Germany vs France Euro 2016 match report: Antoine Griezmann double seals historic win over neighbours
It has taken France 58 years to defeat Germany when it matters on the football pitch and, following a tumultuous evening in Marseille, they did it with a beaming smile on their face with the exuberance of Antoine Griezmann carrying the hosts into the Euro 2016 final.
By scoring both goals in France’s 2-0 victory against the world champions, took his tally for this tournament to six goals – moving him clear of Zinedine Zidane and second only to Michel Platini in the French scoring charts at European Championships – Griezmann secured his status as the nation’s new poster boy.
The 25-year-old, whose sister Maude survived the terror attack at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris last November, has been the all-smiling kid next door who has enchanted France and ensured the backing of a sceptical nation whose part-time love for the national team has now become a full-blown affair once again.
The son of a French father and Portuguese mother will now face the Portuguese at the Stade de France on Sunday aiming to emulate Platini and Zidane by leading France to major tournament success on home soil.
And having overcome the Germans, Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo should hold few fears for the French.
Marseille may hold fond memories for the French, with the Michel Platini-inspired team defeating Portugal in Stade Velodrome in an epic semi-final at Euro 84, but it tends to require more than positive omens to overcome Germany in tournament football.
Not since the 1958 World Cup, when Just Fontaine scored four goals in a 6-3 third-fourth place play-off in Gothenburg, had France triumphed against their neighbours in a major tournament.
France lost successive World Cup semi-finals against West Germany in 1982 and 1986 before succumbing to Joachim Low’s team at the quarter-final stage two years ago as the Germans progressed to a fourth world title.
So Germany held the upper hand psychologically against a young, promising French team, but one which lacked the nous and experience of the world champions.
It was men against boys in the sense of the Germans knowing how to go course and distance, but France coach Didier Deschamps – the captain of Aime Jacquet’s 1998 World Cup winners – was determined to be bold, encouraging his young team to go on the front foot.
It was risky tactic, with Leicester City’s N’Golo Kante failing to reclaim his place in the team following suspension, but France’s strengths lie in their pace and exuberance and Deschamps went for broke against a German team weakened by the suspension of defender Mats Hummels and loss of the injured Sami Khedira.
Schweinsteiger protests against referee Rizzoli’s harsh penalty decision (Getty)
With Bastian Schweinsteiger handed a rare starting role, Low turned to Liverpool’s Emre Can to inject legs and energy in midfield and the tactic worked in countering the threat of Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi
Having won the tactical battle in the first-half, Low his team dominate possession after surviving a seventh minute near miss when Antoine Griezmann weaved through the German defence only to see Manuel Neuer dive low to save his right-foot shot.
But from that point on, Germany began to impose themselves and turn the screw.
Schweinsteiger was playing so deep that he practically became a third centre-half, but what the Manchester United players lacks in mobility he makes up for in the ability to dictate the tempo of the game and he ran the show for the Germans from the back.
Toni Kroos ahead of him provided the craft and the chances began to fall to Germany.
Griezmann’s second goal made France comfortable (Getty)
Thomas Muller guided a shot wide from Can’s cross and Hugo Lloris produced a full-stretch save to keep out Can’s 20-yard strike, but the Germans, for all their dominance, could not break through.
France struggled to threaten Germany’s defensive third, with Dimitri Payet and Pogba only able to warm Neuer’s hands with tame free-kicks from distance.
And when the hosts did break clear, with Olivier Giroud leading a counter-attack three minutes before half-time, the Arsenal forward’s alarming lack of pace, and awareness, enabled Benedikt Howedes to produce a crucial interception while the unmarked Griezmann was screaming for the pass ten yards to Giroud’s right.
But Griezmann had his moment three minutes later when he scored form the spot to put France ahead.
Rizzoli was certainly bold in awarding a penalty following Schweinsteiger’s challenge on Patrice Evra, which saw the German lead with his arm.
France celebrate their progression to Sunday’s final in Paris (France celebrate their progression to Sunday's final in Paris)
It was a soft decision, prompting German anger and a booking for Schweinsteiger, but Griezmann blanked out te furore to send Neuer the wrong way from the spot.
Germany were never going to lie down and accept defeat and France knew that the fightback would materialise quickly in the second-half, hence Les Bleus determined start after the interval.
Deschamps’ players attempted to kill the game in the opening moments and Giroud was given a clear chance to extend France’s lead on 47 minutes when he was set free by Pogba’s pass.
But once again, Giroud’s lack of speed in mind and body cost him his chance, with the forward’s long-awaited shot blocked by a Germany leg in the penalty area.
Griezmann was quick to turn it into a positive, with the Atletico Madrid striker gesticulating to the Marseille crowd, urging them to increase the decibel levels.
But Germany were unfazed, sticking to the game-plan of attempting to wear France down with possession of the ball as they built momentum in search of an opening.
Germany continued to knock hard, but they took their eye of the ball at the back and France pounced, doubling their lead on 72 minutes after Pogba dispossessed Joshua Kimmich and beat Shkodran Mustafi before crossing for Griezmann, who made the most of Neuer’s failure to catch the ball by stroking it into the net.
Two goals down, Germany now pushed hard to save the game and their performance was that of world champions.
Lloris’s goal was pounded by the Germans, with Kimmich hitting a post and Julian Draxler sending a free-kick inches wide.
Howedes then headed over from 12 yards before Lloris produced another stunning save from Kimmich’s stoppage time header.
It was all too late for the Germans, though. They had the power and possession, but France had Griezmann and he was the difference.
Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng, Howedes, Hector; Can, Schweinsteiger; Ozil, Kroos, Draxler; Muller.
France (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra; Pogba, Matuidi; Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet; Giroud.
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)