France play Germany on Thursday at the Stade Vélodrome in the second semi-final at Euro 2016 and we foresee a spirited French challenge to be just enough in order for them to record their first competitive win over Die Mannschaft since 1958.
France have hosted a vibrant European Championship and the play of their national team seems to have been inspired by the electric atmosphere that has been present in the country over the last three weeks.
Didier Deschamps’ men secured top-spot in Group A with wins against Romania and Albania as well as a draw against Switzerland. In the last 16 they came from behind to beat Ireland 2-1.
Their match-up with Iceland in the quarter-finals showcased everything that is good about this French side.
Hugo Lloris made some superb reflex saves in goal, and while the back four of Bacary Sagna, Samuel Umtiti, Laurent Koscielny and Patrice Evra did concede two goals, it was only once the outcome had already been confirmed. In the opening stages, when they needed to be tight and solid, they were.
The creative midfield contingent of Dimitri Payet, Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba and Moussa Sissoko moved the ball around effortlessly and at a great tempo. They manufactured chances at will and were able to hold onto possession for long periods of time when they opted to slow things down. The form of Payet and Pogba is particularly encouraging.
Up front, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann looked menacing as the spearheads of every French offensive. The result of all this was a 5-2 demolition of a team that England never came close to breaking-down.
Crucially, France have goals in them. They have scored 11 at the tournament compared to Germany’s seven. That could be the difference between the teams on Thursday. Thomas Müller, Germany’s go-to goal scorer since 2010, has struggled at Euro 2016 and is yet to find the back of the net. Against top opposition, it will be fascinating to see if the team will be able to find goals from elsewhere.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s men are World Champions having won the 2014 FIFA World Cup that was staged in Brazil. However, two years later, while still absolutely good enough to compete, the team is not quite the ruthless force it once was.
Without being overly convincing, they have endured a steady Euro 2016 with two wins and a draw in the group stages. In the last 16 they were far too much for a poor Slovakia who they dismantled 3-0. After eight consecutive defeats to Italy at major tournaments, in the quarter-finals, Germany finally got one over the Azzurri.
However, somewhat ironically, that historic performance left more answers than questions. The match was decided by penalties. Traditionally clinical in shoot-outs, many of the German players looked skittish and uncertain when it was their turn to fire from the spot. Müller, Mesut Özil and Schweinsteiger all missed. And that could be a sign of the times.
Further proof that this German side has vulnerabilities was their inability to close out the game after leading 1-0. It is hard to imagine the 2014 crop requiring extra-time and penalties from that situation.
Fueled by the hopes of a nation and driven by a talented group players who are in the prime of their careers, we have France to win this one in regular time.