Fifa World Cup quarterfinals: 'Best still to come'

16:00, Jul 04 2014
Neymar
Brazil's Neymar unsuccessfully appeals to referee Howard Webb for a foul.
Dani Alves
Brazil's Dani Alves makes a slide-tackle on Chile's Eugenio Mena.
Hulk
Hulk appeals to the assistant referee after having a goal for Brazil ruled out for a handball.
Alexis Sanchez
Chile's Alexis Sanchez waits for team-mates as he celebrates his first-half goal against Brazil.
David Luiz
David Luiz looks skyward in celebration of Brazil's first goal, which was later ruled an own-goal.
Arturo Vidal
Chile's Arturo Vidal steals a pass from in front of Brazil's Neymar.
Julio Cesar
Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar makes one of his two saves in the penalty shootout.
Chile team
A nervous bunch of Chilean players line up ahead of the penalty shootout.
Julio Cesar
Brazilian players swarm to goalkeeper Julio Cesar after defeating Chile 3-2 in a penalty shootout.
Neymar
Neymar puts a penalty shot past Claudio Bravo and into the net, the winning goal in the penalty shootout.
Dirk Kuyt
Holland's Dirk Kuyt battles for the ball with Mexico's Hector Herrera during their second round match in Fortaleza.
 Arjen Robben
Dutch winger Arjen Robben rides the tackle of Mexico captain Rafael Marquez during his side's 2-1 win.
 Arjen Robben
Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder fires his side's equaliser past Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Robin van Persie
Netherlands striker Robin van Persie brings the ball under control.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Holland striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates scoring his side's winning goal from the penalty spot in injury time.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Giovani dos Santos wheels away after putting Mexico 1-0 up against the Netherlands.
Alvaro Gonzalez
Uruguay's Alvaro Gonzalez challenges Colombia's Pablo Armero during their second round match at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez scores his second goal past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera to put Colombia 2-0 up.
Cristian Rodriguez
Uruguay midfielder Cristian Rodriguez tackles Colombia's Pablo Armero during their second round match in Rio de Janeiro.
James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez celebrates scoring his and Colombia's second goal with his team-mates.
Alexander Mejia
James Rodriguez scores with a sublime volley to put Colombia 1-0 up against South American rivals Uruguay.
James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez scores with a sublime volley to put Colombia 1-0 up against South American rivals Uruguay.
Bryan Ruiz
Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates scoring the opening goal in their second round match with Greece in Recife.
Joel Campbell
Costa Rica's Joel Campbell and Greece's Konstantinos Manolas compete for the ball.
Oscar Duarte
Costa Rica's Oscar Duarte (second left) is shown a red card after his second bookable offence by referee Benjamin Williams.
Bryan Ruiz
Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz (second right) scores his team's first goal past Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.
Cristian Gamboa
Costa Rica's Cristian Gamboa slides in to halt the progress of Greece's Jose Cholevas.
Giorgos Samaras
Greece striker Giorgos Samaras controls the ball under the close attentions of Costa Rica's Oscar Duarte.
Theofanis Gekas
Greek midfielder Theofanis Gekas sees his penalty kick saved by Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Michael Umana
Costa Rica’s Michael Umana fires the winning penalty past Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis during the penalty shootout.
Yeltsin Tejeda
Costa Rica’s Yeltsin Tejeda celebrates with team-mates after defeating Greece in a penalty shootout.
Raphael Varane
Raphael Varane of France controls the ball against Ahmed Musa of Nigeria during their clash at Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil.
Vincent Enyeama
Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama (right) checks on teammate Ogenyi Onazi as he lies on the pitch after a challenge against France.
Blaise Matuidi
France's Blaise Matuidi (14) and Mathieu Valbuena celebrate after winning their World Cup round of 16 game against Nigeria at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia.
Rio Mavuba
France's Mathieu Valbuena and Rio Mavuba (right) celebrate after winning their World Cup round of 16 game against Nigeria.
John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel of Nigeria challenges Paul Pogba of France during their round of 16 match at Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil.
Raphael Varane
France's Raphael Varane is hit by the ball in the face beside Nigeria's Emmanuel Emenike (left).
Sofiane Feghouli
Algeria's Sofiane Feghouli is consoled by teammate Djamel Mesbah (back) after their loss to Germany at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Thomas Mueller
Thomas Mueller of Germany attempts a shot against Rais M'Bolhi of Algeria during the round of 16 match between Germany and Algeria at Beira-Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Jerome Boateng
Jerome Boateng and Per Mertesacker of Germany celebrate their team's second goal in extra time against Algeria.
Mesut Ozil
Germany's Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring his side's second goal during extra time against Algeria at the World Cup.
Mehdi Lacen
Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger (left) fights for the ball with Algeria's Mehdi Lacen during extra time round of 16 game at the Beira Rio stadium in Porto Alegre.
Yacine Brahimi
Yacine Brahimi of Algeria controls the ball against Mesut Oezil (left) and Sami Khedira of Germany.
Marcos Rojo and Josif Drmic
Argentina's Marcos Rojo jostles with Switzerland's Josif Drmic for possession in Sao Paulo.
Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne raises his arms in celebration as he watches his strike roll into the net.
Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne celebrate a goal in their round of 16 knockout clash against USA.
Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium's Divock Origi throws himself into the goal net, behind USA goalkeeper Tim Howard after narrowly missing a strike.
Angel Di Maria
Argentina's Angel Di Maria sends his love to the crowd while celebrating scoring against Switzerland in the round of 16.
Angel Di Maria
Switzerland's Valon Behrami jumps for the ball next to Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain.

