RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Even with France’s top striker bearing down on him late in the match, Manuel Neuer showed no signs of panic.
Rather than go to the ground or commit too early, the Germany goalkeeper stood tall, forced Karim Benzema to make a snap decision and, in the end, preserved the 1-0 win in the World Cup quarterfinals.
“You have to say they have a very, very good goalkeeper,” Benzema said Friday. “I pretended to go for a cross and then I went for the shot instead, but he was well placed and beat it away.”
With time running out on France’s hopes, Benzema burst into the penalty area and aimed for a gap in the top corner. Neuer anticipated it perfectly and palmed the ball away.
Earlier, France winger Mathieu Valbuena’s curling shot was headed for goal until Neuer pounced to tip it away.
“We didn’t get that bit of luck we needed in attack,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “We had some chances and Neuer made some good saves.”
Neuer’s tendency to charge off his line caused some alarm in the second-round match against Algeria. But against France, it was his composure that stood out in his 50th international appearance.
The 28-year-old Neuer’s positional play was impeccable, as he showed in the first half after Benzema sprinted into the penalty area and sent a shot straight at him.
Neuer made it look so straightforward because he rarely gets caught out of position. That was again the case in the second half, when he stood upright to stop a shot from midfielder Blaise Matuidi from sneaking inside the left post. He later made a save from Raphael Varane’s towering header look easy.
“He has been one of the best goalkeepers in the world since 2010 and maybe even the No. 1,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “He is so calm that it reassures the defenders to know that he is behind them.”
Against Algeria, Neuer looked reckless at times as he sprinted off his line to clear danger. But he is confident enough to take a high-risk approach because he is so comfortable with the ball at his feet.
That offers his defenders the option of knowing they can pass back without worrying.
“He’s so good technically,” Loew said, “that they give the ball to him almost like he is another defender.”