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Germany, Brazil first to advance into semifinals

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Posted: July 4, 2014 10:28 p.m.
Updated: July 4, 2014 10:27 p.m.
Germany, Brazil first to advance into semifinals

Germany's Mats Hummels, center, scores the opening goal during the World Cup quarterfinal match between Germany and France at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday. Germany advanced with a 1-0 victory.




    RIO DE JANEIRO — It just wouldn't be the World Cup without Germany in the semifinals.
    Harnessing all 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 marker 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 in muggy conditions.
    "There was not much in it," France coach Didier Deschamps said. But, "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 the winner of Friday's later quarterfinal match between Brazil and Colombia. 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.
    "We defended well today . 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. Then, in stoppage time, he created space for himself about eight years 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 tactically astute changes made by coach Joachim Loew. "Overall it was a good performance from us."
    In Loew's eight-year tenure, Germany has reached the last four in 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, revamped France team playing together at the World Cup for the first time.
    A turgid first half was illuminated by the goal from Hummels, who held off Raphael Varane and met a typically dead-eye delivery from Toni Kroos with a header that gave goalkeeper Hugo Lloris no chance.
    The warm and humid conditions played a part in the slow tempo of the game but France stepped up the pressure in the second half.
    Benzema's late chance got French fans excited but Germany should have been 2-0 ahead by then, with Lloris saving a low shot by substitute Andre Schuerrle on a counter-attack.
    "We just weren't efficient enough," said Valbuena, who sat, dejected, on the field after the final whistle. "Our efforts just weren't enough, it's incredibly disappointing."

Brazil 2, Colombia 1
    Not long after celebrating another all-important win at the World Cup, Brazil was jolted by the loss of Neymar.
    The tournament's poster boy with the dyed-blonde fauxhawk fractured a vertebra in his back during Brazil's 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Colombia on Friday. The injury has ruled the striker out of the rest of the competition, dealing a massive blow to the team's chances of finally winning a World Cup at home.
    Brazil advanced to the semifinals for the first time in 12 years, with the goals coming from defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz. But the jubilation was quickly tempered when Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said Neymar broke his third vertebrae and is expected to be out for several weeks, ruling him out of Tuesday's semifinal match against Germany in Belo Horizonte.
    "It's a situation that leaves us in a difficult position for the match against Germany," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "But we have great players and if I have to change something I will do it and we will be OK."
    The 22-year-old Neymar has been the focal point of both the Brazilian team and the entire World Cup, and he lived up to expectations with four goals in the first three matches.
    But he took a knee to the back late in the match against Colombia at the Arena Castelao in a collision with Juan Camilo Zuniga. The Brazilian star was crying in pain as he was carried off the field, and was taken to a private clinic. He has since been released.
    "He will not be in condition to play, he will need a few weeks to be fit again," said Lasmar, the team doctor. "He is very, very sad."
    The foul on Neymar came toward the end of one of the dirtiest games of the tournament as Brazil committed 31 fouls and Colombia had 23.
    Brazil will also be without Silva for Tuesday's match against Germany. The captain must sit out after getting his second yellow card of the tournament.
    Brazil, which is trying to become the first host to win the World Cup since France in 1998, had been eliminated in the quarterfinals at the last two tournaments. The "Selecao" lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals in 2010 and to France in 2006 after winning its fifth title in 2002.
    Back in 1950, Brazil needed only a draw in the final match to win the World Cup, but the team lost to Uruguay in a match known as the "Maracanazo."
    This time around, Brazil won its group and then beat Chile on penalties in the second round.
    On Friday against Colombia, Silva gave Brazil the lead in the seventh minute, scoring with his left knee after a corner from Neymar passed through the Colombian defense. He celebrated the goal by pointing to the emblem on his jersey and shouting, "This is Brazil, this is Brazil."

Luiz added the second from a free kick in the 69th, side-footing a long-range shot into the top of the net.

Colombia got one back in the 80th. James Rodriguez scored his tournament-leading sixth goal from the penalty spot after Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar brought down substitute Carlos Bacca inside the area.

Rodriguez tried to control the pace of the match, but it was Brazil that created most of the scoring chances as Ospina had to make a series of saves in the first half alone.

The Colombians tried to pressure after Rodriguez's late penalty, but Brazil held on with solid defending.

Colombia, playing at the World Cup for the first time since 1998 and in the quarterfinals for the first time ever, had entered the match after scoring 11 goals, second only to the Netherlands.

"After not playing in the World Cup for so long, we were able to show the value of the Colombian football and the talent of some of our players," said Colombia coach Jose Pekerman, an Argentine. "They showed great spirit and presence of mind. They came to play a great World Cup, not just to participate."

There was a lot of talk about Rodriguez and Neymar before the match, but the 22-year-old forwards didn't really deliver in Fortaleza. Rodriguez scored the late penalty but was otherwise mostly ineffective, as was Neymar before he left on a stretcher.

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