We’ve covered the unexpected half of the final four of the Euros in Portugal and Wales. Now it’s time to look at two of the teams many expected to get to this stage, Germany and France. The winner of this tie would almost certainly be favourite in the final, although neither side would take anything for granted should they advance to that stage.
The route to the final four has been relatively straightforward for Germany, barring the comedy of a penalty shootout against Italy. Thankfully for the Germans, Italy seemed intent on providing the most laughs. Zaza in particular was on fine form, with the worst penalty run-up since, well, ever. The decision to bring him on to take a penalty is unlikely to be Antonio Conte’s best decision. Chelsea fans will hope so anyway.
Other that the Italy game, however, Germany haven’t conceded once. It’s an extraordinary testament to Joachim Loew’s defence, which just seems to get more and more ruthless with each passing tournament. Jerome Boateng has been phenomenal, as has Mats Hummels. None of it is surprising though.
After a steady, if underwhelming start against Ukraine and Poland, the fact that the Northern Ireland game only finished 1-0 to the Germans will always be a mystery. The Slovakia game in the last sixteen saw the Germans truly come alive, and also taught England a thing or two about breaking down a stubborn defence in style.Some might say that Italy had provided the only true test for the Germans so far, which could well be a fair point. France will be an even bigger test, particularly with the French on home soil, but if there’s one thing German teams do, it’s turn up in the semi-finals.
But what about France? If any team is going to topple the Germans, then surely it is France, especially with home advantage. Will there be a better opportunity than Euro 2016?
As expected, they’ve been quite the force, with everything seeming to culminate nicely in their 5-2 defeat of plucky Iceland. Much like Germany’s annihilation of Slovakia, that result somehow heightened England’s embarrassment. I’ll try and move on though, I promise…
The likes of Dimitri Payet, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann have been sensational for France, providing ten goals between the three of them. The only problems lie in defence, with the French leaking some preventable goals against poorer opposition. Playing positively is their best bet, particularly if they’re to break down the most stubborn defence in Europe. With the best attack in Europe though, it can certainly be done.
Despite some last gasp moments of relief in the group stages against Romania and Albania and a blank against Switzerland, France have lived up to expectations. The win against Ireland could have and probably should have been greater, but the Iceland game saw the side reach their full potential. If Germany are yet to reach their full potential, then the game on Thursday should be a thriller.
Portugal 3-1 Wales
France 2-0 Germany