Germany shook off the flu and France to ease into the World Cup semifinals on Friday with a deserved 1-0 victory, whileBrazil came to a national standstill ahead of the nervous hosts’ game with carefree Colombia.
Defender Mats Hummel won a surprisingly subdued match between the two European powers with a well-steered 13th minute header from a free kick, giving Germany a remarkable fourth successive World Cup semifinal spot.
“I hope our ride isn’t over yet, and I hope we’ll be back here,” goalscorer Hummels said, referring to the July 13 final, also held at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.
Though perennially competitive, the Germans have not won soccer’s ultimate crown since 1990, despite having a bigger talent pool since the unification of West and East.
At the Maracana on Friday, the 25-year-old Hummels brushed off a challenge from France’s Raphael Varane, appearing to push him lightly, to meet the ball perfectly before wheeling away in delight after giving Germany an early lead.
‘Les Bleus’ looked uninspired but did have their moments, not least a stinging last-gasp shot by striker Karim Benzema that goalkeeper Manuel Neuer stopped one-handed.
“That was just an automatic reaction,” said the modest Neuer.
In truth, Germany, whose team showed no ill effects of a flu virus threatening their camp in recent days, never looked in great danger of losing, and substitute Andre Schuerrle wasted two chances to secure a more flattering scoreline.
“We had our chances, but they had more experience than we did. They had us under control, and they controlled that one-goal lead,” said France coach Didier Deschamps. “The difference wasn’t that big … but they advanced.”
Later on Friday, hosts and tournament favorites Brazil face their toughest test so far, when they take on South American rivals Colombia in a quarterfinal in Fortaleza.