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Germany faces rejuvenated France

Saturday, July 05, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO - Under-fire Germany face rejuvenated France in today's World Cup quarter-final at Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracana stadium in a mouth-watering clash of two European powerhouses.

This represents an acid test for Germany coach Joachim Loew with his side heavily criticised for below-par performances at Brazil 2014.

A place in Wednesday's semi-final against either Brazil or Colombia in Belo Horizonte is at stake.

"Didier Deschamps has turned France around since 2010 and we're looking forward to another classic," said Loew, who took charge after the 2006 World Cup.

Their 4-0 hammering of Portugal in their opening group match confirmed their status amongst the world's elite, but a series of unimpressive performances have seen Loew's Germans receive heavy criticism.

Having been held to a 2-2 draw by Ghana, then grinding out a 1-0 win over the USA in their final group match, poor finishing saw Germany labour to a 2-1 extra-time win over Algeria in Monday's last 16 clash.

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.

"That was the worst performance for years," Ballack reflected after the Algeria match, while Kahn was equally unimpressed: "This line-up isn't working any more".

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

In contrast, France have risen steadily under their coach Deschamps and are unrecognisable from their chaotic 2010 campaign in South Africa.

With Karim Benzema in top form, France are dreaming of their first World Cup title since their 1998 triumph on home soil, but their focus is solely on Germany.

"Everyone can dream, including me, but I'm a pragmatist and a realist, Friday is the only thing that counts," said Deschamps.

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