World Cup Soccer
                 === France, Germany tussle at the Maracana ===
 Rio  de  Janeiro, Brazil (  - 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
 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.
 07/03 17:16:19 ET

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