Friday, 4 July 2014

WC 2014 QUARTER-FINAL - France vs Germany, LIVE COMMENTARY:


Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post, where I have a LIVE Commentary of the first quarter-final in this year's 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

France play against Germany in what could be the biggest match of the tournament yet, as these two European powerhouses go head-to-head for a place in the semi-finals next week.

Before I post the team line-ups for this interesting clash, here is some team news surrounding the game, set to start at 5pm GMT:

  • Some of the German players have come down with flu in the past few days, reportedly due to the hot and humid conditions.
  • However every player has trained with the squad, apart from defender Shkodran Mustafi, who has been ruled out of the match due to a hamstring injury picked up against Algeria.
  • Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane is a doubt for France today after staying in hospital on Monday with dehydration after their 2-0 win against Nigeria.
  • Manager Didier Deschamps will have to choose between Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema to lead the line in attack.
  • Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels is back fit again for Germany, while Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho is expected to start for France after shaking off a knock from the previous match.
Road to the Last 8 - 
France:
France topped Group E with 7 points from their 3 matches, having beaten Honduras and Switzerland comfortably - drawing their remaining fixture against Ecuador, having rested the majority of their key players.

They scored 8 goals in their group, and among those who were key to their good performances were Marseille creative midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.

They played against Nigeria in the Last 16, and beat them 2-0 with a composed performance from start to finish. They will be hoping that they can come up with the goods again today, to beat Germany and progress to the semi-finals to play against either Brazil or Colombia.

Germany:
Germany also topped their group, Group G. Their most notable performance of the group stage would have to be the 4-0 thrashing against fellow Europeans Portugal, who were led by Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

If they show the same clinical nature against France, Les Bleus will struggle to cope with them today.

They also beat the USA with a slender 1-0 win, and drew 2-2 with African side Ghana in their second match of the group.

Their key players so far who have shone are: Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos of Bayern, Dortmund defender Mats Hummels and Arsenal's Mesut Ozil.

They narrowly scraped through unscathed against a brave Algerian side in the Last 16, but if they show their real qualities from the start then we could be in for a good match.

Facts and Stats ahead of the game: 

There have been 17 goals scored in the last three World Cup meetings between the two teams - and Germany have scored an average of 2 or more in each of those matches. 

Germany are unbeaten against the French since their last loss in 1958. 

Germany have reached the semi-finals in the last three consecutive World Cups, but NO nation has ever made the Last 4 in four successive tournaments. Can they do it? 

All of France's goals during this World Cup have been inside the area, and Les Bleus have only lost once out of their last 10 matches played in Brazil.

France have hit the woodwork more often than any other team at this World Cup, 6 times. This is the highest tally for a team since Poland and Argentina in 1982 (both with 6).

Can their luck change today?

And lastly - legendary striker Miroslav Klose only needs one more goal to be the World Cup's highest scorer. He is currently joint-top with Brazilian striker Ronaldo (with 15 goals).

TEAM LINE-UPS:

France: Lloris, Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra, Valbuena, Pogba, Cabaye, Matuidi, Griezmann and Benzema.

Subs: Ruffier, Landreau, Cabella, Giroud, Mavuba, Mangala, Sagna, Digne, Sissoko, Remy, Koscielny and Schneiderlin.

Germany: Neuer, Lahm, Hummels, Boateng, Howedes, Ozil, Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Muller and Klose.

Subs: Zieler, Weidenfeller, Grosskreutz, Ginter, Schurrle, Podolski, Draxler, Durm, Mertesacker, Gotze and Kramer.


Referee: Nestor Pitana (from Argentina)

16:55 - National anthems begin, with France first after Bayern and German captain Lahm addresses the crowd with a mini-speech, about how discrimination should not be conducted in society and how it is wrong overall.

16:59 - The match is about to start, but not before a team picture with both sets of teams posing for a picture with the "Say no to Racism" banner on the field of play. Good touch by FIFA, but the players will obviously be eager to start the match.

17:02 - France kick-off, and the match is finally underway. 

