Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (4E Sports) – A first-half header from defender Mats Hummels lifted Germany into the World Cup semifinals via a close 1-0 win over France at Maracana.
Hummels, who missed the last-16 victory over Algeria due to flu-like symptoms, showed no ill-effects of any sickness in the 12th minute, rising highest to head home Toni Kroos’ free-kick from the left to give Germany the win.
For a spot in the finals, the Germans will face either Brazil or Colombia Tuesday.
Hummels’ second goal of the tournament helped the Germans to become the first nation to reach four straight World Cup semifinals. The Germans are one of the most consistent performers throughout World Cup history with seven final appearances.
The loss ended France’s campaign in a disappointing fashion as it failed to exact revenge for semifinal defeats to West Germany at the 1982 and 1986 editions.
The French had a chance to level the match in the dying minutes but attempts by Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi were denied by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Germany made the better start, but it was the French who had the first effort on goal in the seventh minute when Benzema volleyed Mathieu Valbuena’s chipped pass narrowly wide.
Hummels made France pay for that miss five minutes later when he broke the deadlock with his second goal of the 2014 World Cup. The defender beat Raphael Varane to Kroos’ set-piece and sent a glancing header in off the underside of the crossbar.
Twice Germany had appeals for penalties waved away, claiming fouls by Mathieu Debuchy on Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller, but on each occasion referee Nestor Pitana signaled for play to continue.
Neuer was finally called into action for the first time 11 minutes before the break, and reacted brilliantly to keep out Valbuena’s left-footed volley, before Hummels deflected Benzema’s rebound over the bar.
The striker continued to threaten as half-time approached, seeing his header blocked by the body of Hummels and then firing a strike straight at Neuer after cutting in from the left shortly afterwards.
France cautiously pressed for an equalizer after the break, but Varane’s header from Valbuena’s right-wing cross on the hour-mark was deflected by the goalkeeper.
Muller almost put the result beyond doubt nine minutes later but his shot from an angle was deflected narrowly wide by Mamadou Sakho.