The French must love hosting international tournaments. A 2-0 victory over Germany in today’s semifinal gives Les Bleus a chance to win their third major championship on home soil. They head to Paris to take on Portugal on Sunday.
Didier Deschamps elected to keep the same lineup that successfully dispatched Iceland in the quarterfinal, and for a time it looked like it was going to pay off. France started out on the front foot. Literally seconds into the start of the match Antione Griezmann forced Jerome Boateng to make a risky back-pass to Manuel Neuer. France continued to pressure Germany, but as they couldn’t score it gave the Germans more and more time to settle into the game.
It wasn’t long before Germany looked in complete control, passing and moving trough the French midfield with ease. Joshua Kimmich got in behind Patrice Evra on a number of occasions but the final pass eluded Germany for all of the first half.
While it seemed like Germany were the more likely to score for much of the first 45 minutes, France still managed to trouble Germany at times. Olivier Giroud had one of the games best chances when he found his way all alone behind the German defense with the ball, but his lack of pace allowed Benedikt Höwedes to catch up and make a crucial challenge.
Germany’s failure to capitalize on their dominant first half would come back to bit them when just before half-time, Bastian Schweinsteiger jumped to contest a header but did so with his hands in the air. He made contact with the ball and after the Italian official Nicola Rizzoli consulted with his goal-line official, the result was clearly a penalty to the hosts. Griezmann took the penalty and made no mistake in sending Neuer the wrong way. It might have been against the run of play, but France went into the break with the lead.
The second half began much like the first half, and Germany had trouble dealing with a strong French surge. But like in the first half, Germany was back on the front foot trying to break through the French back-line in no time. The difference in this half, however, was that France could afford to be much more conservative. Germany had to chase the game, France merely had to kill it off. Germany hadn’t trailed at a major tournament since the second group match against Ghana in the 2014 World Cup.
Germany’s chances were dealt another blow when Boateng appeared to have injured his hamstring and had to be substituted. Germany was now without their top two defenders in addition to Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez. In essence, Germany’s spine had been ripped out.
However, France took no mercy on Germany’s depleted defense, and at the 72-minute mark, the Germans would concede their first goal from open play in the entire tournament. Paul Pogba picked the pocket of Joshua Kimmich and floated a ball into the middle. With Germany’s defense a bit disorganized, Neuer could only hope to fist the ball away from danger. Instead, the ball found Griezmann and the tournament’s top scorer added his sixth goal of EURO 2016. France looked like they were headed to Paris.
The last 15 minutes Germany furiously looked for a way to get back into the game, but with the help of a post, some fine saves from Hugo Lloris and some un-Müller like finishing from Thomas Müller, France held on. Griezmann was subbed off to be applauded for his efforts, and not long after the full-time whistle sounded, and France will now head to the Stade de France to take on Portugal.