Belo Horizonte: France have surprised many by emerging as World Cup contenders but face their toughest test yet against nemesis Germany in a quarter-final clash of European heavyweights at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium on Friday.
But the Germans have their own problems. Seven Germany players are suffering mild flu symptoms ahead of the key match, coach Joachim Loew said in a German radio interview without identifying the players.
“Seven players have somehow come down with slight cases of the flu,” Loew said. He said that most had “throat aches” but did not reveal their names.
“As a result, it’s too early to make any final decisions about the line-up,” Loew added.
For France coach Didier Deschamps, the past, heartbreaking World Cup semi-final defeats to the Germans in 1982 and 1986 do not matter at all.
But with French media splashing the word ‘Angstgegner’, the German word for bogey team, across their front pages and broadcasts, Deschamps must conquer the fears of an entire nation if he is to restore his country’s World Cup eminence.
They have only excruciating memories of their last two World Cup battles against them, losing a nerve-wracking semi-final in 1982 in Spain.
After scoring twice to lead 31 in extra time, they conceded two goals and crashed out on penalties in what has become known as ‘Seville ’82’.
Germany ’keeper Toni Schumacher’s reckless challenge on France’s Patrick Battiston which left the player with broken ribs, an injured vertebrae and shattered teeth, further added to the bitterness of that loss.
Four years later, it was again the Germans who killed off their World Cup dreams with a 2-0 victory in Mexico.
Deschamps has refused to talk to his players about those games, instead saying: “If my players were not born then, they were not born then. What’s the point talking about it.
“We must not let our confidence turn into arrogance,” he told reporters. “Players have the right to dream. Everyone can dream. But I am generally a pragmatic and realistic man. We can dream but the reality is Germany on Friday.”
Honours are even in terms of recent meetings with France claiming a 2-1 win in Bremen in February 2012, while Germany claimed revenge by the exact same scoreline in Paris 12 months later.
The French lead the series with 11 wins to Germany's eight in 25 previous meetings.
A question mark hangs over Loew’s shaky defence and how they will react to their biggest test so far in the tournament, with France’s Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann posing a far bigger threat than the Algerian attack.
“We have to do it better against France,” Loew warned, insisting captain Philipp Lahm would not slip back from midfield into his traditional full back position, where he rose to become one of the best in the world, despite his defence’s obvious weaknesses.
“I have taken my decisions, including the role of Lahm and I will stick to those until the very end,” said Loew. (Agencies)