The 2014 World Cup quarter-finals start with the first game played between two teams which topped their group stages and also, had to struggle a bit to reach to this round – France and Germany.
France’s game against Nigeria was not a cakewalk considering the quality of opposition. The game was a cagey affair for most stretches with neither team able to create something meaningful.
The French were a bit more adventurous in the first half and had decent chances created which were broken down in the final third.
Nigeria were content to hit France on the counter, but the centre backs – Raphael Varane and Laurent Koscielny sniffed the dangerous through balls or passes outside the box efficiently throughout the game. Paul Pogba who was installed in the line-up was impressive as most of the game seemed to pass through him to the attack.
Germany’s coach Joachim Loew’s tactics were again questioned with the exuberant Algerian side almost slicing up the Germans to create chances.
If Algeria were not that wasteful in their conversion and final ball, Germany could have fallen to them easily. Manuel Neuer and Per Mertesacker were the only defensive players who can hold their heads high and who had a good game.
The introduction of Shkodran Mustafi as an attacking wing back to curb the opponent fullback did not work and Faouzi Ghoulam’s marauding runs were a concern throughout the game.
Also the narrow attack is hurting the defensive aspect of the German game, Toni Kroos with all his attacking abilities leaves a lot to be desired defensively and captain Philip Lahm (operating as the sole holding midfielder) has the extra task of mopping up for his unsuccessful passes while trying to creating something going forward.
The game will depend on how Germany is fielded and with the kind of results they have been getting for the past few matches it is evident that they lacked width to stretch the play (a hallmark of the 2010 WC squad).
Marco Reus’ injury could hit Germany hard and restrict Loew’s favourite formation to be played out. Ozil has had a good tournament so far, though his assist-goal rate hasn’t been phenomenal. His vision and ability to make a great pass has been a key feature this tournament and has admirably worked his socks off on the flanks.
France’s weakness has been their lack of efforts to play a high tempo game considering the afternoon fixtures (against Nigeria this might be the reason for a subdued midfield performance).
As Algeria showed against Germany that high pressing and diagonal balls can make Germany look ordinary and France should really go for it from the start of the match.
Upfront Oliver Giroud is a good choice to soften up the German center back pairing. Karim Benzema and Valbuena on the wings can torment the center backs turned fullbacks with ease. Blaise Matuidi and Pogba need to have a blinder to stop the German midfield. It will be a close one but France have a good chance to progress here in my opinion.
Drawn game in the 90 minutes: 23/10 (bet365)
Anytime scorer: Karim Benzema (28/13 at 888Sport)