Germany 1-0 France
After the big billing, it was as drab match but Germany won't mind about that as they trundle through to the semi-final. France never mustered enough to truly threaten. Low's changes were vindicated, faith in France was not. "I usually cheer for European teams, but that was the worst game of the tournament, or at least the most disappointing," harrumphs D'Arcy Kackenzie. "I hope it is not a sign of things to come."
90+3 min: Oh France! They at last summoned some vim and incision but Benzema shot weakly at the Neuer after creating the opening!
90+2 min: Germany substitution: with two minutes left, Kroos is replaced by Kramer.
90 min: Remember the way the far less talented USA team rallied in the final minutes against Belgium, almost plundering a glorious equaliser? Well France are doing the exact opposite of that here. It's a sorry showing, to be fair.
88 min: Germany squander another chance to secure the win! Evra was made to look a fool as Muller ambled past him down the right and the German then crossed for Schurrle. The normally clinical Chelsea player just swings his foot at the ball from 15 yards, and Varane makes the block.
87 min: Debuchy dispossesses Gotze in the corner as Germany sought to run the clock down. But France are still a long way from where they need to be. They're going out with a whimper here ...
85 min: France's last throw of the dice: Giroud on, Valbuena off.
83 min: Germany substitution: Ozil off, Gotze on.
81 min: Neuer endears himself ot his defenders by claiming a corner and launching a counter-attack with excellent distribution. Ozil hares down the left and plays a low ball into Muller, who faffs at the ball! But fortunately for him, it runs through to Schurrle, who should seal the victory! But he shoots tamely from 14 yards, allowing Lloris to make a sharp save and France eventually welly it away!
80 min: Like Khedira earlier, Schweinsteiger earns a booking for taking out a French player to abort a counter-attack. It's an affront to the sport and to morality and more needs to be done to eradicate such systematic villainy.
77 min: The French revolution continues, as Matuidi goes close following another bout of pressure on the German box.
76 min: Promising! Varane dinked a lovely ball into the channels for Remy to chase. He picked out Benzema in the middle and the striker twisted past a defender before getting off a good shot. Blocked!
74 min: Schurrle flies down the right and then aims a soft shot at Lloris, who gets down to save comfortably.
73 min: France substitution: Cabaye off, Remy on. That should pose a new challenge to the Germans.
72 min: Griezman blems a wobbly shot way wide from a silly angle and distance. "This is the first match to suffer from late-stage World Cup jitters and is thus a bit boring?" notes Allan Castle.
71 min: France substitution, at last: Koscielny on, Sakho off. Guess Deschamps had enough of Sakho's erratic behaviour - but that's not really the change that is going to diversify France's attack.
69 min: Another barmy pass from Sakho plays France into trouble, and the defender is lucky that Muller's cross-shot is deflected wide. And even luckier that the officials didn't see the deflection and therefore award a goal kick. That whole episode sums up the way this game is going. Down.
68 min: German substitution: there will be no record goal today for Klose, who trots off to be replaced by Schurrle.
66 min: How do you say laissez-faire in French? Deschamps' policy of non-intervention is not working: he needs to change something or this match will just trundle on to a German victory.
64 min: Valbuena takes a short corner - and then clanks the ball towards the back post, where Benzema traps the ball on his chest ... only for the ref to blow for handball.
61 min: Khedira wriggles free inside the French half and then digs out an astute pass towards Klose, who hadn't anticipated it. The chance dies.
59 min: After a corner is cleared, France regain it and curl the ball into the box. Varane jumps well and gets off a decent header but Neuer saves without fuss. It's not happening for France. It's all very well giving a plan time to come together but at this point Deschamps is becoming guilty of Micawberism.
57 min: A good call from Kiran Kulkarni. "I feel Loic Remy could turn out to be a trump card with his pace & dynamism. Deschamps shouldn't wait till 82nd minute to bring him on.. Giroud can be given a night off as he is too static & will not make things happen on his own" Why not both?At any rate, Griezman needs to do something pronto if he is to avoid the hook.
56 min: A sweeping move by Germany, featuring a glorious cross-field pass by Muller to Lahm, is ruined when Schweinsteiger drags a piffling shot way wide from 25 yards.
54 min: Khedira copes a richly-deserved yellow card for pulling down Griezman as France threatened to launch a dangerous counter-attack.
53 min: It may be time for France to bring on Giroud. They are playing a lot of long balls in a bid towards their forwards, who has so far failed to make the most of them due to shoody control. Giroud might be a better bet at this point.
52 min: Germany respond, and Ozil wins a corner, a rather lucky return from a slack cross. Lloris comes to punch the corner clear but doesn't get a firm connection - he is reprieved by the referee, who wrongly punishes Hummels for a perfectly legitimate challenge.
