RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Joachim Loew’s decision to return captain Philipp Lahm to right back in a reshuffled lineup paid off immediately Friday, galvanizing the defence and earning Germany a place in the semifinals of the World Cup.
Germany’s 1-0 win over France in the quarterfinal at Maracana Stadium was not particularly entertaining but at least coach Loew’s team didn’t repeat the slapstick mistakes of its 2-1 victory over Algeria at the start of the knockout round.
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Loew took Lahm out of the midfield and returned him to his favourite position as right back. The coach dropped centre back Per Mertesacker and replaced him with Mats Hummels, healthy again after flu. And Germany’s back four looked solid again, with Hummels not only scoring the winning goal but making some key defensive interventions.
Germany’s midfield, meanwhile, had the upper hand for most of the match, as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira helped the defence out and intercepted many France attacks.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who saved Germany from an embarrassing second-round exit against Algeria, again proved to be a big last obstacle for the attacking team – his one-handed save from Karim Benzema in stoppage time was France’s last chance to force extra time.
“We played like a team again. Overall it was a good performance from us,” Lahm said. “It wasn’t easy today, it was brutally hot. We wanted to put some pressure on the right with me and Thomas,” Mueller.
Hummels, who headed in a free kick from Toni Kroos in the 13th minute, prevented a French equalizer in the 34th when he foiled Benzema’s attempt to pounce on a rebound and fire into the net from close range.
Hummels also made several clearances late in the match, despite fatigue.
“I hope that our journey is not going to finish. I was really flat quite early. But this is the next dream to come true,” Hummels said.
Loew changed his formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-3-2-1 system with Miroslav Klose as the one true striker. Klose, however, had an indifferent game without a shot at goal and was replaced in the second half.
Klose needs one goal to become the top scorer in World Cup history. He shares the record with Brazil’s retired star Ronaldo with 15 goals.