France topple Germany to reach Euro 2016 final
Euro 2016 semi-final, Stade Velodrome – Germany 0 France 2 (Griezmann 45+2 pen, 72)
A strong, determined performance from France was enough to beat a Germany side who enjoyed plenty of possession, but created little. The hosts will play Portugal in the final on Sunday.
France began the game well, lovely interplay between Blaise Matuidi and Antoine Griezmann taking them across the pitch and into the box before the ball caught under the latter's feet, allowing Manuel Neuer to push his shot away. Subsequently, Germany took over, the clever angles of passing and movement taken by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos too much for France, who simply sat deep, hoping to survive and then break.
In that period, Germany could not create much, lacking ideas around the box and a serious centre-forward, though Samuel Umtiti was outstanding in the French defence and in front of him, Moussa Sissoko chased and tracked diligently.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, Patrice Evra, a growing offensive influence, rose to attack a header and Schweinsteiger rose with him, throwing up an arm that made contact with the ball. The referee pointed to the spot, and Griezmann slammed it left-footed into the net.
Germany could not muster the same dominance in the second half as France improved - Laurent Koscielny grew into the game as did Paul Pogba, and it was he who created the decisive second after 72 minutes. Catching Joshua Kimmich in possession, he refused the opportunity to go down under the consequent challenge, instead backing away, waggling his foot over the ball and diddling Shkodran Mustafi, before lifting a cross that Neuer could only palm out to Griezmann; he stabbed home with chilling competence.
And that, more or less was that. The Marseille crowd enjoyed 20 minutes of collective bliss, and France will fancy themselves hard in the final.
France players acknowledge the fans after beating Germany 2-0.AFP
MAN OF THE MATCH
Samuel Umtiti (France): During the first half onslaught, he held France together at the back, making a succession of vital interceptions and interventions. Given his age, experience, and dodgy performance on against Iceland on debut, this was a towering effort.
How will France play in the final? It's hard to know whether France planned to sit back, or whether Germany forced them to, but against Portugal, that will be a dangerous approach. Cristiano Ronaldo, Renato Sanches and Nani have the pace and directness that Germany lacked - giving them as much of the ball does not sound like a good idea.
France's Antoine Griezmann celebrates with team mates after scoring their first goalReuters
7' - CHANCE! Oh, this is wonderful, Matuidi and Griezmann moving the ball from left to centre and a full 20 yards using a mixture of flicks and short passes, until they plot a path down the centre. But with the route to goal clear, Griezmann goes for placement, rolling a shot towards the bottom right, and Neuer saves comfortably enough.
15' - CHANCE! Draxler goes down the left and stuns back a cross for Can - it's about shin height, so he focuses on keeping it down by bouncing a shot into the ground. Koscielny gets a touch, and as it rears up, Lloris shoves clear. But Germany pick up the loose ball, and Sagna needs to block Ozil off before France eventually get it clear.
43' - WHAT ARE YOU DOING, OLIVIER? A mix-up sends Giroud alone through the middle, and without the pace to get away, Howedes gains on him. Griezmann is alongside, but he ignores him to be tackled instead! Great defending, dunderheaded attacking.
45' - PENALTY TO FRANCE! Evra gets down the left and a long cross is headed behind for no reason by Howedes. The corner comes over, Schweinsteiger is up with Evra, AND THAT'S A PENALTY! SCHWEINSTEIGER'S ARM WAS UP!
Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger handles the ball and concedes a penaltyReuters
45+1' - GOAL! Germany 0-1 France. Griezmann ambles up to the ball like it's nothing and slots into the left corner, left-footed, about halfway up. That was cooler than Fonzie.
72' - GOAL! Germany 0-2 France. This looks a glorious mess, but is in fact a glorious goal! Kimmich dallies in his own box and Pogba robs him. He then indulges in some foot-waggling to diddle Mustafi before dinking a cross that Neuer can only push away, whereupon Griezmann stabs home the futsal finish of an expert. France are going to the final!
74 - WOODWORK! Kimmich comes inside off the right and slams a delectable curler with his wrong foot that Lloris is nowhere near - it clips the angle and goes behind!
77' - JUST WIDE! Germany win a free-kick just right of centre and Draxler is on it, 25 yards out. He sets it wide of the post, and it looks like it's going in ... but it flashes just wide.
82' - OVER! It just will not happen for Germany! The win a free-kick left of centre and Kroos whips it in - it's a lovely ball - and Howedes attacks it like a madman, butting just over the top.
86' - HAT-TRICK... NO! Griezmann wins the ball on halfway and immediately skates off towards goal, Kroos in his slipstream and toying with the foul. Gignac is square, but, on a hat-trick, he opts to come inside before dragging a low shot that's saved easily. If he'd had the gas, he might have carried on towards goal, but he's done a fair bit of running these last two years.
90+3 - WHAT A SAVE! Kimmich crosses from the right, Muller commits GBH with his forehead, and Lloris plunges left to shove it away. That is brilliant! And then another cross, this time finding Kimmich - only he heads wide.
France's Hugo Lloris makes a saveReuters