It was a sight to behold when the massive French army in the stands celebrated with the players — in an Icelandic manner — after Antoine Griezmann scored a brace to beat Germany 2-0 in Stade Velodrome as France made it to another final on home soil.
The last time the two teams had met was in November which was marred by the unspeakable horrors of the Islamic State. French won then too – the joy of winning although was nowhere – but this win overjoyed each French heart and the stadium rumbled with their songs and chants.
The win ended France’s 58 years of competitive torment as Germany had dominated the territory since the 1958 World Cup and France had never won a competitive game against their neighbours, including the semi-finals defeats of 1982 and 1986 World Cups and the quarter-finals just two years ago.
Despite Germany dominating most part of the gameplay and having the higher number in
possession, it was the unabated, thundering, ferocious cacophony of the stadium that made the difference — of course, taking nothing away from the hard work of the national squad.
France, who have won the last two major tournaments that they hosted, will go for their third against Portugal in Stade de France on Monday. It will be a clash between Madrid stars yet again, only this time between the strikers of the two different Madrid clubs.
Germany came into the game wounded with two of their starters Mario Gomez and Sami Khedira out due to injuries and Mats Hummels suspended. To top that, Jerome Boateng got injured – apparently pulled a hamstring – within a few minutes of the second half. The entire first half was dominated by Germany as they held the possession and played around with the ball giving a hard time to the French defence.
After playing with an entirely different formation against Italy, Germany looked comfortable to be back in their routine formation and made good advancements. In the 21st minute, Toni Kroos did some wonderful work in the French penalty area only to have his shot saved. Blaise Matuidi looked strong at the back as his crucial intervention in the 32nd minute to Joshua Kimmich’s shot helped France survive a scare.
France got two free kicks in the first half from good positions but both Dimitri Payet and Paul Pogba couldn’t get enough power and precision to it and made it a routine save for Manuel Neuer.
Just when it seemed like both the teams would settle for a 0-0 scoreline at half time, Bastian Schweinsteiger made a deadly error in the 45th minute as he tried to make himself big against Patrice Evra in the box and ended up conceding a penalty via handball.
As the second half began, France, lifted up from their half time goal, began brightly with Oliver Giroud and Griezmann showed good understanding up front. In the 62nd minute, Griezmann took a deep corner kick that Laurent Koscielny headed just over.
Against the run of play in the 73rd minute, Kimmich poorly lost the ball to Pogba in the German box only for Pogba to show his dancing feet on the left and send a cross in the centre.
Both Giroud and Neuer jumped to get to the ball but a rare Neuer blunder left the ball for Griezmann who poked it in. Germany looked to come back in the game but never really came close. The closest they came was in the stoppage time when Lloris made a magnificent save to a Gotze header on the right.
The save wrapped up the German story in the Euro 2016 as they failed to produce the sharpness and ‘machine-like’ brilliance they displayed in the World Cup. France big adieu to the world champions as it erupted to laud the home victory.