Football fans are surely in for a treat as European heavyweights Germany and France clash at the Stade Vélodrome on Thursday evening.
It’s a game that’s befitting of a final. In fact, several of these knock-out ties would have been an epic ultimate clash. In the round of 16, Euro 2012 finalists Spain and Italy locked horns. In the quarter-finals, the Azzurri squared off against Germany. And now, in the semi-finals, Euro 2016’s hosts France take on the reigning World Cup champions.
The winner of this match, of course, will head to the Stade de France on Sunday. And despite this not being a final, there will be plenty of history and star quality on display as these two footballing giants battle for a spot in Sunday’s concluding clash.
Both France and Germany are coming into this game having experienced different tournament so far. Les Bleus started off slowly, no doubt about that. Didier Deschamps’s men were far from impressive in their group, but they finished top as expected. Since then, the hosts have been steadily improving – albeit Germany will be their toughest opponent so far.
Germany, on the other hand, have yet to really hit top form. Die Mannschaft had a solid, but not spectacular group stage campaign. As expected, they cruised to a win over debutants Slovakia. And it’s never easy to beat Italy – especially if one has never done so in an actual competitive fixture.
The concern is fatigue. Germany had to play 120 minutes and then go to spot-kicks to finally see off the Azzurri. Furthemore, Joachim Low will have some major selection headaches. Mats Hummels is out suspended. Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez are also definitely out. Given Gomez’s solid showings – and Thomas Muller’s poor ones – so far, that is a serious cause of concern. However, skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger has reportedly been cleared to feature.
For France, only Olivier Giroud could be in doubt after suffering a knock, but the Arsenal man is expected to shake it off in time for the game. Giroud has been maligned by his own people at times during this tournament, but he has been pretty solid and a reliable option up front for Les Bleus.
So, in this titanic clash, who looks better? Germany may be still struggling to hit top form, but France haven’t beaten them since 1958. They’ve lost their last three meetings, including at the 2014 World Cup. Les Bleus also have yet to keep a clean sheet against die Mannshcaft, but this will be their first ever Euro match-up.
Germany also have reached the semi’s in each of their past six tournaments. No other European side can match this. And although they missed three penalties against Italy, they have not lost in a spot-kick shoot-out since the 1976 World Cup final to Czechoslovakia.
However, the Stade Vélodrome has been a good venue for France, who have lost just one out of their past 12 fixtures there (eight wins, three draws). Antoine Griezmann, meanwhile, has scored four and assisted two – so he’s a good lock for the Golden Boot, but will want to extend his lead over Cristiano Ronaldo.
This will be an epic fixture to miss, and whoever wins will set up a clash with Portugal in Sunday’s final. Will it be the hosts France? Or will Germany be the ones to try to stop Cristiano Ronaldo and company this weekend?