World Cup winners Germany meet European Championship hosts France, in the second semi-final at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille tonight, for the right to play Portugal in Sunday’s final.
The last time Germany faced the host nation in the semi-finals of a major tournament they won 7-1. Their astonishing victory over Brazil two years ago was the seventh time they had eliminated a host nation at a World Cup or Euros – with six of those remarkably coming at the semi-final stage. One of those wins came against France in 1982 in one of the most memorable games in World Cup history. After an epic 3-3 draw, the Germans emerged victorious from the first ever penalty shootout at World Cup.
Germany yet again emerged victorious from another shootout in their quarter-final against Italy on Saturday. The two sides could not be separated after extra-time, having drawn the match 1-1 in 90 minutes. Mesut Ozil gave Joachim Low’s side the lead but Leonardo Bonucci’s penalty levelled the things up. After 17 spot kicks, which included seven misses, Jonas Hector converted his first ever professional penalty to win the tie for his country. The tournament specialists are steadily moving through the gears and will not be fazed by a partisan atmosphere in Marseille.
On the other hand, France qualified for the last four in style, ending Iceland’s fairytale with a 5-2 win in Paris. Newspaper L’Equipe described France’s performance as “Presque Parfait” (Almost Perfect). At times they were electric and their forwards are having their own personal competition to see who can win the Golden Boot. Didier Deschamps’ men are coming to the boil nicely as they target what would be a third victory on home soil in a major tournament. However, they haven’t beaten the Germans in a major tournament since 1958 and this will be comfortably their toughest test at Euro 2016.
DATE, TIME AND COVERAGE
Thursday 7 July, 21:00 CEST (00:30 IST) kick-off. Live on ITV 1/HD (Sony Six/HD and Sony ESPN/HD). Live match commentary on BBC Football.
Germany will be without striker Mario Gomez after the forward was ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury. Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger was passed fit on the eve of the match, but fellow midfielder Sami Khedira has been ruled out while Mats Hummels is suspended after picking up one yellow card too many in the quarter-final.
France, meanwhile, have no suspensions and welcome back both N’Golo Kante and Adil Rami from their bans. Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud was a slight doubt after suffering a knee injury in training on Tuesday but has recovered in time to start. Despite the fully-fit squad, Samuel Umtiti and Moussa Sissoko are expected to keep their place in the side ahead of Rami and Kante.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played – 27
Germany Wins – 10
Draw – 5
France Wins – 12
HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES
13-Nov-15 – Friendly – France 2-0 Germany
04-Jul-14 – World Cup – France 0-1 Germany
06-Feb-13 – Friendly – France 1-2 Germany
29-Feb-12 – Friendly – Germany 1-2 France
12-Nov-05 – Friendly – France 0-0 Germany
Germany – DWWDW
02-Jul – Euro 2016 – Germany 1-1 Italy
26-Jun – Euro 2016 – Germany 3-0 Slovakia
21-Jun – Euro 2016 – Northern Ireland 0-1 Germany
16-Jun – Euro 2016 – Germany 0-0 Poland
12-Jun – Euro 2016 – Germany 2-0 Ukraine
France – WDWWW
03-Jul – Euro 2016 – France 5-2 Iceland
26-Jun – Euro 2016 – France 2-1 Republic of Ireland
19-Jun – Euro 2016 – Switzerland 0-0 France
15-Jun – Euro 2016 – France 2-0 Albania
10-Jun – Euro 2016 – France 2-1 Romania
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Thomas Muller (Germany)
With Gomez out for the rest of the tournament through injury, the focus will turn to Muller, who is still searching for his first goal at Euro 2016. But he has been very unlucky – the 2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner has had a host of chances and could have a hat-trick to his name against Northern Ireland if it wasn’t for the goalkeeping heroics of Michael McGovern. While Germany have improved on their march to the semi-final, the Bayern Munich has looked short of confidence. Despite just four shots on target, Low has kept faith with his talisman and is expected to start him through the middle tonight. If Muller does break his duck against the hosts, it could go a long way to helping his country get past the French.
Dimitri Payet (France)
West Ham’s Payet was only recalled to the French set-up in March and where would Deschamps’ side be without him? He hit 13 goals for the Premier League outfit last season and has maintained his form at Euro 2016, scoring three including a late winner against Romania in the opening game of the tournament and most recently against Iceland in the quarter-finals. While Paul Pogba has been inconsistent, he has quite simply been the star this summer and has won rave reviews for his showing in the tournament thus far. He will be crucial to the final score tonight as the entire French team have become heavily reliant on his creativity.
Bastian Schweinsteiger v Paul Pogba
With the centre of midfield set to be a key battlefield, Low’s choice of replacement for Khedira is certain to have a big impact on the game. Schweinsteiger replaced Khedira in the quarter-final and despite injury concerns, Low has confirmed that the Manchester United midfielder will start against France. Schweinsteiger’s experience is the perhaps the biggest factor in his selection but the former Bayern Munich man is lacking both match sharpness and pace. The latter could be a real problem against a player as dynamic as Pogba. The 23-year-old is regarded as one of the world’s best midfielders and has certainly excelled since being repositioned in a deeper role. Though he is encouraged to keep it simple, Pogba can do damage with his passing range and contributed his first international goal of the season against Iceland. Schweinsteiger and midfield partner Toni Kroos will have an uphill task and will need to retain possession well to limit the Juventus man’s threat. Pogba blows hot and cold but can be devastating on his day. The winner of this battle is likely to play a huge role in deciding the outcome tonight.
Germany (4-2-3-1) – Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, Benedikt Howedes, Jonas Hector; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos; Julian Draxler, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze; Thomas Muller.
France (4-2-3-1) – Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Samuel Umtiti, Patrice Evra; Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi; Moussa Sissoko, Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet; Olivier Giroud.
Name – Nicola Rizzoli
Based – Italy
Age – 44
Games – 3
Yellow Cards – 11
Red Cards – 1
Penalties – 1
Germany 2/1, Draw 19/10, France 9/5
This is perhaps the toughest game to call considering the pedigree of France in major tournaments they host. They are known to make slow starts and grow in stature as the tournament progresses and are exactly showing the same nature. Their display against Iceland has been one of the best in competition, but the problems at the back still remain. They are yet to face a tough opponent and must be at their level best to stand a chance against the Germans tonight. Germany, on the other hand, looked solid as ever against Italy. Like France, they have got better with every game and are a side that are not intimidated by the partisan home crowd. So expect this one to be a tight contest. France are the bookies favourites given they are playing in their backyard, but this is a tournament where records have tumbled and this could go against the odds. Germany will slightly edge this one.
Predicted Score – Germany 1-0 France
This article is written by Shantanu Ambekar, you can follow him on Twitter at @ShantanuAmbekar. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.