France must defy the weight of history as they attempt to sink Germany in the second semi-final of the Women’s European Championship.
Corinne Deacon’s France side have already had a colossal impact on the tournament in England, from when they scored five goals against Italy in the first half of their first group game.
It felt like a 45-minute statement, a message to their rivals that this France team is different from those that came before them. Although France haven’t quite reached those heights since, they have qualified for their first Women’s Euro semi-final, having fallen in the quarter-finals in each of the past three editions.
Coach Deacon made tough choices for this tournament, omitting star striker Eugénie Le Sommer and Champions League player of the match Amandine Henry, and Les Bleues suffered a blow when star striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto injured her ACL during the group stages.
It became imperative that the players Deacon trusted to play for the coach, and a 1-0 quarter-final victory over the Netherlands, guaranteed by Eve Perisset’s extra-time penalty, took France further than it has ever gone before.
However, and here’s the kicker, each of the last four semi-finalists for the first time fell at this hurdle: Spain (1997), Finland (2005), the Netherlands (2009) and Austria (2017). ).
To boot, Germany have advanced eight of their previous nine European Championship semi-finals, with the only defeat coming in 1993 to Italy.
France will face him in Milton Keynes, their opponents having not yet conceded a goal in this final.
Germany may not be at their peak, but their next goal will be Die Nationalelf’s 100th in the European Football Championship. No team has reached this benchmark yet.
Germany seeks to turn back time
German players need not look far to be reminded of their rich heritage in this tournament. Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg was a four-time European champion in her playing days, helping the national team win titles in 1989, 1991, 1995 and 1997.
A run of six consecutive European titles ended with a shock quarter-final exit in Denmark five years ago, and Voss-Tecklenburg was hired in November 2018 to lead the team forward.
She played 125 games for her country, scoring 27 goals and was twice German Footballer of the Year.
Germany cannot rely on their past glories once the whistle blows on Wednesday, although France will be aware of the illustrious history of their opponents.
This is the third clash of the Women’s Euro between Germany and France, and the two previous ones have made Germany’s way sound: 3-0 in 2005 and 5-1 in 2009, both in phase of groups.
There are players in Germany’s 2022 squad looking to live up to the exploits of past stars, and captain Alexandra Popp can become the first player to score in five consecutive Women’s Euro appearances when she line up against France. Her four goals so far put her squarely second in the Golden Boot race before the start of the semi-finals, one behind England’s Beth Mead.
Collectively, Germany have been solid and still haven’t conceded a goal after four games. Only Germany itself has kept five or more consecutive clean sheets in the history of this tournament (seven in a row between 2001 and 2005).
The French want a last fulfillment
The Wembley final awaits on Sunday, and France would love to be involved in this showpiece. They have won two of their last three internationals against Germany (L1), most recently a 1-0 friendly victory in June 2021.
Germany won on penalties when these teams met in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup, their last major clash in a tournament, but enough time has passed for that to have little bearing. .
Deacon is set to be rewarded with a new contract after this tournament, with French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet saying over the weekend that it was important to put that on the back burner for now.
Le Graet said, quoted in L’Equipe: “The competition is not over. Decisions are made when everything is over. It is logical that we will talk about it again soon. I am very happy with Corinne and the progress that has been made. The players and Corinne are very motivated and good together.”
If anything held France back it was their finishing, which might come as a surprise given how lethal they were in those opening 45 minutes against Italy.
In total, they managed 94 goal attempts but only scored nine times, with their shot conversion rate of 9.6% the lowest of the four semi-finalists before the start of the last four games.
Curiously, France scored eight of those nine goals in the first half of the games, and the other came in the first half of extra time as they knocked out the Dutch, who were the defending champions.