Tactical changes does not pay for France as it fails to score off clear-cut chances
Mats Hummels returned from a bout of flu to head Germany into a fourth straight World Cup semifinal on Friday with a 1-0 win over European rivals France.
The Borussia Dortmund defender was on target in the 13th minute, off Toni Kroos’s free kick, as Germany reached the last four for a 13th time overall and is one game away from returning to the Maracana for the July 13 final.
Coach Joachim Low made key tactical changes compared to previous games but it was a nervy affair before his side beat France for the third straight time in four World Cup meetings.
The victory came exactly 60 years after the first of Germany’s three titles, a 3-2 of upset of Hungary on July 4, 1954. Germany, which also lifted the trophy in 1974 and 1990, has more appearances than any other team in the last four.
The French team, which had most of the Brazilians in the 74,240-strong crowd on its side, failed to create clear-cut chances and left the World Cup with its heads up high after rebounding in style from a winless first-round exit 2010 in South Africa.
Giroud in subs’ bench
It didn’t help that lively winger Antoine Griezmann returned into Didier Deschamps’s formation as France ended an unsuccessful experiment with Olivier Giroud up front and Karim Benzema on the wing, the Real Madrid forward returning into the centre and Giroud onto the subs’ bench.
Low changed his tactics for the first time in Brazil, moving captain Philipp Lahm out of midfield to his former right back position, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira together in midfield and striker Miroslav Klose a starter for the first time.
Hummels took the place of Per Mertesacker in central defence after missing the 2-1 win over Algeria over his illness.
Germany almost exclusively enjoyed the early position in the sun-flooded Maracana but the first chance belonged to the French when Benzema aimed wide left from a promising range after nice work by Griezmann on the left wing.
Germany snatched the lead soon after. Kroos floated a free-kick into the area from the left, and Hummels beat youngster Raphael Varane to head his second goal of the tournament, in off the crossbar.
Germany pleaded in vain for a penalty when Klose perhaps went down a little too easily after a tug from Mathieu Debuchy, and again when Thomas Mueller fell. Argentine referee Nestor Pitana also waved play on when the French claimed Hummels had stopped Benzema’s header with his arm.
Neuer denies Benzema
Mathieu Valbuana forced Manuel Neuer to a full-stretch save from a tight left angle, with Benzema blocked on the rebound. The Real Madrid striker failed to beat Manuel Neuer on the stroke of half-time to remain on four goals from the first two games.
France continued to move forward in search of the equaliser after the break. Griezmann failed to control the ball after a long ball from Paul Pogba.
Klose’s dream of gaining sole possession of the scoring record with a 16th goal ended in the 68th when he was replaced by Andre Schuerrle, who, after getting the opening goal against Algeria, almost struck again off a low cross from Mueller.
Urged on by Allez Les Bleus chants, France tried everything, but Hummels blocked Benzema at the last instance while Schuerrle failed twice to wrap up matters on the counter before Neuer stopped a final stoppage time effort from Benzema.