World Champions Germany have been ousted in the semifinal stage of the 2016 European Championships after suffering a 2-0 defeat at the hands of hosts France, as Antoine Griezmann stole the show at the Stade Velodrome, in Marseille, on Thursday.
These two goals now take Griezmann to the top of the goalscorer’s charts at the Euro 2016, as the Atletico Madrid forward has six goals to his name. His closest rivals in this regard, are Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Dimitri Payet, Olivier Giroud, Gareth Bale, and Alvaro Morata — all of whom have scored three goals each.
It was a disappointing night for Germany however, as Die Mannschaft succumbed to their fourth major semifinal defeat in the last decade. On that note, we at TheHardTackle take a look at five key talking points from France’s defeat of Germany.
The Antoine Griezmannshaft effect
Antoine Griezmann has by far been France’s best player from the match, as he scored a brace against the Germans to book a berth in the Euro 2016 finals berth, for France.
Les Bleus were awarded a penalty at the end of the first half, which the Atletico forward slotted away with great aplomb. He secured France’s victory over the Germans half-way into the second half, showing perfect poaching instinct as the slotted away a loose rebound into the German goal.
Although he had to do his defensive duties as the Germans were hogging possession of the ball, Griezmann had an action-packed night at the Stade Velodrome, completing five dribbles and lodging four shots on target. While playmaker Dimitri Payet had a rare quiet night, Griezmann stepped up to the plate and secured the win for Les Bleus.
The Penalty: Was it, or was it not?
A game that was billed as a virtual final was potentially marred by a contentious penalty decision by Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli. Juventus wing back Patrice Evra managed to get the jump on Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in the Germany box, as he headed a Griezmann corner towards goal. However, Schweinsteiger’s hand appeared to have obstructed Evra’s header, as Rizzoli promptly pointed to the spot.
This is one of those decisions where one may present a strong argument for either side. From France’s perspective, Schweinsteiger’s hand was blocking a potential shot on goal by Evra, which obviously would entitle the hosts to a spot kick.
Meanwhile, from Germany’s point of view, it is not unnatural for a player to raise his hands while attempting to jump (as Schweinsteiger was trying to do). To add to that, the Manchester United man was so close to Evra that he barely had any time to react to the Juventus defender’s header and remove his hand.
The penalty, and the goal that followed from it, definitely shaped the direction in which the match headed as France set out to defend their lead. Either way, this is one of those decisions that would probably be discussed for ages to come. Let us know what you think about Rizzoli’s decision in the poll below.
Possession isn’t everything
Germany had 68 per cent of possession of the ball during the entire game. However, they still failed to replicate the magnificent performance that they churned out against the Italians in the quarterfinal stage of the competition. While Germany played more than double the number of passes as France, the hosts relied more on a direct style of play, hitting the Germans on the counter.
In fact, other than one shot by Joshua Kimmich in the second half that rattled the French woodwork, the Germans never really looked like they would be able to penetrate their opponents’ defence. For all their possession, Germany (five) lodged fewer shots on target than France (six). They missed the physical presence of Mario Gomez.
With the number of technical players that Germany have in their side, Gomez would probably look like a misfit with the Mannschaft. However, his presence is crucial to the way the Joachim Low’s side play their football. With so many technical players weaving their pretty patterns around the pitch, Germany need Gomez’s physical presence inside the box to bully the opposition defenders, and challenge for the crosses.
Due to Gomez’s hamstring injury, Low had to play Thomas Muller up front, as a false no.9. However, unlike Gomez, Muller could not provide the physical presence inside the box. In fact, the Bayern Munich midfielder failed to win a single aerial duel during the entire game, as he was dominated inside the box.
The impregnable French defence
The French back four churned out a great performance against the Germans, who failed to pose any serious threat in their attacking third. France had started off with the combination of Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny and Sevilla centre back Adil Rami in defence, in the earlier parts of the tournament.
However, the latter’s suspension prompted head coach Didier Deschamps to deploy latest Barcelona signing Samuel Umtiti in the 5-2 quarterfinal victory against Iceland. Umtiti’s solid performance against Iceland earned him a place in the Germany match, alongside Koscielny.
The Barcelona man churned out another stellar performance against the Germans, as he justified the €25 million transfer fee paid by Barcelona to Olympique Lyon. Umtiti was instrumental in playing the ball out of the back, as the French looked to play on the counter. The 22-year-old had an incredible 89 per cent pass accuracy in the match.