Hosts France meet Germany in Marseille this evening for the right to meet Portugal in Sunday’s European Championship Final in Paris.
Les Bleus’ class of 2016 are tantalisingly close to emulating the 1984 side that won the tournament on home soil, but world champions Germany will provide easily their toughest test yet.
The winners of tonight’s game at the Stade Vélodrome will undoubtedly be favourites to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy on Sunday, so the pressure on both sides will be immense.
Remarkably, the French are unbeaten in their last 17 major tournament matches played on home soil and have won 15 of those. They’ve taken a while to fire at EURO 2016, but Sunday’s 5-2 demolition of Iceland will have greatly lifted their confidence.
Whether they’re truly battle hardened after knockout games against the Republic of Ireland and Iceland is debatable, but they’re likely to be fresher than a German side that needed penalties to overcome Italy in a fierce battle on Saturday.
Surprisingly, France and Germany have never met in a European Championship before, but there’s still plenty of history between them thanks largely to four World Cup clashes. The most recent of these was a quarter-final clash just two years ago in Brazil, when an early Mats Hummels header proved enough to send Germany into the semi-finals.
France have won only one of those four competitive fixtures, but have won 12 of all 27 meetings as opposed to Germany’s 10. This includes a 2-0 home victory last November when Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac netted the goals at the Stade de France.
Fans of Les Bleus looking for a good omen ahead of the game can reflect on the fact that they’ve made the final of the last three major tournaments where they’ve reached the semi-finals.
For Germans, well they will take great confidence from the fact that they’ve eliminated the hosts of a major tournament on no less than seven occasions, with six of those being in semi-finals. Most recently they famously hammered hosts Brazil 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup semi-final.
Should the game be level after 120 minutes, Die Mannschaft will fancy their chances having won their last six penalty shootouts in major tournaments. That being said, they were lucky to beat Italy on spot-kicks in the quarter-final after missing three of their nine attempts.
Both countries have a rich history in the tournament with Germany having won three Championships whilst France have lifted the trophy on two occasions.
Germany coach Joachim Low is without the suspended Hummels and has key injury concerns ahead of this semi-final clash.
Striker Mario Gomez has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament and Sami Khedira is also absent. Low was boosted on Wednesday though when fellow midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger returned to training after hurting his knee against Italy.
Meanwhile Didier Deschamps has a full squad to choose from in Marseille as Adil Rami and N’Golo Kante return from suspension.
Leicester’s Kante is likely to replace Moussa Sissoko in midfield, whilst Rami may come back in for Samuel Umtiti, though the FC Barcelona-bound defender impressed against Iceland and could keep his place.
FIFA World Ranking: France – 17th; Germany – 4th
Best European Championship Finish: France – Winners (1984, 2000) Germany – Winners (1972, 1980, 1996)
Previous Meeting: France 2-0 Germany – November 13, 2015 (International friendly)
Form: France – WWWDWW; Germany – WWDWWW
Key Men: France – Dimitri Payet; Germany – Mesut Ozil
Shoot Says: France 2-1 Germany (After extra-time)