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Germany reaches World Cup semis as Brazil faces troublesome Colombia
Germany shook off flu and France to ease into the World Cup semi-finals on Friday with a deserved 1-0 victory, while Brazil came to a national standstill ahead of the nervous hosts' game with carefree Colombia.
Defender Mats Hummel won a surprisingly subdued match between the two European powers with a well-steered 13th minute header from a free kick, giving Germany a remarkable fourth successive World Cup semi-final spot.
"I hope our ride isn't over yet and I hope we'll be back here," goalscorer Hummels said, referring to the July 13 final, also at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium
Though perennially competitive, the Germans have not won football's ultimate crown since 1990 despite having a bigger pool talent since the unification of West and East.
They will now meet the winners of Brazil v Colombia in the first semi-final in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.
At the Maracana on Friday, the 25-year-old Hummels brushed off a challenge from France's Raphael Varane, appearing to push him lightly, to meet the ball perfectly before wheeling away in delight after giving Germany a dream early lead.
'Les Bleus' looked uninspired but did have their moments, not least a stinging last-gasp shot by striker Karim Benzema that goalkeeper Manuel Neuer stopped one-handed.
"That was just an automatic reaction," said the modest Neuer.
In truth, Germany, whose team showed no ill effects of a flu virus menacing their camp in recent days, never looked in great danger of losing and substitute Andre Schuerrle wasted two chances to secure a more flattering scoreline.
FRENCH PRIDE, BRAZILIAN NERVES
Though losing to their old nemesis was painful, France have at least restored some pride after the embarrassment of in-fighting and a first round exit in 2010.
"We had our chances. But they had more experience than we did. They had us under control and they controlled that one goal lead," said France coach Didier Deschamps. "The difference wasn't that big... but they advanced."
Later on Friday, hosts and tournament favourites Brazil face their toughest test so far at the tournament when they take on South American rivals Colombia in a quarter-final in Fortaleza.
Despite leading striker Neymar's good form, Brazil appear to be feeling the pressure and only scraped past Chile via a penalty shootout to reach the last eight.
By contrast, Colombia, with five-goal tournament top scorer James Rodriguez spearheading their charge, have been winning joyously and convincingly, with 11 goals scored.
As usual when Brazil play, the nation came more and more to a halt as kickoff approached, with bars, homes and fan zones packed - but streets increasingly ghostly.
"We're so excited but we're also so anxious. Thankfully we have something to help keep us calm," said Carolina Dias, 23, a student carrying beer and meat with friends for a barbecue during the match at her house in Belo Horizonte.
Away from the action, disgraced Uruguay striker Luis Suarez received a second offer to continue playing football during his four-month ban for biting an Italy defender at the World Cup.
Nart FC, a club in the self-declared Republic of Abkhazia within Georgia, said Suarez could join them and keep match fit because the local federation is not part of FIFA.
"Of course, we cannot offer the Uruguayan footballer a financial package that he is used to, but the Abkhazian championship is at its peak," said club president Gennady Tsvinariya.
Hajvalia from Kosovo have also offered the Liverpool striker - reportedly in talks over a possible transfer to Barcelona - the chance to play for them.
The Kosovo Football Federation is also not a member of soccer's world governing body.
SECOND DEATH FROM OVERPASS COLLAPSE
In another simmering issue from the Brazil tournament, the Cameroon Football Federation has promised a swift outcome to its investigation into allegations that seven of the country's players were involved in a match-fixing scandal.
"We have already, by mail, asked the newspaper for tangible evidence of these claims, which they have maintained despite the apparent challenge of the facts by their main source," it said, referring to Germany's Der Spiegel that published the accusations.
Convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, whom Der Spiegel said had made correct forecasts before the Cameroon v Croatia Group A game, has since claimed he spoke after the match.
In Brazil, a second person was pulled dead from the wreckage of a collapsed highway overpass that was still under construction in host city Belo Horizonte. The accident on Thursday has revived concerns over rushed infrastructure.
Angry onlookers have been shouting anti-government slogans at the rescue site, saying local authorities and construction workers had cut corners because of the World Cup.
In the remaining two quarter-finals on Saturday, Europe squares off against Latin America.
First, Lionel Messi-led Argentina take on dar horses Belgium in a match that is hard to predict. Both have strong teams and have won four games from four, but curiously every win was by a single-goal margin, and neither have yet sparkled as expected.
In Saturday's second game, the Netherlands are hot favourites to end underdogs Costa Rica's dream run, but will have to guard against complacency given the Central Americans' extraordinary campaign, including wins over Italy and Uruguay.