Antoine Griezmann’s heroics fire France past Germany
Didier Deschamps’s side march on to Paris and final meeting with Portugal
France striker Antoine Griezmann scores his second goal in the Euro 2016 semi-final against Germany at Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Antoine Griezmann converts from the penalty spot to give France the lead in the Euro 2016 semi-final against Germany at Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Marchons, Marchons, les citoyens. France won their way through to Sunday’s Euro 2016 final against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal with an emphatic 2-0 victory at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille that probably surprised even the French themselves.
Earlier this week, French sports daily L’Equipe ran a front page picture of new national hero, Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann, with a caption suggesting the Germans would be “afraid” of him. The headline turned out to be prophetic as Griezmann scored both goals in a famous French victory.
In reality, for much of this game, especially in the first half, there had not been much between the two teams. Even if France had predictably opened up, much buoyed by the fantastic home crowd atmosphere of the Velodrome, it was Germany who gradually assumed control of the game. As early as the 15th minute, Hugo Lloris was called on to make an excellent save from Liverpool’s Emre Can.
If the French strike force of Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi had looked arguably more dangerous than the German attack, they had little to show for their efforts by half-time. Then, just as we were expecting to go in on a 0-0 scoreline, the game dramatically changed.
First in the 43rd minute, Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud won a 50-50 ball from Jerome Boateng to send himself clean through from just inside the halfway line. With Griezmann unmarked beside him, this was a glorious opportunity but one which Giroud wasted when opting to shoot on goal rather than pass to his team-mate.
Five minutes later in time added on, however, France made good on that missed chance when Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli awarded a dubious penalty against Bastian Schweinsteiger for allegedly handling the ball as he battled with Patrice Evra for a high ball. Griezmann, long since established as the French “star”, slotted home the spot kick brilliantly for his fifth goal of the tournament. All of a sudden, the wind was very much in French sails and remarkably it stayed there.
Despite much German second-half possession, it was France who copperfastened a famous result with a 72nd minute goal again from Griezmann, following an outrageous piece of skill from Pogba. Latching on to a rare German defensive error as substitute Shkrodan Mustafi lost control of a ball in his own area, Pogba bobbed one way and then the other, wrongfooting his defender, before sending in a tempting cross which Manuel Neuer could only half-punch away. Unfortunately for him and Germany, his clearance fell to the feet of Griezmann who, even though he scuffed his shot, still scored his sixth goal of Euro 2016.
After that, it was hard to believe that this would be anything other than France’s night. That impression was confirmed in the dying minutes of the game when sustained German possession created chances first for defender Benni Howedes and then for right back Joshua Kimmich. Howedes headed his effort just over the bar, with Lloris apparently beaten. Two minutes later in the 90th minute, the French goalkeeper made a spectacular save from Kimmich, a save which very much suggested that there would be no way back into this one for Germany.
So, it proved. And so, France march on to a final in Paris on Sunday in which they will obviously start red-hot favourites. Portugal have shown little in this tournament to suggest that they can stop Didier Deschamps’s ever more confident side.
If there was a negative note last night, it came from the fact that the “turning point” in this game came from a questionable penalty decision. Had Mr Rizzoli not awarded that penalty in first-half time added on, we might have been looking at a very different second half. However, the citoyens took their chance and now look set to conclude their triumphal march in Paris on Sunday.
GERMANY (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng, Howedes, Hector; Schweinsteiger, Can; Ozil, Kroos, Draxler; Muller.
FRANCE (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra; Pogba, Matuidi; Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet; Giroud.
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy).