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Germany and France came into the 2014 FIFA World Cup with completely different expectations.
Germany, coming off of two straight defeats in the semi finals of the World Cup, and a defeat in the finals followed by a defeat in the semifinals of the Euro’s, were looking for 2014 to finally be their year.
Germany dominated Portugal in their opening group game, and progressed with a draw against Ghana before defeating the United States. They looked comfortable and confident during their “Group of Death” matches.
France on the other hand, were a footballing nation in what seemed to be turmoil. Their 2010 World Cup display will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. They failed to get out of the group phase, and more than that, they started a riot in their own camp. France had players, like Nicholas Anelka, sent home and punished by the French Soccer governing body.
They had another poor display at Euro 2012, and seemed to lack the drive to win the tournament. Coming into the 2014 tournament, they lost their best player and one of the world’s best players in Franck Ribery. Without their talisman, French hopes dipped even more.
Many French fans called for Didier Deschamps to put Samir Nasri on the squad. They felt that the Manchester City midfielder was similar to Ribery and could bring the attacking prowess, which they had lost when the Bayern Munich star went down. Deschamps stuck to his guns and kept Nasri off the team.
His decision has paid off.
France bossed the group stage, winning comfortably over Honduras and Switzerland 3-0 and 5-2, respectively. They battled Ecuador to a scoreless draw in their final group game, but they had already secured their place in the round of 16 prior to the start of that game.
Both France and Germany were underwhelming in their round of 16 ties. Germany struggled against Algeria, and needed extra time to beat the Desert Foxes. They looked outmatched for athleticism against the African side, which nearly proved fatal on the counter attack. In the end, Germany progressed past the African side to meet France.
France booked their date with Die Mannschaft with an unconvincing 2-0 victory over Nigeria. Nigeria hardly threatened France during that game, but the French attack looked a shadow of that which put in eight goals in their opening two games. France finally got their goal through a Paul Pogba header, off a poor mistake by the Nigerian defense and goalkeeper.
Didier Deschamps spoke to the media after winning his match against Nigeria, “We’ll have a different set-up against Germany but that won’t change too much for us.
“We’re not going to go into Friday’s game as tourists, we’re not letting up yet. The day after a victory you’ve got to take it all in: we’re quarter-finalists now.
“Germany are used to playing at this high level and they have experience of this level of competition.
“The players didn’t see the Algeria match but it’s going to be playing on loop in their rooms.
“We know the German side well. We’re going to do everything we can to inform the players about the German side on both a general and an individual level.
“I believe this team will be able to react if we go behind. It can asks questions of you but I don’t have the answer.
“Germany have already played twice at 13:00 so they’re more used to it than we are. Saying that, however, they’ve just played extra-time and played four hours after us so they’ll be more tired today.
“There’s absolutely no competition between ourselves and Germany in the last six years…
“I’m going to try to limit our nerves as much as possible and I want us to attack. The German side definitely have more experience though.”
Though they both progressed, France and Germany will need better displays in the quarterfinals. France may look to replace Olivier Giroud who has not looked good during the tournament, missing easy chances during the round of 16.
Germany may look to replace Mario Gotze in the starting lineup, possibly with either Andre Schurrle or Lukas Podolski, if the Arsenal man is fit again.
Mats Hummels should be better from his illness, and will return to the back line for the Germans. Both European sides will need better performances if they want to progress.
Two favorites of the tournament will look to advance, but there is only room for one in the semifinals.
It should make for an intriguing quarterfinal setup.