33°C heat, 88% humidity, 2 European teams and a flu epidemic in the German camp. This could be interesting. France have learned their lesson since the tight win against Nigeria and start Benzema through the middle. After his impressive performance as a substitute, Greizmann starts beside the striker, in place of Giroud. Only one change at the back, Sahko in place of Koscielny. Samir Nasri’s been desperate to show that he doesn’t care at all about not being there by posting photos of his holiday online; stop trying mate… no one believes you!
The heat of Rio had the players’ faces dripping with sweat at the national anthems and Germany start the game the brighter team, pressing high up the field and zipping the ball around the French penalty area.
France match them and Benzema lashes a shot wide on 8 minutes. More opportunities come their way as they press, the midfield trying to get the ball in behind.
It’s a set piece that catches the French out on 12 minutes, Mats Hummels outmuscling Varane and meeting Kroos’ free kick with his head. 1-0 Germany.
France do not let their heads drop and keep going, but the Germans are solid and let nothing through. Hummels and Schweinsteiger playing out of their skins and Müller an ever present danger surging forward.
24 mins in and Klose employs some ludicrous theatrics in the France penalty area. Nothing is given but it is clear that, if Germany are suffering, they’re trying to get a good head start. France are sticking to their game too, Valbuena drawing a superb save from Neuer at point blank range, Benzema unable to meet the rebound.
Neither team made changes at the break. It must be mentioned, however, that Gary Lineker was filled, momentarily, by the spirit of Louis Theroux in his question to Ruud Gullit; “Löw’s not been afraid to leave out big players. Did you ever do that in your career?”
“Yeah, him.” Gullit replied, nodding at Alan Shearer.
“And look what happened to you.”
Well played big Al, well played.
France exert some early pressure when the game resumes; Matuidi and Evra causing problems to the German defence but that man Hummels soaking it up. Neuer is matching everything and isn’t tested to any extent as France begin running out of ideas and showing a bit of lethargy, their passes not really connecting and their balls over the top are becoming more and more errant.
The Ashington Ameobi (Schürrle) replaces Klose at around 70 minutes, adding some terrifying pace to the German attack. Muller comes close after a terrible ball from Sahko but it is deflected wide. France need to change things.
Kosielny replaces Sahko and on for Cabaye, France are going for it but the ex-Newcastle man is forced deep and is unable to link up with forward play. This doesn’t look good for France as Germany unleash wave after wave of attack; Özil letting off a shot and Müller on the advance. Ten minutes to go and Schürrle nearly makes it 2, breaking forward and his shot is saved by Lloris’ legs.
Giroud makes an appearance on 84 minutes but Germany are slowing the game down, France look lost, their balls long and fruitless, soaked up by the German defence.
If France are going to equalise it’s with the last kick of the game, Karim Benzema slips in behind and makes the wrong decision, firing the ball at Neuer’s near post with no real violence.
That’s it; the Germans have done what this Germany side do best; controlling the pace of the game and seeing it out till the very end. It’s a shame for France, they are a great side with some outstanding players; unfortunately a few of them just didn’t seem to have that je ne sais quoi today; Pogba and Cabaye’s flair was nullified by the stalwarts of the German midfield.
In retrospect, France probably needed to change their game earlier. It was too late for Rémy to have any sort of an impact as we know so well he can. Germany were not allowing France to play with their usual space and skill and simply wore them down into a limp defeat. So that’s au revoir for France and that’s about the end of my failed GCSE French speaking abilities.
My post script has to go to another enigmatic comment from Mark Lawrenson;
(Discussing the height of Phillip Lahm) “He’s one of the diddymen, Ked Dodd will be after him.”
The man is a true enigma…
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