Have you ever seen Germany gazumped? No, because usually they are the ones doing the gazumping. But last night, it was France who stole the semi final from right under Germany’s noses. It was Antoine Griezmann playing the Artful Dodger, deftly picking the German pockets and helping the host nation reach the Euro final.
After a bright opening for France which ended with a Griezmann shot being saved by the keeper, Germany proceeded to dominate the game, overrunning the French in midfield to create attack after attack. Somehow France repelled them, though it seemed only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. And then the completely unfathomable happened. Germany gave away a penalty just before half time. Yes that’s right, the Germans, those eternal paragons of self-discipline, gave away a penalty at a crucial moment. Bastian Schweinsteiger was the culprit, inexplicably flinging his hand in the path of the ball, just as Jerome Boateng had done in the last 16, to allow the Italians to equalise 12 minutes from the end and eventually take the match to penalties. To do it once might have been unfortunate; to do so twice was sheer carelessness. Germany don’t normally do careless; they leave that to everyone else. Germany’s uncharacteristic mistake enabled Antoine Griezmann, who had been carrying the French attack single handed, to step up to the spot and fire France into an unexpected lead.
If France had metaphorically stolen the lead in the first half, they literally stole the second goal 18 minutes from the end to put the match beyond Germany. A wretched first touch from young German defender Kimmich in his own penalty area allowed Pogba to nip in and steal the ball for France, wrong foot substitute defender Mustafi with a bit of cunning trickery and cross dangerously into the box. Neuer could only punch the ball straight to – yep, you guessed it – Griezmann, who cleverly toe poked it into the net. Merci et au revoir Allemagne!
Germany have been the bane of hosting teams at major tournaments, defeating six of them at the semi final stage (yes, including England at Euro 96). But not this time. The troublesome guests were finally booted out empty handed by their cheeky French hosts. Vive la France!