1: Germany eager to keep possession in the early going of the match, frustrating France who want to win ball possession from them.

2: A half-chance is cleared away after Muller pushes forward, his attempted pass into the box is cleared away to safety as Liverpool defender Sakho scrambles back.

3: Slightly surprising team news for France ahead of the match, Mamadou Sakho is preferred to the in-form defender Laurent Koscielny at centre-back for the French. Let's hope Sakho has a good game.

4: Late tackle by Evra as he attempts to stop Muller on the flank with the ball at his feet, free-kick given.

5: You have to say that Germany have started the better of the two sides, they have dominated possession and looked dangerous when they have the ball in the opposing half.

6: France need to start quickly and keep the ball, otherwise Germany will go from strength to strength and we could see an early goal. 

7: Well that just proves my point. France keep hold of the ball and eventually get forward, a dinked over-the-top ball finds Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema who has a fizzing effort just wide past Neuer's goal - out for a goal-kick.

8: That was Benzema's 25th shot in this World Cup. 

9: One of the best performers at the World Cup this year, in the name of Mathieu Valbuena.

The creative midfield genius works hard for his team, creates many chances and has quick feet to beat his marker. Watch out for him today.

10: Lofted through ball inside the area from Ozil is cleared away as France clear the ball away.

11: Valbuena unlocks the German defence at will and almost sets up the opening goal of the game! Quick counter attacking football finds the Marseille midfielder on the edge of the area, he passes the ball across the box towards Benzema - but Germany get the ball clear with a last-gasp challenge.

12: GOAL! Germany ahead! A well-taken free-kick delivery into the box by Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos is clinically finished by the Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels who heads from close range into the top corner of the net.

Lloris can only look on as the ball bounces off the top of the crossbar into the back of the net. 1-0 to Germany, good finish by Hummels.


13: FACT - That is Hummels' second goal of the tournament, and Germany's fifth from set-pieces in this World Cup.

14: And now France will be looking for an instant response to conceding the first goal, which they could not do much about in truth. 

15: Germany ahead but the game is far from over, a promising first 15 minutes or so. You could probably criticize the lack of strength shown by young Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane to outmuscle Hummels but he is quite strong aswell so.

18: France are working hard to pressurise their men when Germany get the ball, but in the process they are also giving away needless fouls. 

19: Yohan Cabaye brings down Miroslav Klose near the centre circle and gives away a foul to Germany, lucky for the former Newcastle midfielder the referee does not pull a card out of his pocket. 

He was suspended for their final group stage match against Ecuador after picking up two yellow cards in their first two matches. 

22: Promising long-ball towards Benzema near the area is ruled offside by the linesman on the far side, gives a chance for Germany to push men forward again.

24: Half-hearted penalty appeal by Germany is waved away by the referee, after a nice pass-and-move almost comes off, the final ball through in the area into Miroslav Klose is blocked by the approaching challenge from Mathieu Debuchy who brings Klose down - but he fell theatrically according to the referee.

25: Replays show that there was contact, but Klose went down looking the penalty. 

29: Another half-chance for Germany, as a needless free-kick is given away by France on the edge of the area. Ozil with a low delivery into the box, well drilled towards Howedes who back flicks the ball towards goal but the shot fizzes out and hits the advertising boards.

30: The referee signals for a corner, even though replays show that the ball touched Howedes last before going out, despite appearing to flick off Sakho.

31: Good leap by Lloris as he jumps highest to punch the delivery away to safety, and France can clear the ball away.

32: Germany get forward with good link-up play between Ozil and Muller, the latter wins the ball and passes across towards the edge of the area as he tries to run into the box - he goes down under the apparent challenge from Debuchy, the referee waves play on.

33: Replays show that Muller dived there, good decision from the referee - Debuchy was looking at the ball and not the player anyway, despite contact on Muller's heel.

34: SAVE BY NEUER! Good save by the Bayern goalkeeper, as he does well to react quickly and parry the attempted effort from Valbuena at the far post away into the path of Benzema - he hesitates and his resulting shot is blocked by Hummels as the ball goes out for a corner.


