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 team has already had a colossal impact on the tournament in Englandfrom when they smashed five goals against Italy in the first half of their opening group game.
It felt like a 45 minute statement, a message to their rivals that this French team is different from those that preceded it. Although France haven’t quite reached those heights since, they qualified for their first Women’s Euro semi-final, after falling in the quarterfinals in each of the last three editions.
Coach Deacon has made tough choices for this tournament, omitting star striker Eugenie Le Sommer and the Champions League player of the match. Amandine Henryand Les Bleues suffered a blow when the star striker Marie Antoinette Katoto suffered an ACL injury during the group stages.
It became imperative that the players Deacon trusted perform delivered for coachand a 1-0 quarter-final victory over the Netherlands, guaranteed by Eve Perisset’s extra-time penalty, took France further than ever.
1 – France qualified for their first semi-final in their history at the Women’s Euro, winning a quarter-final in the competition for the first time after three straight eliminations at this stage. Release. #FRANED #WEURO2022 pic.twitter.com/mCVyVEgJjN
However, and here’s the kicker, each of the last four first-time semi-finalists fell at this hurdle: Spain (1997), Finland (2005), Netherlands (2009) and Austria (2017).
Moreover, Germany went from eight of their previous nine European Championship semi-finalswith the only defeat in 1993 against Italy.
France will face him in Milton Keynestheir opponents have 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 landmark 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 exit in the quarter-finals in Denmark five years agoand 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 will no longer be able to count on their past glories once the whistle blows on Wednesday, even if France will be aware of the illustrious history of their adversaries.
This is the third women’s Euro clash between Germany and Franceand the previous two followed Germany’s path: 3-0 in 2005 and 5-1 in 2009, both in the group stage.
There are players in Germany’s 2022 squad looking to live up to the exploits of past stars, and the captain Alexandra Pop can become the first-ever player to score in five consecutive matches at the Women’s Euros when they face France. Her four goals so far put her squarely second in the Golden Boot race before the start of the semi-finals, one behind Beth Mead in England.
Collectively, Germany have been solid and still haven’t conceded a goal after four games. Only Germany itself has kept at least five clear matches in a row sheets of 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 win in June 2021.
Germany won on penalties when these teams met in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cuptheir last major tournament clash, but enough time has passed that it has little bearing.
Deacon should be rewarded with a new contract after this tournament, with the president of the French Football Federation Noel Le Graet saying over the weekend that it was important to put that on the back burner for now.
Le Graët said, quoted in L’Equipe: “The competition is not over. Decisions are made when it’s all 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 has held France back, it’s their finishing, which might come as a surprise given how deadly they were in this opener. 45 minutes against Italy.
In total, they had 94 attempted goals but only scored nine times, with their 9.6% shot conversion rate 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.