Out of nearly 95 minutes of regulation and injury time, Germany had the ball with them for a total of 62 minutes. But the 65% ball possession proved of no avail to them against the hosts, who fought hard. Germany had their chances but missed them. In a match that gave an impression of balance being tilted in Germany’s favor, the Frenchmen had the home advantage and fire in their bellies. Barring some initial moments, Germany pressurized France for nearly 40 minutes from start and took the field action in the French half. Yet, they couldn’t find the target. Mesut Ozil was brilliant in the mid-field, Thomas Muller looked threatening in front of the goal and Jerome Boateng solid in defense. But while the Germans failed to score, France got lucky. In the 45th minute, referee awarded a penalty to France for German captain Bastian Schweinsteiger’s unintentional handball. Antoine Griezmann stepped up and didn’t miss the target. Germany kept up the pressure in second session as well and created several goal-scoring chances but none could get converted. Griezmann doubled France’s lead in 72nd minute and transformed Marseille stadium into a place of massive celebrations. Now France has only Portugal between them and the 2016 Euro Cup title. On record, France have won the last two major tournaments they have hosted and now will forward to a third victory on Sunday.
The last time Germany and France played against each other was at Saint Denis on November 13, 2015. It was an international friendly that France won 2-0 but events on field were overshadowed by a ghastly terrorist attack in and around Paris including outside Stade de France. That night, while Griezmann played in the match, his sister Maud had gone for a show at Bataclan Concert Hall, which the terrorists had attacked with guns and grenades but Maud got lucky to be alive. For Euro 2016, security in the 10 venues had been exponentially beefed up and Thursday was no different.
The match began with Germany invading the French goal area straightaway. They played a smooth game, kept the ball with them and the passes were slick. But for once, France won back the possession and went for an attack in 8th minute. Matuidi cleverly used his back heel to send a flick in Griezmann’s path on the left flank. Griezmann collected cleanly and ran past a defender to enter the box but his right-footer was brilliantly blocked by Manuel Neuer. Afterwards, however, the Germans claimed back the possession and brought the action again in the French half. In 13th minute, Thomas Muller connected to a cross but the ball flew wide off the far post. Next minute, it was German invasion again. Emre Can sent a left-footer from just outside the box and French custodian Lloris had to make a diving save. Then Ozil got into another goal-scoring act. Somehow the French managed to avert these dangers. Another Ozil volley was blocked in the 30th minute with France barely able to touch the ball for long periods. Such was the German domination that even their two center-backs could enter the French half at will. In 37th minute, France got the possession for a while and they managed to win a free-kick. But Pogba’s attempt was easily cleared by Neuer. Just when the match was headed to a goalless halftime, France won a corner. Griezmann swung the ball in and Payet attempted a header but German captain Schweinsteiger had both his hands raised and Payet’s header struck his arm. It wasn’t an intentional handball but the referee pointed to the penalty spot much to the agony of the Germans. Antoine Griezmann could not miss for the world as he drove Neuer the wrong way. That also brought the halftime.
France began the second session in attacking mode. In 48th minute, Giroud had only Boateng to beat but his shot was blocked. Three minutes later, Griezmann moved in with another attack but his shot got deflected off Boateng for a corner. Within 10 minutes from halftime, Germany began playing in the French goal territory again. But despite all the good work by German players, one more goal was scored by France in the 72nd minute. Kimmich faltered with a back-pass and the ball was stolen by Pogba. The Frenchman didn’t shoot but kept the ball with him before sending a cross. Neuer came out forward but messed up with the block even as Griezmann found time to poke the ball into an empty net. With that, Griezmann also became tournament’s highest scorer with six goals. The 0-2 deficit became a bit too much for Germany, even though they kept the ball longer with them. With 10 minutes left, Leroy Sane replaced Schweinsteiger and almost found a goal for Germany. But the ball went wide for a corner, which was wasted. With two minutes remaining, Griezmann had another chance as he entered the box and shot hard. However, Neuer made a good save.
After 90 minutes, Griezmann came out to a standing ovation and paved the way for Yohan Cabaye in injury time. However, celebrations had already begun across France even as the final whistle took some time. Now France take on Ronaldo’s Portugal in the all-important final on Sunday while the world awaits for a new 2016 Euro Champion after Spain kept the trophy for 8 years.
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