The World Cup really starts with the first match of the quarter-finals between two strong European teams and candidates for the trophy, France and Germany. The match is played on Maracana in Rio de Janeiro and is the last match in this venue before the grand final. Kick off is at 17.00 UK time, and Nestor Pitana from Argentina is the referee.
Germans are having quite a few problems in their squad as seven unnamed players have flu symptoms and sore throats, caused by the rapid change of climate in different venues and the air conditioning in the hotels. Joachim Low didn't want to say which players are in question, but it's clear Mats Hummels is one of them as he already missed the Algeria match with flu and his condition worsened since. Christoph Kramer might be another player with flu. In any case, Joachim Low might have a hard time choosing a lineup for this match.
Germany weren't spectacular so far and maybe that's even a good sign, as in recent tournaments they'd be playing beautiful offensive football and would exit the tournament upon meeting the first strong opponent. What they're playing now is more conventional and looks more like those famous German generations that were winning titles. Germany don't dribble at all, yet they are looking good on the offensive end with their rapid moves and direct passes. This is one solid team that controls the match well, and even if they need a lot of time to actually score, it's evident this team has winning character.
France have looked even better than Germany so far, particularly in midfield where their strong duel play is giving them the edge. Paul Pogba is the central figure and has performed in every match so far, and one of the other players always joins in. Against Nigeria it was Mathieu Valbuena, and in the three matches before that it was Karim Benzema. There is just enough quality in the French team to make things happen and to even beat Germany.
The match is almost impossible to predict as these teams are very close in terms of quality and the details will make the difference in this match. Both teams are one of those big teams that like to control the match completely before making an offensive move, and it remains to be seen who will dominate the midfield in this match. France might just have a small edge despite Germany consisting almost exclusively of midfielders, which includes offense where Thomas Muller is playing amazingly well as a false number 9.
The winner of this match will play in the semifinals against either Brazil or Argentina. The Germans are expecting to make it at least to the semifinals while France don't have such a pressure on themselves and they're happy to make it this far. This could prove to be very important in this clash, the French are in a position of the underdog and have got nothing to lose.