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France’s defender Mamadou Sakho (left) vies with Germany’s forward Miroslav Klose during a quarter-final football match between France and Germany at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on July 4. (AFP)
Germany sink France to advance Hummels heads winner

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 4, (AFP): Mats Hummels headed Germany to a 1-0 victory over old rivals France on Friday to take his country to the World Cup semi-finals for a record fourth straight time. The centre-back’s powerful 13th-minute header decided the nervy encounter between two sides who have traditionally produced sensational matches. “The next dream has come true,” beamed Hummels, who said he hopes Germany return to Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium for the final on July 13.
“It’s unbelievable that it’s all going so well for us here at the World Cup.

“I hope that our journey won’t end soon and that we can make it back to compete here week next Sunday.” Hummels also blocked a late strike by Karim Benzema in a man-of-the-match performance.
“Germany were on a higher level today,” said a disconsolate French manager Didier Deschamps, who suffered his first defeat in 11 World Cup games as either a player or coach.
Germany now face either Brazil or Colombia in Tuesday’s semi-final at Belo Horizonte. The Germans produced a polished, improved display on their extra-time win over Algeria in the last 16, to constantly frustrate France’s potent attack spearheaded by Benzema.

This is the 13th time in 20 attempts Germany have reached the World Cup’s semi-finals and the fourth in succession since bowing out of the quarter-finals at France ‘98. Seven of the German squad had suffered with mild flu in the build-up with Hummels one of them but he had recovered enough to take Per Mertesacker’s place at centre-back.
Miroslav Klose, joint top-scorer at World Cup finals with 15 goals, was preferred up front with Thomas Mueller switching to the right wing.
Deschamps made two changes from the side who beat Nigeria in the last 16 with centre-back Mamadou Sakho back after a hamstring problem while Antoine Griezmann replaced Olivier Giroud in attack. Despite the Germans stranglehold on early possession, the first real chance fell to Benzema, who fired wide after seven minutes. The Germans took the lead when Hummels rose highest to head Toni Kroos’ free-kick. His bullet header smashed in off the crossbar to claim his second goal of the finals having also scored with a similar header in the 4-0 opening win over Portugal.
The goal rocked the French defence as the Germans started exerting pressure.
Klose’s run into the box was held back by a tug on his shirt from right-back Mathieu Debuchy, while a Mueller half-chance was quickly snuffed out.
France’s best chance came on 33 minutes when Mathieu Valbuena’s shot was saved by Manuel Neuer and then the goalkeeper making his 50th appearance for his country turned away Benzema’s follow-up.
The French came close to being awarded a penalty just before the break when Benzema’s header hit Hummels in the stomach, missing his hands by inches.

The Real Madrid star then later fired straight at Neuer on a frustrating afternoon as it stayed 1-0 to Germany at the break.
Sami Khedira earned a deserved booking for fouling Griezmann on 54 minutes as France enjoyed a good spell of pressure but failed to take their chances.
Deschamps threw on forward Loic Remy and defender Laurent Koscielny for the last 20 minutes in a final throw of the dice. But Germany’s replacement Andre Schuerrle should have made it 2-0 when he fired at French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’ feet, then had another shot blocked.
Neuer’s late save to deny Benzema means Germany head coach Joachim Loew has now reached the semi-finals of all of the last four major tournaments during his eight-year reign.

In related story, Miroslav Klose may not have secured himself the all-time World Cup record scorer mantle but his selfless running made Germany coach Joachim Loew’s decision to hand him a start worthwhile as the Germans reached a record fourth successive World Cup semi-final.
The 36-year-old, appearing in his 22nd World Cup match, did not threaten to score but his presence gave Germany a focal point in attack, and provided France’s centre-backs with something else to think about besides the dangerous runs into the area from Thomas Mueller.
If anyone is ready to take on Klose’s mantle it is the 24-year-old Bayern Munich star, who arguably represents the future of this German team and already has nine World Cup goals.
His threat on the counter-attack, allied to the fresh legs of Andre Schuerrle and Mario Goetze, meant Germany remained the more likely side to score in the closing minutes as they inflicted more World Cup pain on the French, whom they beat in the 1982 and 1986 semi-finals.

Klose, who scored a crucial goal just after coming on as a substitute in the 2-2 draw with Ghana in the group game, never got a sniff of goal but appeared to have genuine claims for a penalty in the first-half when he was pulled back by Mathieu Debuchy.
However, the referee waved his appeals away and it summed up a frustrating 135th appearance for the Poland-born striker.
He completed just eight passes and failed to muster a single shot on goal to remain level with retired Brazil great Ronaldo on 15 goals in the World Cup.
Indeed his contribution in the greater scheme of things paled in comparison to another player who was restored to the starting line-up Mats Hummels, who had missed the 2-1 win over Algeria because of flu.
His header and his outstanding defensive display took the eye but Klose should still get another chance to reach the landmark.

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