The first country to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil has already been determined: Germany beat France by 1-0 this Friday (4 July) at the Maracanã (Rio de Janeiro) and ensured a spot in the last four. The Germans now challenge Brazil, who beat Colombia by 2-1 in Fortaleza later on the same day.
The 74,240 fans who packed the Maracanã for the match saw its only (and deciding) goal come during the first half, an advantage Germany was able to defend and maintain throughout the match and that confirmed its superiority on the pitch. The semi-finals clash takes place next Tuesday (8 July) in Belo Horizonte.
This will be Germany's fourth World Cup semi-final in a row – it placed as runner-up in 2002 and third place in 2006 and 2010 – and the 13th time the Germans rank in the top four of the World Cup in 20 editions of the event.
The first quarterfinal began with Germany pressuring the French in their own pitch. With veteran striker Miroslav Klose replacing defender Per Mertesacker, the German team dominated the attack in the first minutes of the match. The first French offence would come with an exchange of passes between Griezmann and Valbuena from the left that ended with Benzema, who shot on target and brought danger to Neuer's goalpost.
Defender Hummels, voted man of the match, opened the score sheet at the 12th minute. He headed a corner kick flawlessly, leaving goalkeeper Lloris no chance of defence.
The match had a controversial play at the 23rd minute. After exchanging passes outside the French box, Klose was held back by Debuchy inside the box when trying to receive a pass, but Argentine referee Nestor Pitana decided to let the match proceed.
With the increasingly combative encounter, the French pushed hard in the attack, and advanced into the German box at the 33rd minute. Striker Griezmann received the ball in the left flank and crossed to midfielder Valbuena, who broke away from the defence and shot dangerously against Neuer’s post. The German goalkeeper deflected the ball with a great save, and Benzema dispatched the ball over the crossbar on the rebound.
In the second half, France returned to the pitch intent on solving the puzzle it couldn't decipher in the first half: how to through the German defence. But Germany brought balance back into the game by concentrating actions in the midfield. At the 23rd minute, Müller received the ball in the right flank of the box after a fumbled by defender Sakho and made a dangerous shot to the left of keeper Lloris. The ball just missed the net, however, and the score sat unmoved.
Substitutions then started in both teams. For Germany, Klose gave place to forward Schürrle and left the pitch without a 16th goal and the title of top scorer of all World Cups. For France, Koscielny replaced Sakho and striker Remy replaced midfielder Cabaye.
The match gained momentum after the 75th minute. Hummels blocked Benzema a split second before the French striker landed a dangerous shot that was almost certain to equalise. At the 81st, Germany missed an amazing goal and the chance to seal the fate of the match. In a fast break from the defence, Ozil ran to the end line and quickly crossed to the box. Müller missed the shot and the ball was left to Schürrle, who fluffed the rebound and made for an easy save by Lorris.
France had its last chance to tie in stoppage time with a shot from the left flank by Benzema, but Neuer was once again poised in the perfect place under the crossbar to ensure the German emerged victorious.