France take on Germany in the Euro 2016 semi-finals on Thursday night.
Here, we look at some talking points ahead of one of the much anticipated clash between these two European juggernauts.
FRANCE’S MIDFIELD DILEMMA
The midfield is set to be the key battle ground between France and Germany. Both sides boast an embarrassment of talent in the middle of the park but Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps has some decisions to make.
Forward Antoine Griezmann has looked far more comfortable playing through the middle but that would mean dropping one of N’Golo Kante or Blaise Matuidi. Leaving out a holding midfielder would be perilous
If he does opt to keep a holding midfielder, it’s then a question of who? Matuidi operates between attack and defence effectively and was vastly improved in the absence of Kante against Iceland. But the Leicester man is untouchable when it comes to patrolling deep.
HOWEDES’ LACK OF MOBILITY
Going forward France have been telepathic at times. There has not been a better attacking trio at the Euros so
far than Dimitri Payet (three goals, one assist), Olivier Giroud (three goals, two assists) and Anotine Griezmann (four goals, two assists). The worry for Germany is that all three have the potential to give expected centre-half replacement Benedikt Howedes a nightmare evening.
He’s largely operated as a full-back so far but with the suspension of Mats Hummels will move in alongside Jerome Boateng at the heart of the defence. His lack of pace is likely to be exposed, particularly against Griezmann who has constantly found space in behind during this tournament. Ensuring Howedes isn’t left one on one will be key.
GIROUD AGAINST ELITE DEFENCES
Giroud’s goal tally in his last eight appearances for France stands at seven. Which as you can agree is an impressive ratio. Then you go beyond the initial stat and start to see why Arsenal fans have come to the consensus Giroud is not among the best strikers in world football. Those seven goals have come against the following teams: Iceland, Romania, Scotland, Cameroon and Netherlands.
Hardly the most elite sides on the international stage. While it is a stretch to label him as a flat-track bully, against better defences his one dimensional style is exposed. His botched touches, lack of speed and missed shots can be atoned for against lesser teams but when he comes up against Germany his margin for error is more than halved.
When analysing Les Bleus before the tournament the full-back areas were targeted as a sign of weakness. Patrice Evra (35) and Bacary Sagna (33) are no doubt fading forces and the former has been particularly vulnerable at this tournament. Evra was twice caught out of position inside the first five minutes against Iceland and he also gave away a soft penalty against Romania.
He’s yet to arrive in France and has looked erratic at times. Les Bleus will need him to step it up a gear because with Mario Gotze expected to operate on the right of Germany’s front three, with Julian Draxler on the left, both are direct players who can expose Sagna and Evra. Expect Germany to go wide and often.
TWO OF THE BEST KEEPERS MEET
It’s one of the best shot stoppers in world football – Hugo Lloris – against the ultimate sweeper keeper – Manuel Neuer. Given the quality of attackers on display, both will be the key protagonists tonight just as they were during the 2014 World Cup quarter-final between the two sides.
Both are also inspirational figures for their countries; Neuer has captained Germany in the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger while Lloris has been France’s on-field leader 56 times now – overtaking Didier Deschamps to set a new national record. Both have enjoyed fine tournaments, making saves at key times during this tournament to help set up tonight’s encounter.
With Euro 2016 nearing its conclusion we salute the unsung heroes of the tournament who may not have scored spectacular goes or delivered iconic individual displays, but have been just as important to their respective teams’ progress in the tournament…
Which of these players has impressed you the most?
Identified as a weak link for Germany, the left-back scored the winning penalty against Italy but has also been one of Die Mannschaft’s most consistent.
We all know how good he is, but the French keeper has made a number of crucial saves at crucial times and allowed Payet and Griezmann to take the glory.
Like Hector for Germany, much of Wales’ attacking play has come down the left-hand side with Taylor’s delivery and energy crucial to their gameplan.
Among the most despised players in the world but – Hungary aside – the veteran has been among the tournament’s best defenders. It just hurts to say so.
Italy could have listed a starting XI of injured midfielders for Euro 2016 but stepping up has been Parolo who’s tackled, harried and passed to perfection.
Marco Parolo: MotM vs Germany, Rating 7.58, Tackles 5, Interceptions 5, Clearances 3, Shots Blocked 1, Passes 59 @azzurri— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 2, 2016
Ahead of their semi-final clash on Thursday, Germany and France UAE-based fans give their verdict on the game.
To gain an insight into the mindset of the fans we asked UAE fans to share with us their predictions, likely line-ups and players to watch.
Do you agree or have they missed the mark? Use #360Fans to share with us your thoughts.
GERMANY – Frank Scheunert (Hedge Fund Manager, Dubai)
It’s been a long time since France got the better of Germany at a major tournament. We have managed to beat Les Bleus in our last three competitive meetings – at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups and, more recently, on our way to lifting the trophy in Brazil two years ago.
That was a tight game and a narrow 1-0 victory was secured thanks to an early goal from Mats Hummels, who is unfortunately missing from this reunion with France through suspension after picking up a yellow card against Italy.
France, who won the European Championship in 2000, were very impressive against Iceland. There was a lot of pressure on them in that game and they showed they can handle the burden of expectation by smashing five goals past their opponents to ease through their quarter-final. While they had it easy, Germany did it the hard way – beating Italy on penalties.
We may be more tired – after playing a draining, tactical game against the Azzurri – and will not be helped against France by the key players who we have missing. Mario Gomez is out of the tournament and Hummels is suspended, while Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger also appear likely to miss out. Despite this, Joachim Low’s side has a real winning mentality and I still believe we can beat France.
PREDICTION: Germany 2-1 France
LIKELY GERMANY XI: Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng, Howedes, Hector; Weigl, Kroos; Draxler, Ozil, Muller; Gotze
GERMANY PLAYER TO WATCH: Thomas Muller. The words ‘broken’ and ‘record’ spring to mind. I feel like I’ve been tipping the Bayern Munich to end his goal drought for the past three weeks. But with Mario Gomez out, Muller will be more important than ever. He missed a penalty against Italy but I can feel it, against Les Bleus it’s Muller time!
FRANCE PLAYER TO FEAR: Antoine Griezmann – A very penetrative player, he is also chasing the golden boot in this tournament. He is very quick and always seems to be able to create space for his team-mates with his direct running. Very dangerous.
WHERE TO WATCH: ON42 at the Media One Hotel. But make sure to reserve a space or arrive at least an hour early as the place was absolutely packed for the Italy game.
FRANCE – Yves Thapele (E-commerce manager, Dubai)
So here we are, one step away from a third successive final in a tournament we’ve hosted. First there was Euro 1984, then World Cup 1998, but will Euro 2016 also end with French hands on the Henri Delaunay trophy?
The match against Iceland was a wonderful, buccaneering display from Les Bleus as they avoided the potential banana skin of Iceland. The 5-2 quarter-final victory now has French people believing that this team really does have what it takes to win the whole tournament.
It would be dangerous to look ahead to the final though as Germany are first up. We don’t have a great record against them in competitive fixtures and they of course are the reigning champions of the world. It would be foolish to underestimate the German threat but similarly, France should trust their attacking players to perform as they did against Iceland.
Samuel Umtiti looked solid in defence and could well keep his place ahead of Adil Rami – otherwise France will be unchanged for this huge game in Marseille, where we played our last European Championship semi-final, against Portugal in 1984. That was 3-2 and the same result this time would do nicely. Allez Les Bleus!
PREDICTION: Germany 2-3 France
LIKELY FRANCE XI: Lloris; Sagna, Umtiti, Koscielny, Evra; Cabaye, Matuidi, Pogba; Griezmann, Giroud, Payet
FRANCE PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pogba – He’s finally getting warmed up and has really grown into the tournament the past few games. The Juventus midfielder is of course not as good as Zinedine Zidane…yet. But he is still our midfield maestro and his energy and incisive passing will be key against Germany.
GERMANY PLAYER TO FEAR: Mesut Ozil – The Arsenal playmaker has played really well at Euro 2016 and pulls the creative strings for Germany. Missed a penalty in the shootout against Italy but he also scored in the match so expect him to bounce straight back.
WHERE TO WATCH: Barasti!