France ousts nemesis Germany
Marseille, France — Antoine Griezmann scored twice as France beat world champion Germany 2-0 on Thursday to line up a European Championship final against Portugal.
Griezmann put France in front from the penalty spot in stoppage time at the end of the first half and then took full advantage of a German defensive blunder to score his second with a calm finish in the 72nd minute.
France reached its first final for a decade and is chasing its first major trophy since Euro 2000. Germany missed its chance to add the European title to the World Cup it won in 2014.
Griezmann has now scored six goals at Euro 2016 - twice as many as any other player at the tournament - and could have completed a hat trick on a break in the 86th but shot straight at goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
“We’re very happy,” Griezmann said. “We have to keep our feet on the ground. We still have a match to go.”
Germany had gone 50 years unbeaten against host nations at major tournaments, dating back to its loss to England in the 1966 World Cup final and encompassing a famous 7-1 humbling of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semifinals.
While a repeat of the Brazil rout was never on the cards, Germany could have scored more than once as it dominated the first half. But it was denied by poor shooting from Thomas Mueller, who ended his tournament scoreless, and a save by Hugo Lloris to block Emre Can’s bouncing shot.
France took the lead from the penalty spot after Bastian Schweinsteiger handled the ball in an aerial challenge with Patrice Evra.
Griezmann stepped up to score, striking the penalty hard to Neuer’s right.
“I really wanted to take a penalty in a big match like that. I was very composed, I didn’t think twice,” Griezmann said.
It was the second time in as many games that Germany had given away a spot-kick for handball. Jerome Boateng blocked the ball with an arm above his head in the quarterfinal against Italy.
“It’s just bad luck, just an unlucky action,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said of the penalty. “In a challenge, when you’re jumping, there are movements that you can’t really control.”
Trailing in a match for the first time in the tournament, Germany could not recover its previous dominance after halftime. It then had to cope with losing key defender Boateng, who picked up an ankle injury after an hour.
The German defense had not conceded from open play all tournament, but it fell apart for Griezmann’s second goal in the 72nd minute. A sluggish pass by Benedikt Hoewedes to right back Joshua Kimmich was cut out by Paul Pogba and Neuer could only palm away the midfielder’s cross to Griezmann, who finished with ease.
Germany responded well and could have pulled one back when Kimmich hit the post, before Julian Draxler sent a free-kick narrowly wide and Hoewedes headed over.
“We had chances to come back,” Neuer said. “We played a good European Championship and it’s very bitter to go out.”
Loew insisted his team had played better than France but had been denied by “bad luck,” including the injuries and suspensions that hit four key players — Boateng, as well as defender Mats Hummels, midfielder Sami Khedira and forward Mario Gomez, with the latter three missing the game.
Loew, who is under contract until the 2018 World Cup, said he was not sure of his future.
France, while not always reassuring in defense, came through victorious in its first game of the tournament against genuinely top-class opposition.
There had been questions over the French back line after conceding twice against Iceland in the quarterfinals, but coach Didier Deschamps opted to leave his team unchanged. Inexperienced center-back Samuel Umtiti kept his place in the team despite Adil Rami’s return from suspension.
Umtiti rewarded Deschamps with a commanding performance, including stopping a likely goal in the 32nd when he dispossessed Mueller as the German forward shaped to shoot in front of goal.
With their team 2-0 ahead, French fans made the “Marseillaise” ring around the Marseille stadium as some German fans began to head for the exits.
After the final whistle, France’s jubilant players celebrated with the fans by performing the “Huh” chant made famous at the tournament by Iceland.
Across France and in the French team, the attention was firmly on the diminutive Griezmann after another electrifying performance on home soil.
“He’s our little man that gives us that bit extra,” said teammate Olivier Giroud.