Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Two European heavyweights will square off at the Maracana on Friday as France meets Germany in a World Cup quarterfinal clash.
Germany entered the tournament with stronger odds to win the competition, but it has not been a convincing journey to the final eight.
It started brightly with a 4-0 demolition of Portugal in the Group G opener while a draw with Ghana and a narrow defeat of the United States was enough to put the Germans through as group winners.
The business end of the tournament was where Germany was pegged to shine, but an energetic and committed Algeria side forced extra time in their round-of-16 clash on Monday. The Germans ultimately advanced behind a 2-1 win, but the difficult work made of the win certainly calls their mettle into question.
Things will not get much easier for the three-time champions as they will face a stout French side that has cruised to the quarters in relatively comfortably fashion.
Didier Deschamps has managed to fix the in-fighting problems that plagued France during the 2010 World Cup as each of the nation's performances in the tournament thus far have exhibited cohesion, endeavor and solidarity.
"Didier Deschamps has turned France around since 2010 and we're looking forward to another classic," said Germany coach Joachim Low.
France has the appearance of a well-oiled machine, but perhaps what's most worrisome for its opponents is the lack of fear within the team.
"There is no apprehension or fear," Deschamps said in a press conference in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday. "There is no reason for us to feel any. Germany are a solid, experienced side but this game will be a pleasure for us."
Germany's greatest weakness is a defensive unit that can be beaten with pace, something that France can utilize with the likes of Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann and Mathieu Valbuena.
After beginning its three group stage matches with four center-backs in defense, Low opted to insert natural right-back Shkodran Mustafi for a bit more balance. Low moved converted midfielder Philipp Lahm back into that position when Mustafi left the game through injury and Germany benefited greatly from having the Bayern Munich man along the back line, but don't expect to see him retain that position against France.
"I have made up my mind already on Philipp Lahm's role," Low told Germany's Die Zeit newspaper. "And I am sticking by it to the very end. Philipp Lahm has been a leading figure for us in recent years and he's been playing at the highest level for a decade, but he will only move back into defense if we have a problem on the right, at which point I might say 'okay, now it's up to Philipp who can push forwards down the right.'
"But that would only be an emergency scenario, and we need to prevent there being an emergency."
The winner of Friday's clash at the Maracana will face either Brazil or Colombia in the semifinals, slated for Tuesday at the Estadio Mineirao.