The best is yet to come from Germany. That was the promise, at least, from coach Joachim Loew ahead of Saturday's World Cup quarterfinal against France at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

While Germany looked impressive in a 4-0 win over Portugal in its opening match, the three-time champion struggled in its next games, being held to a 2-2 draw by Ghana, edging the United States 1-0 and needing extra time to beat Algeria 2-1 in the round of 16.

Still, Germany is contesting its ninth straight World Cup quarterfinal.

Mathieu Valbuena
FOR THE FANS: Mathieu Valbuena hopes there'll be plenty of cause for French celebration when his team meets Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals.

''We have not yet delivered our best possible performance,'' Loew said.

''But I don't think anyone has reached their absolute top performance yet.

''It's not a computer game that is easily figured out - you can't easily figure out your opponent and it's not easy to programme your own team. Mistakes are made. And then there are other elements from beyond the pitch.''

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One such element has struck Germany this week with seven players struggling with illness.

''One-third of our squad has been complaining about a sore throat,'' Loew said.

''But yesterday and today all players have been training and none were feeling exhaustion. I just hope that stays stable until tomorrow.''

Germany played its group matches in the warmer, northeastern climates of Salvador, Fortaleza and Recife then faced Algeria in the second round in cool and damp conditions in the southern city of Porto Alegre.

''Perhaps they got contaminated from others, or maybe it was the difference in temperatures, or the air conditioning,'' Loew said.

HAIR-RAISING HISTORY

When Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer embarked on a series of hair-raising dashes out of his area in the second-round win over Algeria, it would have struck a chord with French football fans of a certain vintage.

Thoughts no doubt returned to one of the most shocking collisions in World Cup history, which occurred in the 1982 semifinal between West Germany and France and involved another goalkeeper's excursion off his line.

Harald Schumacher's airborne challenge on Patrick Battiston, which knocked the France defender unconscious and broke his jaw, but went unpunished, still raises anger and emotion in France - particularly as West Germany went on to win that match in a penalty shootout thanks to the saves of Schumacher.

Predictably, the incident has been one of the major talking points ahead of the countries' clash in the World Cup quarterfinals.

It will be their fourth meeting on football's biggest stage, with Germany also winning the most recent head-to-head in 1986 in the semifinals.

''Tomorrow we will write a new page of history,'' Deschamps said when asked about the hurt of 1982 and '86. ''We will try to make it as pleasant as possible.''   

Under the headline of ''A Classic Match,'' top-selling French sports newspaper L'Equipe used its front page Wednesday to detail the step-by-step process of Schumacher's aerial collision with Battiston.

Clearly, the episode hasn't been forgotten in France, but many of country's players weren't even born when that game took place. And they aren't using it as motivation.

''As far as we are concerned, we live in the present,'' France's 26-year-old goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said.

''There is a long history between both nations, but we will concentrate on our own match and we want to write our own history.''  

Germany is playing in the quarterfinals for a ninth straight World Cup and also reached at least the semifinals of the last two European Championships. But there is a growing feeling that a young and dynamic France team can bring down its more experienced opponent.

MATCH TACTICS

Germany centre back Mats Hummels missed the Algeria game due to illness, but Loew indicated he'll be back against France.

Likewise, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is expected to return from severe cramps after being substituted against Algeria.

The only Germany player ruled out is defender Shkodran Mustafi, who will miss the rest of the tournament with a left hamstring injury.

Against Algeria, Germany struggled when it lost possession and Algeria put together swift counterattacks.

''I think this kind of match is decided in midfield. If we can dominate there it will say a lot in terms of achieving a positive result,'' midfielder Toni Kroos said.

''Our style of play is to keep the ball on the ground and we have many players that are very good at that. We need to have more precise passes and have better concentration. That's our match philosophy.''

France hope to exploit an often stretched - and at this tournament sometimes shambolic - German defence.

Ponderous and porous, the German back line also features centre backs playing as full backs, which allowed Algeria's speedy forwards to cause havoc in the round of 16 match that Germany won 2-1 in extra time.

That's why Neuer was called on so many times to race out of his area and play the ''sweeper'' role, rescuing his defenders.

''There were some matches that were a bit more complicated,'' Deschamps said of Germany, also referring to the group-stage 2-2 draw with Ghana.

''But this is a very solid team, very calm, with strong individual players. They like ball possession. To impose a certain rhythm, a certain style of play.   

''I have a lot of respect for Germany,'' Deschamps added.

''The team is at a higher level, at least on paper.''   

Deschamps will likely be wrestling with two selection dilemmas ahead of the match, chiefly who to partner with Karim Benzema in attack out of Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann.

Giroud has height and presence, but Griezmann offers guile and craft and they might be the qualities that will give the Germany defense more problems.

Griezmann's game-changing substitute appearance in France's 2-0 win over Nigeria in the second round could well influence Deschamps' thinking.

There is also the question of who plays alongside Raphael Varane at centre back out of Laurent Koscielny and Mamadou Sakho, the vice-captain who is fit again after a left hamstring injury.

If the French progress past the quarterfinals, they will have done better than most pundits would have predicted, especially with Deschamps having revamped the team in his two years in charge.

Though expectations have been raised back in France, there will be more pressure on Germany.

''We are not afraid of anything,'' Lloris said.

''We are fully aware of the fact that in one match, just about anything is possible. There is no fear - (just) real pleasure, sheer joy, to be playing Germany in the quarterfinals.''   

And expect Neuer to continue making appearances outside the penalty area as well as inside, just like Schumacher did 32 years ago.

''Neuer has the same technical skills as the others - he can play in midfield,'' Germany coach Joachim Loew said.

''He has great orientation, that's why we are happy for him to take some risks.''  

While France is aiming to exceed expectations, Germany had loftier goals from the start.

''They want us to get the title,'' Kroos said.

''Anything else will be (considered) a defeat.''

AP