Europe hasn’t had the best World Cup but it could well have two teams in the final of this remarkable tournament and whoever comes out on top in the first quarter final between France and Germany today will strongly fancy their chances of going all the way back to Rio for the final.
France’s sporting stereotype is win or bust, with a record since 1998 that reads Winners, Group stages, Runners Up, and Group stages, it reads perfectly to form and this time around there looks to be a real power and momentum towards the challenge and they come here – perhaps most importantly of all – with the team in perfect harmony.
Nigeria’s stubborn resistance and sharp counter attacking was very awkward for the heavy favourites, who went off just 1/3 for the last 16 clash and won 2-0 only after late goals from Pogba and an own goal that Joesph Yobo didn’t really deserve. But before then the French had been constantly turning the screw and a poor game from Karim Benzema was the only thing preventing them from taking the lead at an earlier stage – although it’s true they were fortunate beyond belief to have Matuidi on the field after his horror tackle.
The French, since losing the first leg of their playoff, have won seven of their nine matches and drawn the other two, and will present a very tough challenge for Germany. The most highly rated European team heading into the tournament, the Germans looked every inch 7/2 shots for the trophy when they thrashed Portgual 4-0 in their opening game but they’ve arguably not reached that level of performance since and even that game has been exposed with Portgual lucky for even a point against the USA and Ghana in the games since and Pepe’s red card may have settled a game that was already finished and exaggerated the margin.
Against Ghana they were able to cut through the Africans on more than one occasion in the second half but were flattered by a novice defence and were opened up by pace on the flanks on several occasions, especially for the two goals they conceded in just 10 minutes; That was not tested against the USA in a game which took little winning thanks to the two essentially being qualified. Against Algeria they were outplayed for the first half, with the Africans scoring but having the goal ruled out thanks to a marginal offside, and Manuel Neuer being called out to clear the danger on at least 4 occasions, all of which involved an Algerian being through on goal.
Germany did improve but they were vulnerable right until Mesut Ozil’s second and the French midfield are well capable of cutting them to pieces if they present as much space again. That’s not likely to be the case today, with Phillip Lahm starting at right-back and Khedira in the middle to provide more balance and protection, but they can still get at Jerome Boateng and Bendikt Howes, and Les Bleus will be much more fluent in attack with Antoine Greizmann wide and Karim Benzema returned to playing through the middle. The only two goals they’ve conceded this tournament have been when 5-0 up against Switzerland and two German draws in 90 minutes including a blank should give them additional confidence. With an outright interest on France to reach the semis and to win the tournament, along with bets on Karim Benzema for top scorer an Thomas Muller in a host of markets, then this looks worth sitting back and watching.
Already Advised – Tournament
8 pts Argentina (7/2 Winner, 3/1 general)
1 pt each/way Italy (33/1 general)
1 pt each/way France (20/1 Sportingbet, 18/1 Ladbrokes, 16/1 general)
1 pt each/way Colombia (33/1 Sportingbet, 25/1 general)
To reach semi-final
5 pts Argentina (19/20 Bwin)
1 pt France (4/1 general)
1 pt Italy (5/1 general)