Hugo Lloris backstops Les Bleus to the Euro 2016 Final as it finishes Germany 0-2 France in Marseille.
France advanced to the Euro 2016 Final with an impassioned display. Roared on by a partisan home crowd, they proved that possession is nothing without attacking precision. Rapid counter attacks saw them create the better chances with the score Germany 0-2 France at the final whistle.
Fast France start
With the crowd willing them on and the wind in their sails, France flew out of the traps. They were pressing high and playing with a fervent energy. The strength and power of their midfield fuelled it. Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Moussa Sissoko were strong, quick and dominating the ball, allowing the skill players, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann, to go to work.
It saw them create the first real chance. Matuidi tearing forward to exchange passes twice with Griezmann to put him through the German defence. On his unfavoured right foot, he forced Manuel Neuer in to a save low down from his scuffed shot.
France were buoyant and Germany rocking. It looked as if it might be a long night for them, but after just five minutes, France’s intensity dropped and Germany were able to gain a foothold in the game.
The reason was Toni Kroos. Originally stationed to the left of a triangular midfield trio, Kroos dropped deeper to play nearer Bastian Schweinsteiger. This helped Germany’s defence relieve pressure by having two players to pass towards to break the first French line of pressing. It also got Germany’s best passer on the ball.
As Germany gained possession and moved the ball more freely, Kroos could get up the field. This allowed him to dictate play, getting the ball to their full backs or to Julian Draxler and Mesut Ozil drifting inside from their wide starting positions.
Draxler and Ozil’s movement was stealthy. It pulled France’s full backs and wide midfielders inside, making their defensive shape very narrow. After the initial burst of five minutes, France effectively became a 4-4-2 low block defensive unit playing on the counter attack.
They would shuttle across to the side of the field that the ball went to in order to close Germany down. Playing narrow and tracking the inside runners allowed Germany’s full backs, Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich, to play extremely high up and in space. France were prepared to give this space to them. They allowed them to cross and dealt with the consequences. Germany were without a true number nine and Thomas Muller has been so out of form this tournament that France backed themselves against him.
It wasn’t just Toni Kroos that was forcing France back. Jerome Boateng’s distribution of the ball was just about impeccable to deliver it to the full backs in extremely advanced areas.
After being quickly closed down to start the match, Boateng came more and more in to the game as Germany established control. Given increased time and freedom by Kroos’ deeper positioning to alleviate France’s early energetic start, Boateng was finding his targets with unerring accuracy.
Joshua Kimmich was often his focal point on the right with 15 successful passes, most of which were in to the final third. A further six went diagonally out to left back Jonas Hector, as he spread the play to get Germany moving down this side too.
When Boateng went off injured in the second half, Germany lost a lot of their flow and the ability to build attacks towards the flanks with one swift pass.
France left v Germany right
Much of the first half was fought down the French left side, Germany’s right.
This was the strong side of Germany’s attack with Mesut Ozil drifting off the line and Joshua Kimmich gaining the space. France had the ageing Patrice Evra and the defensively limited Dimitri Payet on this flank and they struggled to contain them. If Kimmich had completed more than 1 of his 7 attempted crosses then the story may well have been different.
France were defensively weak on this side, but managed to create some successful raids forward. Antoine Griezmann’s early chance had come from this flank. Olivier Giroud had rumbled through only to be denied by the sliding Benedict Howedes.
Right on half time, an innocuous corner was gained. Patrice Evra had got himself up the field and sent in a deep cross towards the back post. Jonas Hector unwittingly put it out for a corner with time and space to deal with it.
Germany defended it with their usual zonal system. Four men across the six yard box to deal with high aerial balls. They were screened by three men in front to act as a shield to stave off and hinder any attacking runs.
Driven in low and hard, the ball went towards the penalty spot. Germany’s three man shield was in place to handle this. However, Samuel Umtiti’s run attracted Thomas Muller, leaving Bastian Schweinsteiger to deal with Patrice Evra.
First to the ball, Evra got his head on it, but Schweinsteiger was late to react. He ended up using a forearm to try and hinder him. The ball hit his hand, penalty.
Antoine Griezmann coolly converted the spot kick. France were heading in to the interval with an unlikely 1-0 lead.
Same again second half
Germany had been incredibly dominant of the ball. After the frantic start, this was an excellent way to take the crowd out of the match and establish the game on their terms. However, they had been progressing the ball excellently up to the penalty area, but lacked the precision to carve out good clear-cut chances.
Playing this well, it didn’t warrant changing and the second half took much of the same pattern as the first. Germany were dominating the ball, looking for their full backs in space. France were defending deep, narrow, shifting their low block to each side of the pitch and counter attacking.
It was only when Jerome Boateng was forced off with an injury that Germany began to lose their way. They missed him spraying the ball in one pass to both full backs and his defensive strength. Shkodran Mustafi replaced him and Germany’s back line began to look disjointed and didn’t have the attacking menace that Boateng initiated.
France began to get better counter attacking opportunities. They added a second as they set about a counter attack and Germany’s patched up defensive organisation crumbled.
Schweinsteiger won the ball back from the counter attack, but then made a risky pass across his box. Mustafi told him to to clear it, but Howedes tried to play out towards Kimmich. He then turned inside when he should’ve gone the other way. His heavy touch took him right back in to traffic and Paul Pogba seized upon the ball.
Mustafi then compounded the errors by jumping in on Pogba, allowing the Frenchman to nip the ball away from him and chip it back across the box. The normally assured Manuel Neuer then tried to come for the ball. It seemed as if Neuer was trying to flick it over Giroud and gather the other side. However, he pawed it straight to Griezmann who stabbed it back between his legs and in to the goal. Scruffy, but opportunistic, it was now Germany 0-2 France with just 19 minutes to play.
Germany dispensed with holding midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and brought on Leroy Sane. It almost paid instant dividends as he was in a pile of players that sent Toni Kroos’ free-kick rolling just past the post.
Going with Sane up top and Muller just off him started to pay rewards for Germany’s crossing game. They suddenly had more men in the box and their players started to get to the balls in. Howedes headed over, Gotze just wide and Kimmich brought a brilliant one-handed stretching save from the cat-like Hugo Lloris.
The change also got Germany moving quicker through the middle of the pitch. Free kicks were won in good positions, as they were able to force fouls. Draxler and Kroos, however, were both unable to beat the agile Lloris.
The removal of Schweinsteiger opened up the pitch for France too. Counter attacks were now increasing and Griezmann could’ve added a third. Blazing past Mustafi saw him shoot straight at Manuel Neuer with the chance of getting his hat trick.
Griezmann left the field to a deserved standing ovation with the score Germany 0-2 France, having sent his side through to Sunday’s final.
Germany 0-2 France overall
Germany did almost everything right. They took the crowd out of the game by dominating the ball and forced France to retreat. Their build-up play was crisp and incisive, but they lacked precision and a true number nine once they reached the penalty area.
France’s low block approach showed Germany too much respect, but they had an assassin in their ranks who thrives off counter attacking opportunities. Antoine Griezmann has been doing that all season and his excellent spatial awareness was once again the difference.
Final score Germany 0-2 France.