Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Germany beats France 1-0, reaches World Cup semis

RIO DE JANEIRO — It just wouldn't be the World Cup without Germany in the semifinals.

Harnessing all their big-game experience, the Germans delivered a performance of maturity and efficiency to hold off France 1-0 Friday and become the first to reach four straight semifinals in the sport's marquee tournament.

Defender Mats Hummels scored the winner in the 13th minute, outmuscling his marker at a free kick to glance a header in off the underside of the crossbar.

Criticized for poor defending in earlier matches, Germany selected a more robust lineup and restricted a flat France team to only a handful of clear-cut opportunities in muggy conditions.

"There was not much in it," coach Didier Deschamps said. But "we don't have the international experience Germany has."

While France's young players slumped to the ground and some shed tears after the final whistle, the Germans soberly saluted all corners of the Maracana Stadium.

One job done, nothing more.

And next up for Germany is Brazil, which beat Colombia 2-1 Friday. It will be Germany's 13th appearance in the semifinals in 20 editions of the World Cup.

"I guess we're playing the kind of football which will give us a chance to win," said Hummels, who produced a couple of decisive blocks to snuff out two good chances for France striker Karim Benzema. "We defended well today. I think we deserve to carry on."

France struggled to impose the kind of attacking game that made the team one of the most exciting in Brazil during the group stage, although Benzema — the team's chief attacking threat — squandered chances in both halves.

Late in the first half, the Real Madrid striker seized on a rebound following Manuel Neuer's save from Mathieu Valbuena's shot but his close-range effort was deflected wide by Hummels. Then, in stoppage time, he created space for himself about 8 yards out at an angle, but a fierce shot was swatted away by Neuer.

"We played like a team again," said Germany captain Philipp Lahm, who returned to right back in one of a string of tactically astute changes made by coach Joachim Loew. "Overall it was a good performance from us."

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