The fall of France
Our man in Brazil highlights four areas where Les Bleus faltered against Germany
BELOW PAR: Main striker Karim Benzema wears a look of disbelief after he and key French players under-performed in their 1-0 loss to Germany. PHOTO: AFP
Criticising the French feels a little like shooting Bambi.
Reaching the quarter-final was an achievement in itself, and Didier Deschamps will move on to Euro 2016 with renewed confidence.
But they were defeated by a single goal, and might reflect on what might have been.
Here are four problems that France failed to fix.
1 Mediocre main men
Of all the days to put in a mediocre performance, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi picked their date with the Germans at the Maracana.
There were mitigating circumstances, though. Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger ran them ragged in the heat on an unforgiving pitch, with Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose also making a nuisance of themselves.
Still, this was the moment for Pogba, in particular, to truly announce himself on the world stage.
He offered fleeting glimpses of his promise, gliding across the centre circle to set the French on the way.
But, with Matuidi tied down with extra defensive duties, Les Bleus' midfield double act didn't really learn their lines.
2 Benzema enigma endures
The Real Madrid striker has long been considered a two-headed beast in France. Sublime or sulky, devastating or destabilising, Benzema so often walks the line between the two.
Against Germany, he was a picture of frustration. He snatched at a couple of chances, and was denied by the alert Manuel Neuer, but his impact was marginal.
Les Bleus' attacking monster from the group stage has been neutered in the knockout stages.
Mats Hummels' return hardly helped, and Benzema drifted towards the left in search of space - where Philipp Lahm was waiting.
3 Set-piece set-back
Deschamps failed to hide his disappointment in the press conference. A born winner, he barely accepted defeat.
But to lose to such a routine goal, from a textbook free-kick, clearly bothered him.
Kroos' cross was curled in with characteristic precision, but the ball travelled a long way before it reached Hummels' head.
Raphael Varane, who has been a dependable presence during the World Cup, picked the worst moment to nail his feet to the floor.
A 1-0 win in the knockout stages of a scrappy game felt like the work of the Hellas than France and Germany. Such a rudimentary error is a cruel way to lose a quarter-final.
4 Deschamps dithered
By the second half, the pattern of play had been well-established.
Germany's interplay was superior, they were content to concede possession, and even tolerated the odd potshot, knowing that Neuer and their defence were up to the task.
The game staggered towards a second-half stalemate and Deschamps remained seated in the dugout.
Benzema was becoming increasingly disillusioned; Germany had a manacle on the midfield, and the French were struggling to break between the lines.
But Deschamps waited until the 71st minute before he introduced his first substitute, and that was defender Laurent Koscielny - almost five minutes after Loew made his first change.
When Deschamps threw on Olivier Giroud and Loic Remy, it all seemed too little too late. He was out of time.