Good reactions: Neuer does well to parry Valbuena's effort on-goal to keep the score 1-0.
35: The resulting corner is headed over the bar, and Germany have a goal-kick.

37: Real Madrid defensive midfielder Sami Khedira goes down to the turf clutching his face in pain, replays show that he was hit in the face by the ball - physio come on to treat him and he walks off the pitch looking slightly dazed.

38: Cameras show Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is preparing to come on, but Khedira looks okay to continue. 

40: Another free-kick delivery for Germany almost the exact same position as the opening goal is whipped into the box, but this time the danger is headed clear and France avoid going 2-0 down before half-time.

41: Half-hearted penalty appeal from France, as a good ball into the box by Matuidi falls into the path of Benzema - he heads the ball towards goal but it is blocked by the jumping challenge from Hummels. Benzema calls for a handball, referee says no.

42: Replays show that it was the correct decision, the ball hit Hummels' stomach with his hands by his side - although it appeared on first viewing to strike his hand. 

43: Stats show that Germany have dominated the first-half in terms of possession, the amount of passes and the pass accuracy. But France still have a chance to get back into the game, they look dangerous on the counter attack.

44: CHANCE! A great diagonal long ball by Pogba finds Benzema on the edge of the area, he evades two challenges from German defenders to shape to shoot - his effort is powerful but straight at Neuer who comfortably grabs hold of the shot. Still 1-0.

45: The fourth official signals for just the 1 minute of stoppage time to be added on. 

45+1: The referee blows his whistle to end the first-half of action at the Maracana.

Chances for both sides, but Germany have the slight advantage at the half-time break. France look dangerous on the break and they will be hoping that they can get the likes of Valbuena, Pogba and Griezmann on the ball - to find Benzema in the area.

Germany have dominated the game in terms of passing and possession, but they have struggled to make space for themselves - credit to France for a solid defensive performance apart from the goal. 

The Germans look cool, calm and composed. 45 minutes played, 1-0 to Germany but France are still in with a chance to equalise and get back into the game.

18:03 - The two teams walk back out of the tunnel, preparing for the start of the second-half. No substitutions for either side, and France are set to kick-off.

45: France kick-off, and they instantly go on the attack. An inviting cross into the box by Benzema is cleared away by the German defence as Griezmann runs towards the ball but goes to ground under the challenge of Schweinsteiger inside the area.

46: Bright start by Les Bleus, they have began with quick pressure.

49: CLOSE! A free-kick taken quickly almost works for France, the ball is whipped into the box and it falls to Evra inside the area, one-on-one with Neuer but he fails to latch onto the delivery as the German defence stands static.

50: Good link-up play on the edge of the area by Valbuena and Matuidi, the latter beats Schweinsteiger and Boateng but he fails to keep the ball in play as Germany have a goal-kick.

51: Germany go on the counter attack and almost score again! A long ball forward into the path of Ozil is fed through into the area towards the path of Klose - but his movement is quick enough and France partially clear the danger out for a corner.

52: Corner comes of nothing and arguably could have been a penalty there - Hummels is man-handled by Varane in the air and is penalized for an apparent challenge on Lloris who attempts to come and collect the ball. Controversial.

53: France go on the counter attack with speed, Griezmann has the ball at his feet but takes too many touches as he attempts to gallop forward and Khedira makes a tactical foul to stop the Real Sociedad forward from continuing on his run.


Tactical foul: Khedira is given the first booking of the match
54: The referee gives Khedira the first yellow card of the match, and the Real man cannot really argue with that decision.

58: France go on the counter again, with a 1-2 pass between Valbuena and Matuidi sets the PSG midfielder on the run and he exposes the German back-line, but the danger is averted.

59: Good jumping stop by Neuer who comfortably holds onto the goal-bound header from Raphael Varane which looked destined for the top corner of the net.

62: A quick water break for the players as they have time to re-group and receive any instructions from their respective managers as France have a free-kick near the centre circle. 

63: Good defensive block by Lahm who slid in perfectly to deny the attempted delivery into the box from Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra.

