As France and Germany prepare to face off at the Maracanã, we look at how the two teams could line up.
For the round of 16 match, centre-half Mats Hummels was sidelined with the flu. Now apparently back to full fitness, he could return to play next to Per Mertesacker in the centre, with Jérôme Boateng returning to right-back. Shkodran Mustafi, who played against Algeria, would be dropped.
There has been some controversy over Philipp Lahm’s role in this team. While he’s impressed for Bayern Munich in his new central midfield role, he has underwhelmed in Brazil. Some have called for him to return to left-back, his traditional position, but I don’t expect this to happen.
There is also some cause for concern over the formation. Coach Joachim Löw prefers the 4-3-3, but some are concerned that this fails to get the best from über-talented attacking duo Mesut Özil and Mario Götze. It’s doubtful Löw will change to a 4-2-3-1, though, not least because he lacks a reliable lone striker.
But even if Löw does stick with the 4-3-3 there could be casualties. Sami Khedira, with his boundless energy and consistent distribution, may be re-called, which would see either Bastian Schweinsteiger or Toni Kroos dropped.
Similarly, André Schürrle could start, after his match-winning efforts in the previous round. If so, Löw may drop Özil, although it’s more likely Götze would make way for the Chelsea forward.
Germany’s predicted line-up:
France’s team is much more settled than Germany’s.
Although there has been a bit of chopping-and-changing by Les Bleus’ coach Didier Deschamps in terms of personnel, we know he’s going to stick with his favored 4-3-3 formation.
First, he’ll have to address his team’s biggest weakness: full-back.
Deschamps is likely to pick Mathieu Debuchy and Patrice Evra again. Although Evra isn’t really threatened by his understudy, Lucas Digne, some would prefer to see Bacary Sagna get the nod ahead of Newcastle’s Debuchy. This could happen, but the odds are in Debuchy’s favour. Just.
Next Deschamps faces a dilemma over his centre-halves. Unable to decide on his best pairing, he’s tried every combination of Mamadou Sakho, Raphaël Varane and Laurent Koscielny in the matches so far. After playing all three group games, Sakho was dropped for the round of 16. While Koscielny and Varane are better players, Sakho’s leadership at the heart of defence was missed. I have a feeling he’ll return, but it’s unclear who would make way.
While the selection of the midfield three is a no-brainer, the forward line is more of a headache.
In the last match, Karim Benzema, Mathieu Valbuena and Olivier Giroud played. While Giroud has generally played well, questions linger. While his movement against Nigeria was awful, what’s more worrying (for him) is that his inclusion seems to stifle Benzema somewhat.
Deschamps knows that, with three goals already, Benzema could be the key to victory over Germany. Don’t be surprised if Giroud is replaced by Real Sociedad’s Antoine Griezmann, who seems to complement Benzema’s game much better.