50 min: Strange! Valbuena curled a freekick in from the left and Evra ran to meet it all alone! He tried to connect with his head near the penalty spot but fluffed it. The replay pardons the Germans defence: it was not their negligence that allowed Evra such freedom to goof, it was the linesman, who completely failed to noticed that the Frenchman was at least a yard offside.
48 min: Germany are not taking any wild risks here. They know the onus is on France to shake things up so they're just keeping a lid on things.
47 min: Sprightly by France. They flitting around the German box with purpose. A Valbuena cross is cleared but France get the ball back and begin building again, with a little more urgency than in the first half.
46 min: France set the second half in motion.
"A goal celebration plus an injury to Khedira plus a drinks break is apparently equivalent to one minute of playing time! Surely it must be time (apologies) for official timekeepers," fumes Mark Hammond. As it happens, a wise man once wrote an article on that very point.
Inviting Americanisms into the holy land of English sport can earn you a fatwa from football fans, who are among the most fundamentalist people on the planet. But good ideas are good ideas even if they don't come from the Establishment, and bad practices are bad practices regardless of tradition. It's time to change, and we could start by changing ... time.
Kevin Thomson has got a lot to answer for. Your emails containing puns involving the names of German footballers are getting ever more ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as, say, suggesting that a blazing pub could participate in the summer Olympics. I mean, who's ever seen a lit bar ski?
Sorry. Other websites are available.
"If it"s any consolation to Kevin Thompson, has last pun on 27mins was much Klose to making me laugh than his previous effort." - Steve Murray
Amusing scenes in the BBC studio:
Half-time: Germany 1-0 France
Low's changes have worked and Germany deserve their lead. Their quick interplay and movement has troubled France, who have struggled to find their groove but have hinted at a threat on the counter-attack. The onus is on Deschamps to stimulate an improvement from his men.
43 min: A long diagonal ball from Pogba is taken down neatly by Benzema, who then cuts in from the left, leaving two players in his wake. But his 20-yard shot lacked enough power and precision to bother Neuer, who saved easily.
40 min: More signs that France are finding their feet. Matuidi swings in a tasty cross from the left and Benzema gets a firmer header to it from nine yards. But Hummels blocks it.
38 min: Play will resume after a break for drinks. Unless bad light stops play, which, admittedly, is unlikely.
36 min: As if to emphasise that France are starting to gain a greater foothold in midfield, Pogba feints and rolls his way past Schweinsteiger, bringing whoops of glee from the amused crowd. But the move brought nothing more satisfying than that.
33 min: Oh! Germany are caught out by a ball over the top. Griezman rushes on to it and cross for Valbuena, whose shot on the bounce from the left is saved with one hand by Neuer! But the ball falls into the path of Benzema, who attempts to bundle it into the net from five yards - but Hummels blocks it. Corner to France.
31 min: Neuer sprints off his line in familiar fashion to prevent Benzema from getting on the end of a through-ball. "Dear Paul, it is silly to suggest that Johnny Cash could be refereeing," tut-tuts Fred Lane. "Shouldn't he be walking the line?"
29 min: A German freekick from the right is deflected behind by Sakho. Kroos delivers the corner ... Lloris comes to meet it but Varane isn't aware of that and instead nuts it out for a throw-in.
27 min: After much Teutonic tika-taka, France regain possession and Valbuena tries to launch a quick counter-attack, but it will take more than a hopefully-hoisted ball into the penalty area to undo Germany's defence. "I’m still smarting after being accused of 'robbing old jokes' by you a while ago (in a Bayern Munich v Real Madrid match)," stormres kevin Thomson. "How was I to know that somebody had already thought up 'Hutton dressed as Lahm'? I’m getting tired of my clever gags using German players’ names not being appreciated. It’s like casting pearls before Schweinsteiger ..."
25 min: Germany are cranking up the pressure here. Their movement is making France look stodgy at times. Muller almost connects with a through-ball but Lloris rushes off his line to foil them.
22 min: After a neat, quick-footed build-up by Germany, Klose is put through with a fine pass - but he mis-controls the ball and then collapses and appeals, rather desperately, for a penalty. The ref waves play on. By the way, I have amended an earlier entry to confirm that it was Kroos, not Schweinsteiger, who delivered the freekick that led to the goal. Blame BBC commentator Mark Lawrenson for the original mistaken identity. Or perhaps I should say BBC commentator Jacky Chan, what with that being the wrong person entirely.
18 min: Like many observers, I thought France would win today because they would get the upperhand in midfield - but so far it has not panned out like that, as Germany are on top there. Matuidi has found it especially difficult to exert any influence - and when he did enjoy a bit of time on the ball just now, he wasted it, over-hitting an intended pass to Benzema.
16 min: If you want more pictures to go with these words, have a gander at this gallery.
