Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Griezmann fires France to brink of glory against Germany

France 2-0 Germany

Done and dusted: Antoine Griezmann pokes home his and France’s second to see off the challenge of Germany and earn a place in the Euro 2016 final
Done and dusted: Antoine Griezmann pokes home his and France’s second to see off the challenge of Germany and earn a place in the Euro 2016 final

By Mark Ogden

It has taken France 58 years to defeat Germany when it matters on the 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, he took his tally for this tournament to six - moving him clear of Zinedine Zidane and second only to Michel Platini in the French scoring charts at European Championships - and 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 smiling kid next door who has enchanted France and ensured the backing of a sceptical nation whose part-time love for the team has now become a full-blown affair once again.

The son of a French father and Portuguese mother will now face Portugal 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 Les Bleus, with the 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.

Not since the 1958 World Cup, when Just Fontaine scored four goals in a 6-3 third-fourth place play-off victory 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 in the quarters two years ago as the Germans progressed to a fourth World title.

It was men against boys in the sense of Germany knowing how to go the distance, but France coach Didier Deschamps - captain of Aime Jacquet's 1998 World Cup winners - was determined to be bold.

Having won the tactical battle in the first-half, Low saw his team dominate possession after surviving a seventh-minute near miss when Griezmann weaved through only to see Manuel Neuer save low.

But from that point on, Germany began to impose themselves and turn the screw.

Thomas Muller guided a shot wide from Emre Can's cross and Hugo Lloris produced a full-stretch save to keep out Can's 20-yard strike.

When the hosts did break, with Olivier Giroud leading a counter-attack three minutes before half-time, the forward's lack of pace, and awareness, enabled Benedikt Howedes to produce a key block while the unmarked Griezmann was screaming for the pass.

But Griezmann had his moment three minutes later when he scored from the spot. Nicola Rizzoli was bold in awarding a penalty following Bastian Schweinsteiger's challenge on Patrice Evra, which saw the German lead with his arm. It was soft, but Griezmann blanked out the furore to send Neuer the wrong way.

Germany continued to knock hard in the second-half, but they took their eye off the ball and France pounced, doubling their lead on 72 minutes after Paul 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 poking home.

Lloris' goal was pounded, with Kimmich hitting a post and Julian Draxler sending a free-kick inches wide.

Howedes then headed over before Lloris produced another stunning save from Kimmich.

It was all too late for the Germans.

They had the power and possession, but France had Griezmann and he was the difference.

FRANCE: Lloris, Sagna, Koscielny, Umtiti, Evra, Pogba, Matuidi, Sissoko, Griezmann (Cabaye 90), Payet (Kante 71), Giroud (Gignac 78).

Goals: Griezmann (pen 45), 72

Substitutes not used: Jallet, Rami, Martial, Schneiderlin, Mangala, Mandanda, Digne, Coman, Costil.

GERMANY: Neuer, Kimmich, Boateng (Mustafi 60), Howedes, Hector, Can (Gotze 67), Schweinsteiger (Sane 79), Ozil, Kroos, Draxler, Muller.

Goals: none

Substitutes not used: Schurrle, Podolski, Leno, Weigl, Tah, Gotze, Ter Stegen.

Bookings: France: Evra, Kante. Germany: Can, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Draxler.

Man of the match: Antoine Griezmann (France)

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

Attendance: 64,078

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