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France - Germany 1st quarter-final today

European rivals battle for semi-final spot

By Agency
04th-Jul-2014       
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It has been a difficult World Cup for many traditional European powers but the continent is assured at least one participant in the semi-final with France facing Germany at the Maracana today (Friday).
It is a fixture that immediately recalls memories of the famous World Cup semi-final clash between the sides in 1982, when Germany won on penalties following a 3-3 draw best remembered for Harold Schumacher's brutal challenge on France forward Patrick Battiston.
Germany are playing in their ninth World Cup quarter-finals in a row, but Joachim Low's side have failed to impress in Brazil since their thumping 4-0 victory over Portugal in their opener.
Last time out, they scraped past Algeria with a 2-1 win after extra-time that has prompted a huge debate back home over the team's performances, tactics and style.
One crucial issue for Low as he debates his line-up is whether to play captain Philipp Lahm in midfield or at right-back. Another is the poor form of the likes of Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze.
The Germans should be boosted by the return of Mats Hummels after he missed the Algeria game with an illness that struck the camp, but Shkodran Mustafi is out of the tournament with a hamstring injury.
In attack, Andre Schurrle is expected to start after scoring as a substitute against Algeria, while Thomas Muller will continue to lead the line, meaning Miroslav Klose will have to come off the bench if he is to break the World Cup scoring record.
While Germany have looked exhausted after a gruelling schedule that included group games in the north, France come into the clash as the fresher side after beating Nigeria 2-0 in the last round.
The French were unconvincing in the last 16 but have played some slick football during the tournament, with Didier Deschamps intelligently using his attacking options.
The stage is set in this last eight clash for Paul Pogba to show why he is considered one of the best midfielders in the world at the age of just 21. The Juventus man has been inconsistent so far in his first World Cup but has shown flashes of his match-winning ability and scored the crucial opener against Nigeria.
Mamadou Sakho is fit after a hamstring problem but may not regain his place in the side after Laurent Koscielny impressed against Nigeria as Les Blues kept a clean sheet.

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