15 min: The goal piqued France, who exerted a bit of pressure on the German box through crosses from Valbuena and Cabaye, but Germany defended without much ado. France are going to have to play with more fluency, tempo and imagination if they're to undo their opponents.
GOAL! Germany 1-0 France (Hummels 12)
Kroos clips a freekick into the area and Hummels leaps above the French defender to guide a header into the net from 10 yards! It was a well-flighted delivery and well-executed finish by Hummels, who also showed admirable strength to fend off Varane, but that sort of goal that will enrage Deschamps. But the game is is on now!
11 min: Chance for France! Griezman springds the German offside trap to race on to a ball over the top and into the box and looks up to see Benzema baying for a pass in the middle. His cross is misdirected.
9 min: Muller drifts in from the right to receive the ball with his back to goal, about 30 yards out. Realising they've let the dangerman elude them, France start panicking and three players converge on Muller, who offloads to Ozil. The Arsenal man canters into the left-hand side of the box ... but his cross is cleared.
7 min: France shows signs of thawing, as Evra sends in a cross from the left. Germany clear but France reclaim it and work it back into the box, where the wonderful Valbuena collects it and tees up Benzema for a sidefooted volley that hurtles about a foot wide from 12 feet.
5 min: It may be hot, but France appear frozen. They've been alarmingly passive so far as Germany dominate possession.
3 min: A spurt of excitement as Sakho donks a misdirected ball to Muller, who centres quickly to cause momentary chaos in the Frenh defence. The danger is soon cleared. That is Sakho's one weakness in otherwise excellent repertoire: he has an almost Bramble-esque tendency to produce booboos from nothing.
2 min: It's a cagey start to proceedings, with Germany knocking the ball about at an almost leisurely pace in their own half. France feel no need to chase and instead stay coiled in a 4-1-4-1 formation in their own half.
1 min: We have go! In other news, I am grateful to Marcos Igmaziel for this email: "As an underprivileged Brazilian who enjoys the privilege of being in Rio now, I will try to give you a hand with World Cup non-news. I ve just been to the front of the hotel where the German team are staying to watch the buzz around their bus departure heading to the Maracanã. Most onlookers are Brazilians eager to take a peek at the group we do consider to be the strongest in the tournament. Interestingly it's not unusual to hear support for Klose record-breaking effort: Ronaldo Fofomeno (something like 'puffedupomenon') has been taken as a sychophant, no guts character who's sucking up to Fifa's agenda and siding with more than dubious, flippant football managers and political carrer seekers. Nevertheless, while taking his window seat, Klose failed to smile or wave any greeting to the crowd. That was disconcerting to the crowd's excitement and many have expressed they no longer hope Klose beats that record. Ozil did smile and slightly raised his hand and now they want Ozil to score a goal. We make it sound like a curse, but a playful one. The booing over the anthems of the sides playing against Brazil is no different. Its a childish thing, never a serious one. Hope you find it insightful. Our great maestro Tom Jobim once said: Brazil isn't for the uninitiated. Spot on"
"I am in a pub in the US with no sound," booms Sean O. "Can you post what those speeches were about?" Simple: both captains were asked to read out a message declaring Fifa's opposition to all forms of discrimination. Except discrimination against discriminators, presumably.
Abolish anthemns before football matches
It's really not fair that footballers are ordered to put on a singing show before each games. I didn't see any of the participants in the last Eurovision song contest having to take part in a penalty shoot-out before they did their thing.
Weather watchers might like to know that the pitch-side temperature in the Maracana is 30 C or, to put it in terms the layman might understand, it's almost exactly one 100th of the temperature you would need to boil cobalt. You're welcome.
Here come the teams. France, as if to reinforce the notion that they are here to enforce justice after the Schumacher crime, are clad all in police blue. Germany are all in white, except for Schweinsteiger, who's pimped his kit by adding red tights - I'm not sure what notion that projects.
Keeping it parochial
"I'm sure I'm not the only Arsenal fan to notice that both of our preferred central defenders have been dropped for today's match," snarls Daniel Finucane. "And I'm surely not the only one who is surprised. As well as Mertesacker and Koscielny have played, they just cannot seem to put their managers (and the rest of us) at ease. With regard to their mental fortitude (or at least the exterior projection of it), I am reminded of Cedric the Entertainer's description of Luther Vandross's Jheri curl never really curling over sufficiently: 'It never...it just never..it never quite....'"
The omission of Per Mertesacker suggests that Neuer may not have to charge out of his box quite as often as he did the other night, but one of the fascinating sub-plots to tonight's match is the meeting of the Neuer and Lloris, perhaps the two best sweeper-keepers in the world (with the German being better).
