By Fred Kaweesi in Rio de Janeiro
Today: France v Germany at 7pm
Each time Germany footballers have walked through the Media Mixed Zone – an area where journalists conduct player interviews – one player has been so eloquent you would mistake him for a press officer.
It is not just that Per Mertesacker is the tallest of all German players at 6ft5’ that sets him apart from his teammates.
It is that he has –so far –shown greater focus and application here, on and off the pitch.
After the game against Algeria, while other players struggled to speak English and explain to foreign media why Germany had struggled to break down the North Africans in their 2-1 win, Mertesacker, on the other hand, responded with thought and humour.
But his response also included a verbal attack on a German journalist.
“Would it be better if we played attractive football and lost out? Do you think that we are just a bunch of clowns here playing in the last 16? I can’t understand all these stupid questions right after a match.
“We worked extremely hard and fought all the way to the end. We played well and we are in the last eight and that’s what counts.”
It was a remarkable outburst from the Arsenal defender but also one that illustrated just how united the German team is.
The outburst reflected a certain degree of character that could rub positively on Germans’ destiny in their quarterfinal fixture against France.
The Germans in a training session ahead of their match against France on Friday. PHOTO/AFP
The French had a relatively trouble free passage through the group stage, clinching their place in the knockout rounds with wins over Honduras (3-0) and Switzerland (5-2) before they sealed top spot with a goalless draw against Ecuador.
The nature of opposition might not have been the strongest but what can’t be overlooked is that France have managed three clean sheets this far, including their second round 2-0 win over Nigeria.
Of course, just like Germany, France struggled to break down the Super Eagles.
But the reward of a semi-final place is more than enough motivation for the two –the main reason this fixture has been dubbed a classic and one that will be decided by a moment of brilliance from either side.
Although Thomas Muller remains Germany’s main potential threat in front of goal, Andre Schurrle has had remarkable influence on this German team.
The Chelsea player’s movement all over the field – helping out the defence, pushing forward and taking part in attacks has outshone his more high-profile colleagues.
The French players training ahead of their encounter with European rivals Germany. PHOTO/AFP
France's goalkeeper Hugo Lloris warms up during the training session. PHOTO/AFP
Schurrle’s beautifully improvised goal against Algeria –when he dragged the ball in diagonally for the first goal, has been the main highlight on Brazilian televisions in the build-up to this quarterfinal.
Mehut Ozil and Mario Gotze are yet to spark and there is a possibility that Schurrle might start ahead of either of them against this French side that has thrived on Paul Pogba’s immaculate skills.
Since moving on a free from Manchester United to Juventus, Pogba has gone from strength to strength, so much so that he is now an integral figure for Didier Deschamps’ French team.
One major aspect of Pogba’s rise to prominence here has been his fearless attitude. This lanky midfielder is a complete reflection of a modern-day midfielder that can tackle, pass, shoot and score.
He has given the French bite when strikers Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud have had off-days.
If the French ever needed Pogba to be at his very best, that will have to be in this game that revives memories of the extraordinary semi-final between the two countries in the 1982 World Cup when Germany came from 3-1 down in extra time to win on penalties.