Germany relishing shot at another host in Euros

Ciaran Fahey
Associated Press

Evian-Les-Bains, France — Germany coach Joachim Loew is drawing on the experience of routing World Cup host Brazil 7-1 two years ago as he prepares for Thursday’s European Championship semifinal against France.

Germany went on to win the 2014 World Cup after embarrassing Brazil in the semifinal in Belo Horizonte and Loew is clearly relishing the adversity of facing another host nation bidding to reach the final.

“Super, when it’s like this. No really, it’s a motivation,” Loew said from his team’s tournament base on Monday. “In Brazil, I think it was exactly the same for the semifinal. The whole land of 200 million was standing behind this team. But we came through fine and now we’ll come through fine.”

Expectations in France are surging after the side impressed in defeating Iceland 5-2 on Sunday to reach the semifinal.

Loew said the home side will have “fanatical support behind them in Marseille” and that the team will be high on confidence after growing into the tournament by scoring decisive goals late in games.

“Two teams with outstanding individuals are playing, teams with a clear mindset,” said Loew, who had identified France as one of the main favorites before the tournament.

“They are different from the Italians, not quite so defensive. They have strong players going forward, (Paul) Pogba from midfield, (Blaise) Matuidi. So it’s a game of two teams at eye-level. It’s super that there are such games. I love these knockout games against such strong opponents.”

Of France’s three major titles, two were won on home soil - the European Championship in 1984 and World Cup in 1998. France followed up by winning Euro 2000 as world champion, a feat Germany is now trying to match despite the absence of several key players for Thursday’s match.

Midfielder Sami Khedira is out with a left groin injury and fellow midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger is doubtful after taking a knock to his right knee in Saturday’s quarterfinal win over Italy.

That 6-5 win on penalties came at a cost for Loew’s side. Striker Mario Gomez was ruled out for the rest of the tournament after tearing a muscle in his right thigh, while defender Mats Hummels was booked and will be suspended against France.

The unfortunate Gomez, who missed the World Cup win through injury-induced poor form, celebrates his 31st birthday on the day of the final.

Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Weigl or Liverpool’s Emre Can could step in if Schweinsteiger, whose season was disrupted by two serious injuries to the same knee, doesn’t recover in time.

“We’ll have to find solutions,” said Loew, who added that the win over Italy had taken a physical and mental toll on his side.

Mario Goetze could return for Gomez, or Thomas Mueller could move inside to lead the line despite his puzzling failure to score in 10 games over two European Championships. Mueller even missed a penalty in the shootout against Italy.

Loew said he wasn’t worried about the forward who contributed nine of Germany’s 24 goals in qualifying.

“The penalty would have done him good, but I know Thomas for a long time and he doesn’t let such things get to him. He says the important thing is that the team wins and he runs a huge amount for the team. I’ve the feeling that he’ll score when it really matters.”

Loew has helped Germany to reach six consecutive semifinals at major tournaments. Now the task is to reach a second successive final.

“We have respect for the French, but we know what we have to do, regardless of our personnel issues. I’m looking forward to the game like I was against Italy,” Loew said.