You are not an easy genius to tabulate
Counting the stars in a wondrously starry night
might be less cumbersome and I should wait
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 today. 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.
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 defence 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 centre 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.
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 defence 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. (AP)
AT A GLANCE
France vs Germany, noon
Brazil vs Colombia, 4 pm
Ticket scalpers hoped to get $16,000 for final
A police investigator says a ticket scalping ring believed to be reselling World Cup tickets was hoping to get 35,000 Brazilian reals ($16,000) per ticket if Brazil reached the July 13 final. Inspector Fabio Barucke, who heads the investigation, says yesterday that 11 people were arrested, including the believed ringleader Mohamadou Lamine Fofana of Algeria. More arrests are possible.
Reselling tickets above face value is illegal in Brazil. Barucke says many tickets are believed to have come from Fifa sponsors, or from hospitality packages.
He said the source of some of the tickets in this case was a Fifa official staying at the Copacabana Hotel in Rio.
Shakira, Wyclef for World Cup closing ceremony
RIO DE JANEIRO—Colombian pop star Shakira and hip hop artist Wyclef Jean will perform at the World Cup’s closing ceremony in Brazil. Shakira will be at the World Cup for the third time and sing her La la la (Brazil 2014) with Brazil’s Carlinhos Brown ahead of the July 13 final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium. Wyclef, guitarist Santana and Alexandre Pires will combine on Dar Um Jeito, the main theme song for the World Cup.
Announcing the line-up, Fifa also said Brazilian singer-songwriter Ivete Sangalo “will bring a distinctive local flavour to the show” with a medley of well-known Brazilian numbers and will be joined by Pires.
Splits in Fifa anti-racism strategy at World Cup
RIO DE JANEIRO—Splits in Fifa’s plan to fight discrimination at the World Cup have been exposed after reported incidents involving fans went unpunished. The public divide was revealed yesterday at a briefing involving the chairmen of FIifa’s task force against racism, Jeffrey Webb, and its disciplinary panel, Claudio Sulser. Webb is unhappy that evidence provided to Sulser’s panel—of fans chanting gay slurs, wearing black face make-up and carrying banners with far-right symbols—did not result in any sanctions.
Rent-a-crowd? Belgium counting on Brazil fans
MOGI DAS CRUZES—This is as close to ‘rent-a-crowd’ that the World Cup will come. And it won’t cost Belgium anything.
Expected to be outnumbered by tens of thousands of Argentina fans at Saturday’s quarterfinal at the 70,000-capacity Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots gently stoked a regional rivalry to suit his ends.
Wilmots said “the Brazilians expect only one thing and that is that we beat the Argentinians,” referring to a long and sometimes bitter rivalry between the neighbouring football giants.
Fifa: Suarez ban was justice, not exemplary
RIO DE JANEIRO—Fifa’s disciplinary committee chairman says Luis Suarez received a just punishment and was not made an example of. Claudio Sulser told reporters the Uruguay and Liverpool forward’s World Cup biting case was “very severe.”
Suarez was banned for nine Uruguay matches, four months from all football and fined 100,000 Swiss francs ($112,000) by Sulser’s seven-man panel. Sulser says through a translator: “one thing I mentioned in my capacity as the chairman is we don’t need to impose an exemplary sanction, we need to have justice.”