Marseille, July 8 (IANS) Antoine Griezmann scored a brilliant brace to power hosts France to a comfortable 2-0 win over Germany in the semi-finals of the European Championship here and set up a final showdown against Portugal on Sunday.
The hosts on Thursday survived a barrage of German pressure in the first half before Griezmann’s penalty gave them a lead just before the break, before doing pretty much the same in the second until the Atletico Madrid forward struck again to put the game beyond the reigning World Champions.
Euro 2016’s top goalscorer, Griezmann took his tally to six goals on Thursday after his country defeated Germany at a major tournament for the first time since 1958.
After winning their first major semi-final appearance since the 2006 World Cup, Didier Deschamps’ side will be favourites to win the title as they look to seal glory having won their two previous Euro finals.
For the semi-final clash, the German side was reshuffled due to the absences of Mario Gomez, Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira.
France began the contest by picking up where they left off in their 5-2 quarter-final triumph over Iceland, dominating for the first 10 minutes. But goalkeeper Manuel Neuer made a great stop on Griezmann to ensure that Germany withstood the early onslaught, giving the reigning World Cup champions time to pull themselves together.
The resurgent Germans forced France back into their own zone and would have drawn blood but for a pair of excellent saves by keeper Hugo Lloris, while France’s best chance came to nothing thanks to Benedict Höwedes’ expert tackle of Olivier Giroud.
In the match that saw him crowned the most-capped European player at major tournaments, Bastian Schweinsteiger denied Patrick Evra the chance to head at goal with his arm from close range after Griezmann’s corner.
The referee had no hesitation in awarding France a spot-kick and Griezmann calmly guided the ball past Neuer, who went the wrong way.
Germany suffered yet another huge blow when key centre-back, Jerome Boateng, limped off after an hour.
Despite the first goal, Germany continued to have the best of possession but failed to sneak past the French defence.
With 18 minutes remaining in the tie, a mistake from Joshua Kimmich inside his own penalty area was pounced upon by French midfielder Paul Pogba. A clever footwork left Shkodran Mustafi for dead before Pogba set up a cross that was parried by Neuer, and Griezmann was first on the scene to prod home his sixth goal of the tournament.
Following the second of the night for France, there was no looking back for the hosts as they held on well to not allow Germany to score and eventually kept a clean sheet and book a date with Portugal in final at home soil.
France head coach Didier Deschamps heaped praises on match-winner Griezmann.
“He’s (Griezmann) a great player and he proved that against Germany, he works very hard, along with Olivier Giroud from a defensive perspective he made us a very compact unit,” Deschamps was quoted as saying by goal.com.
Griezmann’s six goals at a single European Championship is bettered only by countryman Michel Platini’s nine-goal haul at Euro 1984, while the 25-year-old has now scored as many goals for France at the Euros as Thierry Henry (six).
Deschamps praised his side for ending their 58-year long drought against Germany and now has his sights firmly set on Euro 2016 glory.
“We’ve already written history. It was a long time since we’d beaten Germany but that didn’t mean anything today,” the coach added.
On the other hand, Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew said that too many things went wrong for his side.
Even though Loew admitted the mistakes by his players, he claimed that his side was better than the French.
“Too many things went wrong but I must give a great compliment to the team, we were the better side. We gave a lot and had a body language of power. It was unfortunate that we conceded the goal, that was bad luck, the ball touched the hand a minute before half-time,” Loew said.
We had our chances, regretfully we didn’t score. We didn’t have the luck we needed but in 2012 (European Championship semi-final loss to Italy) or 2010 (World Cup semi-final loss to Spain) when we went out, the side that beat us were better than us. Today that wasn’t the case, we were better than the French,” the head coach added.