The BBC seem to have bought into the whole grudge match theme and have even extended it to their pundit selection, as David Wall notes. "Alan Shearer seems to be shrinking into his seat sat next to Ruud Gullit! The BBC person who books the pundits deserves a bonus for lining that one up. If they'd had Neil Lennon in place of Rio Ferdinand too then hopefully he'd shut up completely." That would be a treat, to be sure, although it would be a shame to lose Ferdinand: he's proved a smart, interesting pundit.
By the way, while we're on the subject of 1982, I must venture the opinion that it remains a better tournament than the current one - although, of course, my view on that may change as this competition comes to a crunch.
The kit conundrum: solved
Steven Fontenot has sent the correct answer to the correct address, and presumably dresses himself on the correct side too. "I assume France were annoyed with the kit manufacturers because le coq was on the wrong side of the jersey? A misaligned coq can cause problems..."
If you want to talk trends, then we must consider that France losing here would be most uncharacteristic. Because while the Germans have been the epitome of consistency down the years - reaching at least the quarter-finals in every World Cup since 1954 , France have been monumentally erratic, alternating between wonderful play and comical bungling: losing to strong opponents in the last eight would be unusually normal for them.
That 1973 kit
Oh la la, some of you are getting in a funk at your inability to work out what minor kit fault angered the French in the 1973 tussle referred to below. "I can't work out what's wrong with the kits - please tell me!" bawls Tom Black. "Is it that some of that shorts vary greatly in size?" No, that's not what bothered them. (At this point I should warm readers that you're probably going to be a little disappointed when you find out the real reason for their dismay)
Schumacher and all that
In a bid to meet the mandatory quota of mentions of the 1982 match, allow me to refer you to this article in Le Monde, who have tracked down Harald Schumacher and harvested his memories of Sevilla - and the aftermath: "I had two bodyguards for at least the next six months. Everywhere I went, at least one of them came with me. As you can imagine, it wasn't a great experience. I also received letters, some in German and some in French, from people who said they wanted to kidnap or kill my children."
Well that's a much more balanced line-up from Germany, with Lahm seemingly starting at right-back and Khedira in the middle. It will be fascinating to see how starting with Klose up front pans out: Mamadou Sakho will probably be happy, as he's more comfortable confronting a regular centre-forward than tryign to keep track of a shrewd drifter like Muller, who, of course, will still be on hand to make mischief from wider.
As for Didier Deschamps' selection, he's done the wise thing and brought Griezman back so that Benzema can play through the middle. So it's a pretty scene that's been set. Game on!
Germany: Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Hummels, Howedes; Khedira, Schweinsteiger; Kroos, Ozil, Muller; Klose
France: Lloris; Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra; Cabaye, Matuidi; Valbuena, Pogba, Griezmann; Benzema.
The man in black: J Cash (USA)
The man in the middle: N Pitana (Argentina)
The way Manuel Neuer kept hurtling out of his box against Algeria the other night could have led one to suspect that he was already preparing for this, the reprise of the classic France v West Germany match of 1982 and Harald Schumacher's arse-first attack on Patrick Battiston. The past will have no bearing on the outcome of this match, of course, but it does provide a seductive narrative for us lot to babble about while the players play. The truth is there is no longer much animus between France and Germany and if it's a proper grudge match that you wanted, then you needed Algeria to prevail the other night to set up a meeting with France that could have had ramifications far beyond football. Which is not to say this France-Germany match is going to be a namby-pamby affair. Far from it: in fact, here's hoping for the truly high-grade clash that this World Cup, for all its thrills, has yet to deliver.
This could be a great contest, in terms of quality as well as drama. But for that, both teams will have to raise their game a little, especially Germany, who have looked disturbingly mismanaged so far. With a defence composed of four centrebacks, Philip Lahm in midfield, and out-of-form Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze out wide while Andreas Schurrle is wasted on the bench, can Joachim Low really say he has thus far played to his squad's strength rather than to some hifalutin' coaching vanity? Not that all of Germany's flaws are due to poor design: the injury to Marco Reus has been much more debilitating to Germany than Franck Ribéry's has been to France. Germany miss the Dortmund player's speed and madness. Also, Sami Khedira is short of fitness and Bastian Schweinsteiger has looked plodsome, so France could monster Germany in midfield if Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba and Yohan Cabaye play to full potential. France are a far more balanced team than Germany, strong in every position, except possibly left-back, where, in the last 16 match against Nigeria, Patrice Evra played much the same way as he did for Manchester United last season. But this is the biggest challenge that France have yet faced and they have to prove they have the heart and sangfroid for the battle. We can discuss all this further when we see the teams.
Before then, let's dredge up history again. The Germans, of course, were the winners in the two memorable meetings in the 1980s, but France have had the better of things more recently, winning five and drawing one of the last seven encounters.And here, for the pedants amongst you, is shoddy footage of a 1973 meeting between the nations. See if you can figure out why France were annoyed with their kit manufacturers before the game.