RIO DE JANEIRO — It just wouldn’t be the World Cup without Germany in the semifinals.
Harnessing all of their big-game experience, the Germans delivered a performance of maturity and efficiency to hold off France 1-0 on Friday and become the first team to reach four straight semifinals in the sport’s marquee tournament.
Defender Mats Hummels capped a fine individual display at both ends of the pitch by scoring the winning goal in the 13th minute, outmuscling his defender at a free kick to glance a header in off the underside of the crossbar.
Criticized for poor defending in earlier matches, Germany selected a more robust lineup and restricted a flat-looking France team to only a handful of clear-cut opportunities.
“There was not much in it,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “We don’t have the international experience Germany has.”
While France’s young players slumped to the ground and some shed tears after the final whistle, the Germans soberly saluted all corners of the Maracana Stadium.
One job done, nothing more.
Next up for Germany is a meeting with host Brazil, which topped upstart Colombia 2-1 in Friday’s other quarterfinal. It will be Germany’s 13th appearance in the semifinals in 20 editions of the World Cup.
“I guess we’re playing the kind of football which will give us a chance to win,” said Hummels, who produced a couple of decisive blocks to snuff out two good chances for France striker Karim Benzema. “I think we deserve to carry on.”
France struggled to impose the kind of attacking game that made the team one of the most exciting in Brazil during the group stage, although Benzema missed some chances from good positions.
In the first half, the Real Madrid striker seized on a rebound following Manuel Neuer’s save from Mathieu Valbuena’s shot, but his close-range effort was deflected wide by Hummels. In stoppage time, he created space for himself about 8 yards out at an angle, but a fierce shot was swatted away by Neuer.
“We played like a team again,” said Germany captain Philipp Lahm, who returned to right back in one of a string of changes made by coach Joachim Loew. “Overall, it was a good performance from us.”
In Loew’s eight-year tenure, Germany has reached the final four of every major tournament it has played but remains without a title since winning the European Championships in 1996.
While the German team seemed comfortable at this level, the occasion was perhaps too much for a young France team playing together at the World Cup for the first time. And it continued Germany’s recent dominance over France at World Cups.
The most notorious of those meetings was the 1982 semifinals in Spain, when Germany won on penalties following a 3-3 draw in a match marked by a late tackle by Germany keeper Harald Schumacher on France defender Patrick Battiston that escaped punishment.