‘We can’t stop now’: Les Bleus focus on Germany

After beating Nigeria 2-0 to book their place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup France’s players and supporters are confident they can go even further in the competition. That would mean knocking out the Germans on Friday.

'We can't stop now': Les Bleus focus on Germany
Mathieu Valbuena celebrates with teammate Blaise Matuidi after France beat Nigeria. Valbuena says he wants to win the World Cup. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

By beating Nigeria on Monday France coach Didier Deschamps admitted that his team had met its objectives that were set before the tournament began.

But now with a quarter-final clash to come against neighbours Germany, Deschamps and his players are having to set new targets.

"We had objectives, which went up after each match – reach the last 16, finish top (of the group). Today it was to reach the quarter-finals.

"From what we've been through, to be here among the last eight shows something. But we won't get carried away.

"I'm very proud of the players. But the adversity will increase. It's another step and we'll do everything to climb that,” Deschamps said.

After the hard-fought win over Nigeria, which came thorough two late goals, Deschamps’ players are eager to experience that winning feeling again.

“We are satisfied to have qualified but we want more. We don’t want to stop there,” said the right-back Mathieu Debuchy.

His teammate Mathieu Valbuena echoed those thoughts. “The World Cup is not yet a success [for France]. We always want more. I’m not going to hide that.

“We want to go to the end and win the WorldCup. But there’s no delusion. The closer we get,the more complicated it will be.”

Valbuena is correct on that point. The reality is, France have yet to be really tested in this World Cup. Their strolled through their opening two group games against Honduras and Switzerland, before their goalless draw with Ecuador with qualification having already been almost guaranteed.

Although the quarter-final with Nigeria proved more difficult than many had predicted, the Super Eagles did not represent the kind of stern test that the Germans will provide.

But Les Bleus will take hope and perhaps inspiration from seeing how Algeria rattled the Germans in their own quarter-final on Monday night.

Algeria took Germany to extra time before goals from Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil killed off the resistance from the Desert Foxes.

Germany coach Joachim Loew admits that his team will have to improve when they play France in the Maracana stadium on Friday.

"We must be better for the match against the French," admitted the 54-year-old Germany head coach.

The Maracana clash will be a mouth-watering showdown between two of European football's powerhouses.

It stirs memories of the 1982 World Cup semi-final which finished in adramatic 3-3 draw before West Germany went through after their 5-4 win in the penalty shoot-out.

"I wouldn't want to talk about France-Germany in 1982, but those have always been dramatic classics between the team," said Loew.

"Didier Deschamps has turned them around since 2010, they have good playerslike (Karim) Benzema and (Olivier) Giroud who can decide games on their own.

"We're looking forward to another classic."

That 1982 clash is etched into footballing folklore thanks to the collision between German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher and French substitute Patrick Battiston, who had to be stretchered from the field.

The collision left him with two teeth knocked out, three cracked ribs, and damaged vertebrae. Battiston didn’t regain consciousness for 30 minutes and eventually slipped into a coma.

The incident still appears in lists of the World Cup's most shocking moments.

See the video for yourself.

The omens may be with Les Bleus. France have never been knocked out of a quarter-final of the World Cup. 

Didier Deschamps at least has history on his side.

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Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border

Germany on Sunday, February 28th, classed France's Covid-battered Moselle region as a high risk area for virus variants, triggering tougher entry requirements at the border between the two neighbours.

Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border
Image: Peter H/ Pixabay

France’s eastern Moselle region is now listed as an area “at particularly high risk of infection due to widespread occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 virus variants”, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control announced.

From Tuesday, March 2nd, cross-border travellers from Moselle will need to be able to show a recent negative coronavirus test.

Germany has already introduced tough checks at its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region, ignoring calls from Brussels to keep borders within the bloc open.

At those crossings, only Germans and non-German residents are allowed to enter, as well as cross-border commuters working in certain categories of jobs.

Every vehicle is stopped and occupants must produce a negative test that is less than 48 hours old.

The checks on the German side of the Moselle crossing are expected to be less strict, a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP.

Instead of systematic checks, police would randomly stop vehicles on the German side and ask drivers to show “a negative test and their online entry registration”, he said.

Germany has grown increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the rapid spread of new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, especially those first detected in Britain and South Africa.

The coronavirus, including the more dangerous South African variant, is spreading faster in Moselle than elsewhere in France but French officials have pleaded with Berlin to avoid a full closure of the border.

The German classification “normally implies the extremely strict measure of a quasi-closure of borders”, France’s European Affairs minister Clement Beaune said Sunday.

“We don’t want that,” he said, adding that talks were ongoing with Berlin to find solutions for the roughly 16,000 commuters who cross from Moselle into Germany’s Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine states every day.

The German interior ministry spokesman said the two countries would discuss details of the border implications on Monday.

Asked why the French checks would not be as stringent as those along the Czech and Austrian frontiers, the spokesman said Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine had not requested border closures.

“And there is a good cooperation between the affected German and French regions,” he added.