Germany became the first nation to reach four consecutive World Cup semi-finals as Mats Hummels’ early header proved enough to see them past France at the Maracana.
The three-time champions needed extra time to beat Algeria in the last 16 and suffered a bout of illness in midweek, but they were comfortable victors over a disappointing France in Rio de Janeiro. Hummels got the better of Raphael Varane to score what proved to be the winning goal and Germany can now prepare for a meeting with Brazilin Belo Horizonte on Tuesday after the hosts beat Colombia. Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer gave another faultless performance and Joachim Low’s men deserved their win against a France side whofailed to hit the heights of earlier in the tournament.
It is 60 years to the day since Germany overturned a two-goal deficit to upset Hungary in the 1954 final, and this will go down as another memorable day in their history. In the build-up, Low dismissed talk of France seeking revenge for 1982, when Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher escaped punishment for a brutal challenge on Patrick Battiston and went on to save two penalties as his side came through a shootout to reach the final.
But what could not be ignored was Germany’s greater experience and, despite a reconfigured starting line-up and doubts over their health, they again showed their international pedigree. Hummels returned to central defence after a bout of “flu-like symptoms”, with Per Mertesacker unexpectedly the man to make way as Germany looked to contain France’s quick forwards.
Philipp Lahm moved from midfield to right-back in place of Shkodran Mustafi, Sami Khedira coming into midfield, and there was a surprise start for 36-year-old Miroslav Klose in attack. Germany looked far more balanced than against Algeria in their last match, and a period of sustained pressure told when Hummels held off Varane to guide home a Toni Kroos free-kick.