World Cup 2014: Win at all costs - why Germany must deliver

By David OrnsteinBBC Sport at the Maracana
World Cup 2014: France 0-1 Germany highlights

As the full-time whistle blew and Germany players, staff and fans celebrated their progress to the World Cup semi-finals with victory over France, one man remained unmoved.

Coach Joachim Low stood on the touchline virtually motionless, his face a picture of calm and focus.

He knew not only that a far tougher test would await in the last four, but that Germany have been in this position on several occasions before and are reaching the point at which they must deliver.

Since winning the most recent of three titles in 1990, they have made the quarter-finals or better at all six subsequent tournaments and are now the first nation to reach four semi-finals in a row. They have also gone to the semi-finals or beyond at the past two European Championships.

Germany at the World Cup
1978Second group stage
2006Third place
2010Third place

It is a proud record and one envied by many - but for a country that measures success by silverware, Germany will feel they have knocked on the door for long enough. It is time to get in - especially now they can look forward to playing a Brazil team without suspended skipper Thiago Silva and injured superstar Neymar.

Asked twice in his post-match news conference how important it is for this side to finally reward their talent with a trophy, Low carefully manoeuvred his way around the subject.

"We have no titles yet as a team," he said. "Titles are marvellous and our players, mainly from Bayern Munich, have already won many. That is important for them, it is something special. But for us first and foremost it is a matter of playing the semi-final, which is going to be difficult."

Perhaps the great Germany teams were not all blessed with the same youthful exuberance, attacking flair and supreme technical ability as some of their modern-day successors - but they certainly knew how to win, and more often than not would find a way to do so.

As former England striker Gary Lineker once famously said: "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."

Matts Hummels
Mats Hummels' header took Germany's tally of headed goals to 15 since the 2002 World Cup

That is the task facing the current incumbents, and there have been signs to suggest they are capable of rising to the challenge, notably in the manner they battled past Algeria in the last 16, despite a below-par display, and then in this dogged performance against France.

There was something of the old, teutonic Germany in the way they scored early through Mats Hummels and then shut up shop; slowing possession, disrupting France's rhythm through fair or foul means, limiting opportunities and repelling everything thrown at them. Win at all costs.

"A good example of how Germany did well at killing the game were fouls by Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedira," said former Netherlands international and BBC pundit Ruud Gullit.

Les Bleus arrived with 10 goals to their name in this World Cup - the same number they had managed at the previous three combined - but they met the most imposing of German walls.

"The Germany players look like they have been here before, they're not panicking," former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said in the BBC studio.

BBC Sport pundit Alan Shearer
"Mats Hummels was brilliant whenever the question was asked of him at the back and what a very good decision it was by Joachim Low to leave Arsenal centre-back Per Mertesacker out of their defence. The Germans killed the game incredibly well and took the sting out of it when they had to, and they passed it around at a slower pace. They have no real superstars in their team but they are all very, very good at doing their jobs."

Die Mannschaft have earned plaudits galore for the way in which they have rebuilt since crashing out of Euro 2000 at the group stage, focusing on youth development and attacking play.

Low was assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann as the work began to bear fruit with third-place finishes at the 2005 Confederations Cup and 2006 World Cup. He was in sole command for narrow defeats in the Euro 2008 final and 2010 World Cup semis before another last-four loss at Euro 2012.

Six of the players who lined up against France in the Maracana - Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Howedes, Jerome Boateng, Hummels, Khedira and Mesut Ozil - also started the 2009 Under-21 European Championship final, in which Germany beat England 4-0.

"This consistency is important - we have been working on it successfully," said Low. "We stuck to this idea of having a good preparatory phase, we have invested a lot and have excellent players."

2009 Euro Under-21 final
Manuel NeuerScott Loach
Andreas BeckMartin Cranie
Benedikt HowedesMicah Richards
Jerome BoatengNedum Onuoha
Sebastian BoenischKieran Gibbs
Mats HummelsFabrice Muamba
Fabian JohnsonLee Cattermole
Gonzalo CastroMark Noble
Sami KhediraJames Milner
Mesut OzilAdam Johnson
Sandro WagnerTheo Walcott

Those younger players - not forgetting Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze - have integrated smoothly with older stalwarts such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Klose to form a cocktail that Germany hope will be potent enough to end their wait.

The 14 who featured on Friday have 780 caps between them at an average of 56 per man, and an average age of 26.2. The average age of a World Cup-winning team is 26.4.

And with Brazil weakened when they meet in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, Germany will never have a better opportunity to end the Selecao's unbeaten run on home soil that extends back to August 2002.


Germany's joy on Friday contrasted sharply with France's pain, Antoine Griezmann in tears at the end.

The 1998 champions banished memories of their mutinous group-stage exit four years ago by making their way to the quarter-finals in a style that had some tipping them to go all the way.

But this was a meek surrender that illustrated Les Bleus, who host the next European Championship in 2016, still have some way to go if they are to fulfil their potential.

Coach Didier Deschamps admitted France were "a little bit timid" early on and, although they grew into the contest - their first-half possession of 40.8% turned into 60.1% in the second period, they could not capitalise.

BBC Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand
"I was disappointed with France because, at 1-0 down, they did not up the tempo at all as the game went on. A big reason for that was that they did not have a player who could take the game by the scruff of the neck. Paul Pogba will grow into that, but they missed Franck Ribery, who is not at this World Cup because of a back injury."

Twelve of their 13 shots came from inside the penalty area, but none went in, and their afternoon was summed up when a slick move ended with Mathieu Valbuena firing horribly high and wide.

"We were not efficient," added Deschamps. "I know I have a lot of work to do but it's promising. Germany have experienced players and are accustomed to playing big matches like this."

Former England striker Alan Shearer said he was "very surprised by their lack of urgency and spring going forward", while ex-England midfielder Danny Murphy questioned their fight.

"I don't know whether France ran out of legs or the German possession wore them out," he said. "With 10 minutes to go I was thinking, 'run around, leave it all out there'. If you watched the United States pay against Belgium the other day there wasn't one of them who did not put 100% in, and it didn't seem that way from the French.

"But credit to the Germans, talk about professionalism, keeping the ball, good decision-making and breaking well. They just had a bit more nous, more experience."

Germany will hope it propels them to the ultimate prize.

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