‘The next dream has come true’: Mats Hummels and Germany march into semi-finals

Germany made it to their fourth straight World Cup semi-finals on Friday, edging out France 1-0 at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana.

Mats Hummels celebrates after scoring against France on Friday in Germany's 1-0 victory at the 2014 World Cup. Darren Staples / Reuters / July 4, 2014
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Mats Hummels headed Germany to a 1-0 victory over old rivals France on Friday to take his country to the World Cup semi-finals for a record fourth straight time.

The centre-back’s powerful 13th-minute header decided the nervy encounter between two sides who have traditionally produced sensational matches.

“The next dream has come true,” beamed Hummels, who said he hopes Germany return to Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana for the final on July 13.

“It’s unbelievable that it’s all going so well for us here at the World Cup.

“I hope that our journey won’t end soon and that we can make it back to compete here week next Sunday.”

Hummels also blocked a late strike by Karim Benzema in a man-of-the-match performance.

“Germany were on a higher level today,” said a disconsolate French manager Didier Deschamps, who suffered his first defeat in 11 World Cup games as either a player or coach.

Germany now face either Brazil or Colombia in Tuesday’s semi-final at Belo Horizonte.

The Germans produced a polished, improved display on their extra-time win over Algeria in the last-16, to constantly frustrate France’s potent attack spearheaded by Benzema.

This is the 13th time in 20 attempts Germany have reached the World Cup’s semi-finals and the fourth in succession since bowing out of the quarter-finals at France ‘98.

Seven of the German squad had suffered with mild flu in the build-up with Hummels one of them but he had recovered enough to take Per Mertesacker’s place at centre-back.

Miroslav Klose, joint top-scorer at World Cup finals with 15 goals, was preferred up front with Thomas Muller switching to the right wing.

Deschamps made two changes from the side who beat Nigeria in the last-16 with centre-back Mamadou Sakho back after a hamstring problem while Antoine Griezmann replaced Olivier Giroud in attack.

Despite the Germans’ stranglehold on early possession, the first real chance fell to Benzema, who fired wide after seven minutes.

The Germans took the lead when Hummels rose highest to head Toni Kroos’ free-kick.

His bullet header smashed in off the crossbar to claim his second goal of the finals having also scored with a similar header in the 4-0 opening win over Portugal.

The goal rocked the French defence as the Germans started exerting pressure.

Klose’s run into the box was held back by a tug on his shirt from right-back Mathieu Debuchy, while a Muller half-chance was quickly snuffed out.

France’s best chance came on 33 minutes when Mathieu Valbuena’s shot was saved by Manuel Neuer and then the goalkeeper making his 50th appearance for his country turned away Benzema’s follow-up.

The French came close to being awarded a penalty just before the break when Benzema’s header hit Hummels in the stomach, missing his hands by inches.

The Real Madrid star then later fired straight at Neuer on a frustrating afternoon as it stayed 1-0 to Germany at the break.

Sami Khedira earned a deserved booking for fouling Griezmann on 54 minutes as France enjoyed a good spell of pressure but failed to take their chances.

Deschamps threw on forward Loic Remy and defender Laurent Koscielny for the last 20 minutes in a final toss of the dice.

But Germany’s replacement Andre Schurrle should have made it 2-0 when he fired at French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’ feet, then had another shot blocked.

Neuer’s late save to deny Benzema means Germany head coach Joachim Loew has now reached the semi-finals of all of the last four major tournaments during his eight-year reign.

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