Before the last-16 clash in Porto Alegre, Algeria famously had a 100 per cent record against Die Mannschaft, with two wins in two matches; that agonising defeat for Les Fennecs leaves Egypt as the only team with a perfect record against the Germans, but that’s from just one encounter, the Pharaohs triumphing 2-1 in 1958.
But over the course of time it is very difficult to get the better of Germany, overall; of teams to have played them on 10 or more occasions, only Italy, Brazil, Argentina and – shock horror – England (just, at 15-14) have winning records.
And, of course, so do France. Their head-to-head is neatly poised – 11 wins for Les Bleus, nine for Germany, six draws. At World Cups it is perfectly matched: a win apiece and a draw (although, of course, Germany got through that infamous 1982 semi-final clash on penalties).
Strangely, France have never played Germany at a World Cup when they were actually a unified Germany; only when they were West Germany.
But these old foes have played each other twice recently, with France winning a 2012 friendly 2-1 in Bremen, and Germany returning the favour in Paris last year. L’envers, as they say.
That win at the Stade de France in February 2013 was Germany’s first against the French in 26 years, testament as much to rare six and seven-year gaps between matches in the 90s and noughties as it is to any major difference in fortunes (they only contested one match when France were in their Zidane-era prime).
Still, Germany fans are certain that – despite toiling against Algeria – their boys will raise their game in Rio on Friday.
“I was at the game in Porto Alegre and, yes, we did not play so well but at this stage of the tournament all the matches are very close,” Timo - a Thomas Mueller look-a-like from Frankfurt - said after going for a dip on the Copacabana beach. “We won at the end and this is the most important thing.
French fans are equally confident, relishing their status as relative underdogs after some chaotic campaigns, not least their ill-fated 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
They point to a new team spirit, an attacking adventure, and a well-balanced team, devoid of the ‘characters’ that posed problems in the past.
And they believe they can get past their old rivals, who have relatively been under the weather.
“Germany have not played at the level expected of a pre-tournament favourite, while I think everything has changed for France at this competition,” France fan Geoffrey said.
“We have this team spirit, this blend of youth and experience. We’re very excited.”
France may have been the more entertaining side at this World Cup, although they arguably had the easier group.
And supporters are under no illusions as to the impact Didier Deschamps, a World Cup winner as a player, has had on the team’s big names.Karim Benzema has become our best player,” Techoune, from Normandy, said.
“But the coach is the star of our team. No doubt about that.”
Still, the Germans remain not-so-quietly confident that their team will reach another semi-final.
Jorg, living in Cologne but from Dortmund and thus a Borussia fan, was not in Porto Alegre but will attend the France game in Rio, and he seemed pretty certain of victory.
“The teams are very close. Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, everyone had the same problems. Players for the so-called small teams play all over the world so it’s very difficult.
“But Germany will play better against France – we have to play better. I think we will win.”
And what of Joachim Loew, who gets a rough ride from some in Germany for playing attractive football but never actually taking this side to glory?
“No, he is very much the right man,” Jorg insisted. “He has changed our tactics recently to a more Spanish style, more patient.
“I like the faster, more direct attacking style of play, but I think slowing it down like this, making it very controlled... it may be more effective for us.”
Effectiveness – that typical German attribute. But will it be enough against the spirit and flair of France though?
- Sports & Recreation