It just wouldn't be the World Cup without Germany in the semifinals.
Harnessing all their big-game experience, the Germans delivered a performance of maturity and efficiency to hold off France 1-0 on Friday and become the first team to reach four straight semifinals in the sport's marquee tournament.
Defender Mats Hummels scored the winning goal in the 13th minute, outmuscling his marker at a free kick to glance a header in off the underside of the crossbar in Rio de Janeiro.
Criticized for poor defending in earlier matches, Germany selected a more robust lineup and restricted a flat France team to only a handful of clear-cut chances in muggy conditions.
"There was not much in it," France coach Didier Deschamps said. But, "we don't have the international experience Germany has."
While France's young players slumped to the ground and some shed tears after the final whistle, the Germans soberly saluted all corners of the Maracana Stadium. One job done, nothing more.
And next up for Germany is a meeting with host nation Brazil on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte. It will be Germany's 13th appearance in the semifinals in 20 editions of the World Cup.
"I guess we're playing the kind of football which will give us a chance to win," said Hummels, who produced decisive blocks to snuff out two good chances for France striker Karim Benzema. "We defended well today. I think we deserve to carry on."
France struggled to impose the kind of attacking game that made the team one of the most exciting during the group stage, although Benzema -- the team's chief attacking threat -- squandered chances in both halves.
"We played like a team again," said Germany captain Philipp Lahm, who returned to right back in one of a string of tactically astute changes made by coach Joachim Loew. "Overall it was a good performance from us."
In Loew's eight-year tenure, Germany has reached the last four in every major tournament it has played -- but remains without a title since winning the European Championships in 1996.
"We just weren't efficient enough," France's Mathieu Valbuena said. "It's incredibly disappointing."
Belgium-Argentina: Belgian coach Marc Wilmots is old enough to remember Diego Maradona dumbfounding four defenders and a goalie to stop the nation's incredible run at the 1986 World Cup in the semifinals.
Wilmots called Maradona "the player that struck us down and gave us bad memories. Fortunately, that is well in the past now."
Lionel Messi wants to bring those memories back when Argentina plays Belgium in the quarterfinals Saturday in Brasilia.
Belgium's strong defense has been the key to its World Cup run so far, with Vincent Kompany, Daniel Van Buyten and Jan Vertonghen all among the team's standout players. Together, they should be able to deal with Messi, they said.
"If he gets past one player, he will have to get past a second player, because another will help out," Van Buyten said. "We will have to show our big heart."
Netherlands-Costa Rica: Dutch coach Louis van Gaal wasn't giving away tactics on the eve of his team's quarterfinal clash with the surprising Costa Ricans at Salvador's Arena Fonte Nova.
But he's unlikely to change a formula that defeated Chile and Mexico -- defending solidly and looking to strike on the counterattack. And if that doesn't work, switching to a 4-3-3 formation and pushing forward in search of a goal.
"They play the same system and they try to attack in the same way and they try to exert pressure in the same way, so there are a lot of similarities," Van Gaal said.
The winner goes to Sao Paulo to play either Argentina or Belgium on Wednesday. The Dutch will be without midfielder Nigel de Jong (groin injury), and midfielder Leroy Fer (hamstring) is also unlikely to be fit.
Injured American: Forward Aron Johannsson needs ankle surgery. His Dutch club, AZ Alkmaar, said on its website that Johannsson will be out six to eight weeks. Johannsson came on after Jozy Altidore was injured in the Americans' World Cup opener against Ghana but didn't make much of an impact. He didn't play in their last three games.
Nigerian mess: Nigeria could be suspended by FIFA after the nation's federation leaders were removed from office and its president was arrested on returning from the World Cup. FIFA warned Nigeria's government it must reinstate the federation's executive committee by Tuesday or risk a ban. Nigeria was ousted by France 2-0 on Monday. Nigeria's government also reacted aggressively after the Super Eagles' 2010 World Cup exit.
Overpass update: Rescue workers recovered the body of a 25-year-old man crushed beneath tons of concrete and steel of an unfinished overpass that collapsed Thursday in Belo Horizonte. A City Hall press officer said workers reached a small passenger car that was flattened and retrieved the body of Charlys do Nascimento. The official death toll is now two, with 32 people suffering non-life-threatening injuries.