Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Didier Deschamps praises France for repaying his faith but Joachim Low says the better side lost

Final clash with Portugal has sent France crazy: Deschamps

By Mark Ogden

Victorious Didier Deschamps claimed his France team has driven the nation 'crazy' after overcoming the odds to reach Sunday's Euro 2016 final against Portugal in Paris.

Two goals from Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann secured a 2-0 semi-final victory for France against world champions Germany in Marseille to confirm a final against Portugal at the Stade de France on Sunday.

The French overcame Germany at a major tournament for the first time since 1958 to claim their place in the final.

Deschamps, who captained France to World Cup glory in 1998, admitted that his team were forced to battle all the way against the Germans.

"We found it tough but we didn't give up," Deschamps said. "There is quality in this German team and when they don't have the ball it gets even more complicated. We had the best team in the world opposite us.

"But before we came to the stadium we saw people going crazy ­- they are going to be even crazier on Sunday."

Deschamps made a bold selection by leaving N’Golo Kante out of the team following the Leicester City midfielder’s one-match suspension.

But the decision to stick with Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba in midfield proved key before Griezmann made the difference with a first-half penalty and second-half strike, which took his tournament tally to six goals.

“I’ve always believed in my players,” Deschamps said.

“The ones I chose to form this group have repaid me handsomely, this is their story, their victory.

“There’s a lot of joy, happiness, pride. This match was tough, against a great team in the World champions, but our level never dropped.

“We suffered at times, but we won. It is fabulous, it is the final for us now.”

The game was a tale of clinical finishing triumphing over territorial advantage as Germany bossed the play for the majority of the game but struggled to create anything in the way of clear-cut chances. They enjoyed almost 70 per cent first-half possession in a performance of control and dominance which was lacking only a goal — and that proved to be their undoing.

It was all about Euro 2016 poster boy Griezmann, who enhanced his love affair with the French public with his double.

“I’m very pleased. We knew it would be very tough and we held firm defensively, our keeper played very well,” he said.

“We have to rest up well and already start thinking about the final.

“We will start training for it tomorrow. Against Portugal, it’s 50-50, anything can happen in a final, it’s a one-off game.”

France have now beaten Germany at a major tournament for the first time since 1958.

They have also kept their first major tournament clean sheet against the World champions.

Germany coach Joachim Low saw his team spurn a series of clear chances during the game at Stade Velodrome.

And he insisted he had no complaints about the performance, claiming Germany were the better team. “Not too many things went wrong,” Low said.

“I must compliment my side. We were the better team.

“We’ve put in a good performance, a powerful display.

“Conceding the goal a minute from half-time was unfortunate... of course we had our chances and, regretfully, we didn’t score.

“We just didn’t have the luck we needed here.

“But in 2010 or 2012 when we went out, the sides were better than us.

“Today this wasn’t the case. We were better than the French.

“The side did everything I asked of them. We had a lot of courage. I can’t blame them for anything.”

Low, meanwhile, has backed the French to emerge as European champions by defeating Portugal on Sunday.

“If you win 2-0 you deserve it, and I think the French will win against Portugal,” Low said.

“Portugal, in the games so far, have not convinced me that much.

“But I think the French are a very good side, even if we were the better team today.”

Germany have failed to follow France and Spain in doing the double of holding the European Championship and World Cup at the same time.

They have been the scourge of host countries in the past, defeating six at the semi-final stage in major tournaments, including England at Euro ‘96 and, most memorably, thrashing hosts Brazil 7-1 at the 2014 World Cup.

But they have lost four of their last six semi-finals at major tournaments (2006, 2010, 2012, 2016).

Belfast Telegraph