The only all-European quarter final at this year’s World Cup sees high-flying France take on stuttering Germany at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. Will Julien Laurens or Raphael Honigstein be celebrating on Friday night?
Julien Laurens on France: Mamadou Sakho is training normally and is back to full fitness after his thigh injury. He should be back in the starting line-up. Raphael Varane lost a lot of energy against Nigeria and spent the night in hospital after the game after being totally dehydrated. He is feeling better now though and should start too. Everybody else is fit and ready. Pogba should keep his place in midfield and the last question mark is up front. Giroud was poor against the African Champions and Griezmann made the difference when he replaced him after an hour. Against the German high line and lack of pace, Deschamps could choose to start with Griezmann alongside Benzema and Valbuena.
Raphael Honigstein on Germany: Sampdoria's Shkodran Mustafi is out of this game and the rest of the World Cup having torn his hamstring in the 2-1 win over Algeria. The fact that Philipp Lahm filled in on the right side of defence after his substitution has fuelled speculation that the captain might revert back to his traditional position in the quarter-final on Friday. Joachim Löw and his coaching staff have reportedly thought about it, but all indications point to Lahm continuing in central midfield, where neither Bastian Schweinsteiger nor Sami Khedira are 100 per cent fit. Jerome Boateng will move to right-back again, Mats Hummels is back to play centre-back after missing out with flu on Monday. Schweinsteiger is likely to be preferred to Khedira in midfield again against the French. In the forward positions, Mario Götze will lose his place after a pretty abysmal performance in Porto Alegre. Andre Schürrle, the goal-scorer of Germany’s first goal against the North-Africans, will start in his place.Thomas Müller and Mesut Özil - who’s come under fire - should keep their place. Talk about seven players having the flu should not be taken too seriously. They should all recover in time.
Julien Laurens: The French fought hard to beat Nigeria on Monday. It was very hot in Brasilia and Deschamps’s men struggled physically in the second half. However, they showed character and resilience and the good decision-making of Deschamps (Griezmann on for Giroud after an hour) changed the game. The boost of confidence after the win has been great. The French did look a bit nervous at times too and Matuidi should have been sent off but everything is going France’s way right now. The players have recovered well before the clash with Germany. They are full of confidence and momentum and they are underdogs in this game. Reaching the quarter-final was always France’s objective and all the pressure is on Germany.
Raphael Honigstein: The first 45 minutes against Algeria were fairly shambolic. Germany didn’t keep the ball and had Manuel Neuer to thank for frequent interventions outside his box. Germany’s high defensive line looked extremely vulnerable but they will surely defend a bit deeper against Didier Dechamps’ team Germany created enough chances to win the game comfortably but never settled on the ball due to simple mistakes in the final third. It was a relapse to the Ghana game, in many ways. They will have to play a lot better, and more composed if they are to beat France.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
France’s Didier Deschamps: “We won’t approach this game like tourists. We will be well up for it. We are not favourites but we don’t want the journey to end here.”
Germany’s Joachim Loew: “I’m very relaxed. Other teams are already at home. We don’t think about what happens when we lose, we think about winning. We are well prepared, confident and feel that we will be victorious”.
Julien Laurens: France will use their pace and movement against the high defensive line used by the Germans. Mathieu Valbuena will be the key to exploit the spaces left behind their back by the Germans defenders. He is in great form after a very good tournament so far. He has the profile to cause a lot of problems to Low’s players on Friday. But he will have to be very precise in his passing and make the right choices on the ball too.
Raphael Honigstein: Thomas Müller. He created enough chances but failed to take any of them v Algeria. His assist for the Schürrle goal made up for it but Müller needs to be more clinical on Friday.
Julien Laurens: France to win the first half at odds of 3.75
Raphael Honigstein: The game should be fairly cagey. Germany to win and a total number of goals of under 2.5 is a nice bet at 4.80
Julien Laurens: France 1-0 Germany at odds of 8.00
Raphael Honigstein: Germany 1-0 France at odds of 7.50
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