Two European power-houses go head to head in the second EURO 2016 semi-final as France and Germany square off. With a Portugal side, who largely failed to sparkle until now, waiting in the wings, could we be looking at the overall winner emerging from the Marseille showdown?
Hosts France put up a dazzling performance to beat Iceland in the quarter-finals and despite their underdog status, Iceland were no push over. Their tiredness was showing but the determination and pride to represent their country kept them fighting to the end. On paper France had some star players going into this tournament, and they finally started showing glimpses of what they can do on the pitch. They will have to produce much more of that quality play to have a chance of beating Germany in the semi’s and making it through to the final on Sunday night.
Germany were taken all the way to penalties by Italy, a team “Die Mannschaft” had never beaten in a major tournament. Level at 1-1 after full time, the sides couldn’t be separated after extra time. The German reputation for penalty taking did not help as you might have expected. In a remarkable shoot-out, dubbed the best and worst in equal measure, it was only 3-3 after all five shots for both teams. The reigning world champions eventually prevailed winning 6-5 after nine shots by each country.
For many people, a last-four meeting of France versus Germany feels like this should be the final. Joachim Loew has some thinking to do about his team selection, having seen France’s performance against Iceland and the changes they made to play a game designed to combat the islanders’ line-up. Mats Hummels is suspended while Gomez and Khedira miss out through injury. Thomas Muller’s form in the tournament has so far fallen below his usual levels. Now would be the perfect time to put that right against a France side who’s frightening array of attacking talent, with Pogba, Payet, and Griezeman, looks like it is finally clicking.
Ronaldo and Portugal await in the final at the Stade de France. Wales were a team that surprised more than a few people to reach the semi-finals, but there is no denying they earned their place, dispatching Belgium 3 -1 after going one goal down early in the match along the way. Chris Coleman should rightly be proud of his side’s performances, and he has led the Dragons to their highest ever finish in a major tournament. They will go into the World Cup qualifiers full of confidence. Ireland beware.
Portugal’s route to the final has been a strange one. In the last eight, they were held to a 1-1 draw by Poland, and after extra time they still could not edge ahead, finally winning 5 -3 on penalties. Up until the semi-final, the Portuguese had not won any games in this tournament within normal time, and on those displays it has to be said they’ll need to improve their game to stand a chance against either France or Germany.
Going on form, Germany seem to be in the best position to beat France, also according to the odds provided by M88, although their penalty taking is bound to be a worry, especially if this game goes the distance. Whereas, if France continue to improve as they did against Iceland, the Germans could be in for a long night in Marseille.
As for the final, the winners of the Germany – France match look the stronger team, but much could depend on injuries and yellow cards, plus the unpredictable nature of these championships throughout history, not least the current competition where smaller nations have excelled. Anything can happen in football. Just look at Greece from 2004, and who were their opponents in the final? Portugal. As Eamon Dunphy said ahead of Ireland’s last 16 clash with the French, and which almost came to pass: what goes around comes around.