Photo: Mats Hummels heads home the winner for Germany against France to advance to the semi-finals (Getty Images)
On a day when one of four European teams left in the World Cup would be sent packing, Germany and France served up a wonderful game of pure football even though it was cagey at times. It was Germany who came away victorious thanks to a first half headed goal by the returning Mats Hummels. The Borussia Dortmund defender who is on the radar of Manchester United and likened to Franz Beckenbauer not only got the winning goal, but he was on hand to deny Les Bleus on numerous occasions as he sensed the danger from early and got in the way.
The game started with Joachim Low's Germany keeping the ball, spreading it around and showing that they were on a mission in the Maracana. Despite the Germans dictating play and having most of the possession, it was France who had the first effort at goal on 7 minutes. Patrice Evra broke down the left and his pass picked out Mathieu Valbuena whose cross found Karim Benzema but his effort went off target. Valbuena threatened again in the 10th minute down the left but his cross was cleared just in time by Philipp Lamh.
On 11 minutes, Mamadou Sakho played a good pass over the top for Antoine Griezmann but his cross was cleared by Hummels with Benzema in the middle waiting for a tap-in. Germany then took the lead a minute later through Hummels. Toni Kroos took a brilliant free kick with a delicious delivery and the Dortmund defender used his 6ft 4in frame to brush aside Raphael Varane and head beautifully pass Hugo Lloris in the French goal.
Paul Pogba then got into the game linking up with Mathieu Debuchy down the right but his cross was cut out by Hummels. Sami Khedira then tried to play in Thomas Muller on 25 minutes but Lloris was off his line quickly to claim the ball. France's best chance came on 34 minutes through Benzema. Valbuena received the ball down the left and his cross picked out Griezmann. His effort was beaten away brilliantly by Manuel Neuer but Hummels was on hand to block Benzema's effort for a corner on the rebound.
On minute 42 Evra crossed for Benzema but his header was blocked by Hummels who seems to be at the heart of everything for Germany. The final action of note in the first half came on 44 minutes when Pogba played a delightful ball out to Benzema on the left who then cut inside but his effort was easily stopped by Neuer and the Germans went in at half time with the advantage.
Les Bleus started the second half with a lot more purpose and desire as they tried to get on level terms. However it was Klose who almost played in Kroos on 49th minute but Lloris again came up big for France to keep them in the game. On 52 minutes Kroos drove at the French defense and passed out wide to Mesut Ozil who played a cross back towards Kroos but Varane made a vital clearance. France opened up the German defense for a split second when Valbuena released Matuidi down the left but Schweinsteiger was there to shut the door on them on the hour mark.
Neuer was asked to make a smart save from Varane a minute later when the young Real Madrid defender met Cabaye's cross and got his header on target. Muller almost double the lead on 69 minutes when he received a pass from substitute Andre Schurrle on the right and dribbled into the penalty area. His shot towards the far post went just wide however. Schurrle got in behind the defense using in pace on 74 minutes but his effort was saved by Lloris from an acute angle. Hummels may have scored the goal but he preserved Germany's lead on 76 minutes. Benzema got on the end of a cross in the penalty area and got the better of Lahm but Hummels was there to block his effort on goal.
Germany could have ended the match with a lot more ease had Schurrle sealed the win on 82 minutes. Ozil got free on the left side and his cross found the Chelsea attacker with time and space but he couldn't beat Lloris from about 10 yards. Muller then broke away using his pace and power down the right to cross again for Schurrle but his effort was blocked by Varane on 88 minutes. Benzema could have sent the gamein to extra time in the fourth minute of stoppage time but Neuer came up big using his wrist to save the shot and send Germany into the semi-finals.