settle things. André Schürrle of Germany broke the tie early in stoppage time with a nifty back-heel goal in the 92nd minute. The Germans added one in the 120th by by Mesut Özil giving them a comfortable 2-0 with only minutes to play. However, the Algerians did not quit and got one back a minute later to make the score 2-1, providing momentary hope. They were unable to muster up another goal and Germany held on for the win, reaching the quarterfinals for a record 16th consecutive World Cup.
Key Player: Jérome Boateng
At 25, Boateng is still on the young side, but he sure plays like a veteran. Normally a right back for his club, Bayern Munich, Boateng has been positioned at right back for the Germans. This is a great indication of the versatility Boateng brings to the pitch. He has the size to play center back, since he is 6'3", but he also has the speed to play outside, which makes him a dangerous player both on the defensive side of the ball, as well as the offensive. He can run the ball up on the right and has the speed to help Germany's slower center backs, most noticeably Per Mertesacker.
Why They Will Win
Germany can beat you in so many ways. They can spellbind you with great creativity in the midfield and sublime finishes or they can grind out games with possession and stifling defense. This German squad, though, has seemed vulnerable a bit on the defensive side and has leaned more to their midfielders and strikers to win the games. They are a matchup nightmare for anyone they play and France has their hands full attempting to contain Thomas Müller, who has 4 goals, and Mesut Özil, who played perhaps his best game of the World Cup against Algeria and scored his first goal of the tournament.
Last Match: 2-0 win vs Nigeria
Nigeria played the French tough, but the skill of France eventually won out, as they scored two late goals en route to their 2-0 win. The French pressured the Nigerians often, but couldn't break through. Credit the Nigerian goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, for keeping the match tied as Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba had their opportunities. The French attack looked more crisp when Olivier Giroud was subbed off in the 62nd minute for youngster Antoine Griezmann. The French really need Giroud to play better, but Griezmann's speed and threatening runs opened up the French attack and it seemed only a matter of time before they scored.
That time was the 79th minute and that man was Paul Pogba. Pogba may only be 21 years old, but his poise on that goal was impressive. Yes, the goalkeeper made a mistake, and yes, the goal was fairly routine, but in the knockout stage of the World Cup, the pressure is high and Pogba placed that header will the composure of a veteran goalscorer. The French made it 2-0 on an own goal by Nigeria, but credit Griezmann for the dangerous run into the box that led to the ball deflecting off Joseph Yobo.
Key Player: Paul Pogba
He is such an incredible and dynamic talent and watching him play with composure against Nigeria was a huge step forward for the kid, who, as I mentioned, is only 21. At times, his play is indicative of his age and he can vanish from the pitch. His game against Nigeria was anything but and had to have been a confidence booster for him heading into their next match against Germany.
Why They Will Win
The French have thrived off the counter in this World Cup, as their speed was too much for Honduras and Switzerland. However, Nigeria was able to negate France's counter ability with their own speed and athleticism in the midfield, making the French have to patiently bring up the ball and set up against eight or nine players below the ball. France eventually broke through on a poorly defended corner and poorly played ball by the goalkeeper. Don't expect that sort of break from Manuel Nuer, the German goalkeeper, who snuffed out many chances for Algeria by perfectly coming out and defending the ball. His aggressiveness is something the French have to look out for, and possibly use to their advantage if they can. If not, this match is squarely on the shoulders of Pogba and Benzema, who have both had good tournaments for France, but need to bring their A+ games against Germany.
Who You Should Root For
If Germany wins, it would be their fourth consecutive trip to the semifinals. Enough is enough. They can miss one. Les Bleus are a nice story this World Cup, rebounding after a terrible showing in 2010.
Germany wins 1-0
This is easily the closest matchup in the quarterfinals, as Brazil, Argentina, and Netherlands are all over 70% favorites according to Soccer Power Index. Germany is only a 53% favorite over France, so it's essentially a toss-up. Germany was expected to make the quarterfinals though. The French, not so much. Although they had the talent to make it this far, their 2010 World Cup was a debacle. Germany, on paper, is the better side and the more experienced side as well. They have also made the semi-finals in each of the last 3 World Cups. I think their skill and versatility as a squad will be too much for the French to handle.
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