RIO DE JANEIRO
When Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer embarked on a series of hair-raising dashes out of his area in the second-round win over Algeria, it would have struck a chord with French football fans of a certain vintage.
Thoughts no doubt returned to one of the most shocking collisions in World Cup history, which occurred in the 1982 semifinal between West Germany and France and involved another goalkeeper’s excursion off his line.
Harald Schumacher’s airborne challenge on Patrick Battiston, which knocked the France defender unconscious and broke his jaw but went unpunished, still raises anger and emotion in France — particularly as West Germany went on to win that match in a penalty shootout thanks to the saves of Schumacher.
Predictably, the incident has been one of the major talking points ahead of the countries’ clash in the World Cup quarterfinals today. It will be their fourth meeting on soccer’s biggest stage, with Germany also winning the most recent head-to-head in 1986 in the semifinals.
“Tomorrow we will write a new page of history,” France coach Didier Deschamps said when asked about the hurt of 1982 and ‘86. “We will try to make it as pleasant as possible.”
Under the headline of “A Classic Match,” top-selling French sports newspaper L’Equipe used its front page Wednesday to detail the step-by-step process of Schumacher’s aerial collision with Battiston.
Clearly, the episode hasn’t been forgotten in France but many of country’s players weren’t even born when that game took place. And they aren’t using it as motivation.
“As far as we are concerned, we live in the present,” France’s 26-year-old goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said. “There is a long history between both nations but we will concentrate on our own match and we want to write our own history.”
Luiz Felipe Scolari thinks Brazil may be at an advantage by playing in the World Cup quarterfinals against a Colombia team that likes to attack often.
Scolari said he knows it will be a very tough match today, but expects Brazil to face fewer difficulties than it did in the second-round game against a feisty and more defensive-minded Chilean team.
The Brazilian coach said he doesn’t expect “a war” against Colombia, unlike something he’d expect more against other South American rivals.
“The matches against Colombia are very tough, they have a very good team,” Scolari said Thursday. “But it’s different. It’s a different type of rivalry. When we don’t have this war atmosphere, our players feel more at ease. Teams like Argentina, Uruguay and Chile don’t let that happen.”
Brazil struggled against Chile and was never able to impose its game. After a 1-1 draw, the tournament hosts needed a great performance by goalkeeper Julio Cesar in the penalty shootout to keep alive their hopes of a sixth world title.
The Colombian team has been thriving at the World Cup with an upbeat style that is both thrilling and effective. While Brazil won two of its three group games and needed a shootout to advance from the second round, the Colombians had no difficulty beating their first four opponents.
“I like to watch Colombia play. It’s a very organized team, has tactical discipline and a lot of quality,” Scolari said. “But they play just like our team plays. There’s nothing different. And we know that we have some qualities that may cause some damage to them.”
Led by exciting young playmaker James Rodriguez, Colombia has already scored 11 goals, just one less than the Netherlands, the tournament’s top-scoring team.
Brazil captain Thiago Silva said that shouldn’t be seen as a concern.
“It’s good to play against a team that comes out attacking like Colombia does,” Silva said. “They have quality so they attack a lot. That helps our team, it’s an open match. It’s better to play against teams that play like that.”