France v Germany, quarter-final, 4.30pm BBC1 (kick-off 5pm)
In a World Cup full of big names struggling against upstarts, now two of those limping giants face off. If both teams play as well as they can… it’s hard to know what would happen, since we’ve not seen that yet from either.
In fairness, for France the issue is that they still have not really been tested. After an easy group phase – the Switzerland we saw against Argentina were yet to arrive in Brazil when France thrashed them 5-2 – they laboured against Nigeria in their first knockout game, but never really looked like losing. Much of the strain was caused by attempting to field Olivier Giroud up front, pushing star striker Karim Benzema to the left. This never threatened to produce a goal, and it’ll be a major surprise if Giroud starts again here.
Germany’s famous weakness is at full-back. They don’t really have any full-backs. Well they do, Philipp Lahm is one of the best of all time on either flank, but he’s been converted to a holding midfielder now, so there we are. Jerome Boateng will probably be all right against Griezmann and Evra – the zone in which Germany could lose the game is left-back, where Benedikt Höwedes has to contain Valbuena and Debuchy.
France are cohesive, on the up, young, hungry and possibly have more gas in the tank. They didn’t play extra time against Nigeria, whereas Germany battled for every one of the 120 minutes against Algeria. The flu bug romping through the German camp won’t help Jogi Löw’s men either. Yet particularly in midfield, the Germans are stronger and wiser man to man. Are they gradually being found out, or judiciously doing just enough to keep reaching the next stage? Today we’ll see.
Exuberance and potential versus years of match-winning nous. It could go either way and will be fascinating.