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France v Germany: Les Bleus dare to dream

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France v Germany: Les Bleus dare to dream
French striker Karim Benzema and Germany's Thomas Müller. Who will come out on top? Photo: AFP
10:31 CEST+02:00
France's young upstarts take on a seasoned and wily German side in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Rio di Janeiro on Friday, quietly confident they can pull off an upset. Their fans back home hope their team can exorcise some ghosts of World Cups past.

The build up to Friday night's eagerly-awaited clash between France and Germany in the fabled Maracana stadium has all been about the past.

Images of France’s two previous World Cup meetings with the then West Germany in 1982 and 1986 have been all over French websites and TV screens in the days preceeding Friday’s quarter-final clash in Rio.

Both of those encounters ended in bitter defeat for Les Bleus, particularly the 1982 semi-final, which the French lost on penalties, after leading the Germans 3-1 in extra-time. That game was written into football folklore thanks to German goalie Harald Schumacher wiping out French player Patrick Battistion. The outrage that caused, has also not been forgotten in France, at least among the media and older fans.

Although French coach Didier Deschamps has played down any talk of revenge, the French fans back home clearly want to get even.

And there is optimism they can do it, even against a German team that has reached the semi-finals in the last three World Cups and seem to be able to navigate their way through to the latter stages almost blind-folded.

Despite his foes’ tournament know-how, Deschamps said his young side will play without fear.

"There is no apprehension or fear. There is no reason for us to feel any. Germany are a solid side with lots of experience of this level but this game will be a pleasure for us and we are preparing ourselves as well as possible for it," Deschamps told a press conference in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

 Deschamps admits that after facing Honduras, Switzerland, Ecuador and Nigerian, Germany are clearly the strongest side they have faced yet at these finals.

"We have no pressure on us, just excitement at being able to play a World Cup quarter-final. We will have a new page of our history to write and we will try to make sure it is a beautiful one."

The fans back home and the French media, just like Deschamps’ team are confident they can pull off an upset in Rio.

France are unbeaten in the tournament so far and have netted ten goals, including five against Switzerland in the group match. With striker Karim Benzema in top form, midfielder Paul Pogba coming in to form and Mathieu Valbuena pulling the strings, France are dreaming of their first WorldCup title since their 1998 triumph on home soil.

While they eased their way past Nigeria in the last 16 with a 2-0 win, the Germans needed extra-time to see off a fearless Algerian side in their own knock-out clash, which they won 2-1.

France will have taken lessons from the way Algeria attacked Germany in numbers and will take hope from the numerous chances created by the Desert Foxes against a creaking German backline.

"We have to keep doing what we have done well until now but the demands nowwill be greater and we need to be capable of dealing with that too,” Deschamps said.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris urged Les Bleus to seize their chance, mindful perhaps of France's last appearance at this stage of a major tournament.

At the 2012 European Championships, with Laurent Blanc in charge, Francewere outclassed by Spain in the quarter-finals, and they have not reached the last four of any competition since the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

"Everyone is excited. We will play our game and do everything to come outof the match with as few regrets as possible," said Lloris.

"There may be moments where they put us under pressure but we are capable of posing them problems too."

For his part German coach Joachim Loew had a warning for France that his team’s best football was yet to come.

"We have not yet delivered our best possible performances, that is to comestill," Loew told a press conference here Thursday.

"This isn't some easy-to-figure out computer game and your own team isn't always easy to programme, but you have to find the right combinations.

"You either win and stay or lose and go home."

The contrast in how the two team’s World Cup performances have been greeted back home is marked.

While France has received plaudits for their performances and for restoring pride in a team that was blasted after players went on strike atthe World Cup in South Africa four years ago, the Germans have come in for criticism for the way they have played.

Former captains Michael Ballack, Oliver Kahn and Lothar Matthaeus have all questioned Loew's selections with playmaker Mesut Ozil struggling and centre-backs Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Hoewedes being played out of position as wing-backs.

Loew has a contract with the German FA (DFB) until June 2016, but aquarter-final exit will put him under pressure to resign despite steering his side to the semi-finals of the last three major tournaments.

Perhaps the German’s best chances of success might be in taking the game to a penalty shoot-out. They have never lost a shoot-out in World Cup history. France are confident it won't get that far.

Team News:

Germany should have centre-back Mats Hummels back after missing the Algeriawin with flu, while Lukas Podolski is fit again after a thigh strain.

There is a question mark over France defender Raphael Varane, who spent thenight in hospital with dehydration after Monday's 2-0 win over Nigeria in the last 16.

Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho is fit again after knee problems, while itremains to be seen who Deschamps names as striker between Olivier Giroud or Antoine Griezmann.

Likely French team: Lloris (cap) - Debuchy, Varane, Sakho, Evra - Pogba, Cabaye, Matuidi - Valbuena, Griezmann, Benzema

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