Friday 4th July, Maracana
Match odds: France @19/10, Draw @21/10, Germany @17/10
In what should be a close encounter, France will go in as many people’s pick as the in-form side, although no setting the world alight in their last round match against Nigeria, they were arguably better than Germany were against Algeria. The one thing that France should look to is pace in the attacking third. Germany looked open to counter attacks against Algeria and their lack of pace at the back in combination with their high line was often exposed. It is still unclear as to who will start, but it could be Griezmann and Valbuena occupying the flanks with Benzema through the middle, especially considering Benzema looked unhappy on the left previously. This offers a big incentive for France to soak up some pressure, with Loew expected to instruct his players to hold possession and dominate the midfield, then break from their half when they win the ball back. It will all be about France’s ability to get the transitional play from defence/deep midfield to attack quickly enough to get Mertesacker and his fellow back line on the turn around the halfway line.
Germany’s stamina and continuity into extra time against Algeria was impressive, and I would favour them to win if it went to extra-time. France may well be exhausted and unable to adapt to a different attacking game, allowing their opposition to keep the ball and pile on the attacks in the final stages. Germany are @10/1 to win in extra-time. The key to this game will be the change in approach after the first goal goes in (if a first goal goes in). If France score first, it could really open up as they can look at more space to exploit in behind Germany’s high back line. If Germany score first, in the first-half, they might decide to slow the tempo and try to dominate the midfield without forcing the ball forward at all. I really can’t see a huge amount between these two teams and betting on Win/Lose/Draw market seems like a bit of a gamble. I would favour something like France/Draw in ht/ft @16/1 with a lower stake.
I see one tempting bet which is Neuer to be sent off @ 28/1, which sounds ridiculous, but he is forever rushing out of his goal, often slide tackling and heading where possible, and if France look to counter with their pace, all it would take is for Griezmann or whoever to get through and skip past. However, more realistically, Benzema to score first @11/2 would certainly interest me, as he would likely be the one in the box (waiting for a square pass from a counter attack/going in for headers etc).