68: Germany SUB - 
Miroslav Klose OFF
Andre Schurrle ON

69: Schurrle replaces Klose, who will have to wait to break the goal-scoring record. The Chelsea forward was the man to break the deadlock against Algeria, and his energy and pace could frustrate France with 20 minutes to play.

70: CHANCE! A poor defensive mistake means that the ball is given away by France, and Muller almost doubles the lead! His resulting shot is dragged just wide of Lloris' goal.

71: France SUB - 
Laurent Koscielny ON
Mamadou Sakho OFF

72: Like-for-like substitution, as Koscielny replaces Sakho in the centre of defence. Sakho has been struggling with an injury of late, and the Arsenal centre-back replaces him.

73: France SUB - 
Yohan Cabaye OFF
Loic Remy ON

74: A statement of intent for France; Remy replaces Cabaye with 15 minutes or so to grab an equaliser. They have performed better in the second-half but they need to score, and soon. Meanwhile Schurrle has a half-chance comfortably held by Lloris at the near post.

75: Germany almost score on the counter attack, a good break finds Ozil on the edge of the area - he steps past his marker and passes the ball across to Muller, but the Bayern forward's final ball towards Ozil is poor and France can clear. 

76: Good defensive block by Hummels inside the area as Benzema shapes to shoot but his effort is denied goal-wards from the Dortmund defender. 

79: Yellow card for Bastian Schweinsteiger after a late tackle on Griezmann, sticking a leg out on the forward as he attempts to accelerate forward with the ball at his feet.

80: 10 minutes or so plus stoppages to play, and France are looking lively. They could score at any moment, Germany are starting to look nervy at the back, despite their experience.

81: Inswinging free-kick for France, cleared away partially and the ball is out for a corner. The corner is whipped into the box by Valbuena, Neuer jumps high and collects the ball as Germany push men forward in an attempt to counter attack.

82: Ozil sprints past his marker on the flank with the ball at his feet, Muller and Schurrle both lurk in the area as the Arsenal man feeds the ball into the box. Muller fails to hit the ball, Schurrle has a half-chance parried by Lloris.

83: Germany SUB - 
Mesut Ozil OFF
Mario Gotze ON

84: Ozil is replaced by Gotze for the last 5 minutes or so, fresh legs for the Germans. Ozil has played well on the flank, created a few chances but his attacking team-mates have not been clinical enough.

85: France SUB - 
Mathieu Valbuena OFF
Olivier Giroud ON

87: Germany almost get the killer goal, Schurrle has an effort towards goal but his shot is blocked by the face of Matuidi inside the area.

89: Last minute of the 90, and France try to get men forward and look for the equaliser - cameras are showing the unhappy looking faces of the French supporters in the ground.

90: The fourth official has signalled for 4 minutes of stoppage time to be added on, and you will expect Germany to try and hold the ball for as long as possible to see out the victory.

90: Germany are about to make a substitution, and they have the ball in the France half aswell.

90+1: Germany SUB - 
Toni Kroos OFF
Christoph Kramer ON

90+2: Just 2 minutes remain for France, they are desperate for the equalising goal to send the match into extra time.

90+3: Germany look cool as they try to waste time, Debuchy is fouled by Muller and Lloris takes a big kick but Schurrle heads clear. 

90+3: CHANCE! A give-and-go between Giroud and Benzema results in the latter having an ambitious effort from 10 yards out from the far post towards goal - Neuer stands tall and parries the ball one-handed.

90+4: FULL-TIME - 
Germany 1 France 0
The Germans get to their 4th consecutive World Cup semi-final, making history in the process becoming the first ever country to do so. 

A great team effort today, to beat France convicingly despite a late charge from Les Bleus, who improved significantly in the second-half and will feel disappointed that they could not have won the game, even though Germany deserved to win.

Germany killed the game when they needed to, and took the sting out of the match to make sure that France did not take their chances on the counter attack - shutting them out with a solid defensive performance.

Credit to defender Mats Hummels and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, they did their jobs and stood out in an impressive but slender victory for the Germans in the end.