By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, June 4 (Xinhua) -- In German football history, the term "Turnier-Mannschaft" (tournament team) plays a vital role. It basically means that a team - Germany - always finds answers, no matter how challenging the next game in the long tournament might be.
In beating France 1-0 through a Mats Hummels header in the 13th minute and qualifying for the semifinal next Tuesday against either Brazil or Colombia, the German World Cup squad once again proved they really are a "Turnier-Mannschaft" by fighting until they almost dropped.
Joachim Loew gave an impressive answer to the question: What is important when playing a major tournament? "You need a certain amount of reliability but you can' t be stubborn," said the German coach.
Meaning, follow your basic policy but make sure you change gear if helps you to get to your destination. It was a clear signal to his team. Meaning: To win the World Cup we have to consider every possibility - show us now you are part of our big team and show the will to win.
Loew changed gear against France as far as lineup and tactics were concerned. Captain Philipp Lahm started at right back which opened up more attacking possibilities down the right flank. Just how valuable Lahm is in the position was immediately obvious in the first half as he was magnificent both in defense and in attack.
Leaving Per Mertesacker out as central defender was a good decision as Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng have more pace than the Arsenal defender. Hummels and Boateng did a good job in nullifying the French striker Karim Benzema.
Like at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger played as a "double six" and Toni Kroos was responsible for the creative part.
Prior to the France game, Loew did not risk Khedira and Schweinsteiger together as both were not quite fully match fit after long injury breaks. In the last quarter of the game, Khedira had little left in the tank and having problems going forward and tracking back but still hung in bravely.
In the first half, the Germans were the more attacking side - having the "guards" Khedira and Schweinsteiger as insurance in front of the defense. As Thomas Mueller moved to the right flank and Mesut Oezil to the left, "target man" Miroslav Klose was sent on from the beginning for the first time at this World Cup but to little effect as the German game was often too slow going forwards, especially as Ozil was having an off day.
The German defense was solid but up front the final pass lacked precision. And a player like Klose needs passes. Nevertheless the French defense could never relax as he was always a thorn in their side.
It paid off that Loew has changed his mind on dead ball situations. Before the 2010 World Cup, Loew did not bother about corners and free kicks very much. This time he did.
Hummels' header was the result of more time spent practicing free kicks. Four of the ten German goals at the 2014 World Cup have come from free kicks and corners (Portugal, Ghana, USA and France). That' s a rate of nearly 50 per cent.
Mueller' s inexhaustible will and power helped the Germans to survive as France upped the pace after half time and were the "better" for much of the second half. In addition Loew substituted Oezil and Klose with Mario Goetze and Andre Schuerrle to give the team more counter attacking options when the French went in search of the equalizer.
German keeper Manuel Neuer again showed his class as he was fully concentrated right until the last second. For many Neuer is the best keeper at the World Cup in Brazil. Lahm never ran out of energy and was able to support his team on the counter-attack.
In addition to goal scorer Hummels and "non-stop" Lahm - Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Mueller and Neuer were all standouts in the German "Turnier-Mannschaft" which has reached the World Cup semi-final for the 13th time in 18 appearances.