Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 3, 2014

A 1982 clash revived as France-Germany meet in Cup

RIO DE JANEIRO — 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 incidents 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 — especially since 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 on Friday. It will be their fourth meeting on the world’s biggest stage, with Germany also winning the most recent 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 on Wednesday to detail the step-by-step process of Schumacher’s aerial assault on Battiston.

Clearly, the French nation still remembers but many of country’s current generation 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 its ninth straight World Cup quarterfinals 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.

With Germany’s defense at best stretched and at worst shambolic this tournament, that’s a department the French will look to exploit at Rio’s Maracana stadium in the first of the quarterfinals.

Ponderous and porous, the German back line also features center backs playing at full backs, allowing Algeria’s speedy forwards to cause havoc in the Round of 16 match that Germany won 2-1 after extra time.

“There were some matches that were a bit more complicated,” Deschamps said through a translator about 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 center 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.”

 

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