Football

Raul: I expect a cracker at Maracana

Raul is expecting an evenly-matched encounter when France take on Germany and believes Les Bleus are fully prepared.

The two sides met in the semi-finals in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, with Joachim Loew's side winning both games, the first on penalties after a dramatic 3-3 draw and the second a 2-0 win.

Raul (above) said that he has been impressed by Didier Deschamps' side so far and feels they have the opportunity to erase the memories of those two defeats when the sides meet again.

"France looked solid at the back despite coming under pressure," the Spaniard said of Deschamps' team's 2-0 last-16 win over Nigeria.

"Their midfield took the game to the Nigerians in the second half and showed power and mobility in (Paul) Pogba, (Blaise) Matuidi and (Yohan) Cabaye. With a big match coming up, Deschamps' side are looking ready in every department.

"This sets the stage for a truly big quarter-final. Germany and France have been among the impressive sides in Brazil and a clash featuring them reminds one of the classic they had played at the (knockout) stages in 1982.

"France had lost that bruising match on penalties and this time, they look good to throw an equally strong challenge."

The former Schalke player admitted, however, that Germany would present a tough prospect, particularly with players of the quality of Manuel Neuer in their ranks, for the French and stressed that he was relishing the encounter as a result.

"Neuer stood out (in Germany's 2-1 second-round win over Algeria)," he said.

COMMAND

"In recent times, the World Cup had rarely seen a goalkeeper play a sweeper's role with such command and assurance.

"The German back four was shaky in the beginning but grew in confidence once their midfielders started asserting themselves.

The finishing was the only part missing in what turned out to be a strong German performance.

"Their substitutes played key roles and stretched the wings, which showed that Joachim Low's team can adapt to different situations.

"I expect a cracker at Maracana between two well balanced sides." - Wire Services.

World Cup