In a change of pace to what we’ve seen so far, Germany constricted France into reluctant submission to edge Les Bleus for the first available spot in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
As the tournament progresses, the difference between the teams competing is understandably getting narrower. The first of the quarterfinal matches was evidence of that. The margins were tight in this riveting game as two of the most impressive teams at this year’s competition battled it out for the right to advance to the Semi-Finals.
Both sides made very few errors, which showed as the number of scoring opportunities was noticeably decreased compared to the majority of the Group Stage games. The opening (and subsequently only) goal, moreover, came less from a French mistake but more from a gloriously well-placed header from Mats Hummels. In short, the game looked more like a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal than most of what we’ve seen at this World Cup: slow, tactical, patient.
Tipped as the tie of the round, the uninitiated soccer fan would, perhaps, have found this game to be, dare I say, boring. To those with more experience it was a fascinating duel between two soccer super-powers. The level of technical play was some of the best we’ve seen. The execution of strategy was a joy to watch. What the game lacked in openness was more than made up for in the tension on the field. Small margins left little room for error, and no where was that more apparent than this match.
The 2014 World Cup has been touted as one of the best tournaments in recent memory, many citing the attractive attacking play as the main winning quality. This game lacked the beauty of other games but was full of impressive talent and gameplay. Indeed, if any team is to take the trophy home defense will be just as important as offense. Germany deserved to go through not merely because they scored, but also because they did not concede.
Looking forward the French can be proud of their performance at this year’s tournament; exceeding, by many accounts, the low expectations placed on their shoulders. Germany, however, can look forward positively after a solid team performance that got the job done. Though it may be discouraging to some, it is likely we’ll see more of the same in the Semi-Finals when Germany play either Brazil or Colombia.