Germany Coach, Joachim Loew, is relishing facing hosts France in today’s Euro 2016 second semifinal despite a mounting injury list.
“It’s great that there’s a game like this. I love playing knock-out games against teams of this calibre,” said Loew in Evian during the week.
Loew’s cause for optimism over the Marseille semifinal is not obvious with three key players definitely ruled out, while captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is doubtful with a new knee injury.
Germany’s defender Mats Hummels is suspended while Mario Gomez and Sami Khedira are out with injury – Gomez for the rest of the tournament.
As Loew acknowledged, France is buoyed by Sunday’s 5-2 hammering of minnows Iceland in their quarterfinal clash.
And the hosts can expect near fanatical support in Marseille, the heartland of the nation’s die-hard fans.
Nevertheless Loew can barely wait for kick-off this evening. “I’m not worried about who the favourite is,” said Germany’s head coach.
“It would be easy to say that we have a few injuries and France are favourites as they played really well.
“But that does not matter at all over 90 or 120 minutes.
“It is like it was against Italy: a game of two teams with outstanding individuals.
“Both have a clear direction, even if France naturally plays offensively. I love games like this.”
Loew was very clear that Schweinsteiger, who has a strained knee, will only face France if fully fit.
The Manchester United star had only recently recovered from tearing the medial ligament in his right knee in March.
“If a player is less than 100 percent fit, then I won’t play him,” said Loew.
“I made that mistake once before in my career and I won’t do it again.”
Loew refused to be drawn about the mistake he referred to – passing it of from earlier in his career as a club coach.
But he has been in this situation before with Germany.
Loew played Michael Ballack in the Euro 2008 final, when Germany were beaten 1-0 by Spain, when the defensive midfielder was carrying a calf injury.
But France’s defender, Olivier Giroud, believes his country will have the perfect opportunity to avenge their defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup when they take on their old foes in the Euro 2016 semifinals today.
“It will be a great match, we have a lot of desire to get our own back for the World Cup,” Giroud said after his two goals helped France thrash Iceland 5-2 in Sunday’s quarterfinal.
A header from Mats Hummels knocked France out in the quarterfinal in Rio de Janeiro two years ago and Germany went on to win their fourth global crown.
Arsenal forward Giroud said the showdown with Germany in Marseille will be “a completely different match” to the romp against the Icelanders.
“They are the world champions and they are often in the last four of major tournaments,” Giroud said.
“I’m very proud of what this France side is achieving and I hope we’ll come out once again with the right result.”
In contrast to France’s straightforward passage, the Germans were given a severe test in their quarterfinal. Italy took them to an error-strewn penalty shootout in Bordeaux on Saturday before Joachim Loew’s side triumphed 6-5.
Despite the setbacks of missing Gomez, Khedira and Schweinsteiger, France coach Didier Deschamps is in no doubt that Germany is the class act of the tournament.
“Germany are the best team, there is no doubt about that, even if Italy gave them a few scares. But we are there in the final four and we’ll give it our all,” Deschamps said.
“They are one of the rare teams which can control a match. It will be a great game but it won’t be a stroll in the park.”
France striker Antoine Griezmann said taking on the Germans in front of a predominantly French crowd at the Stade Velodrome will help.
“We’ll have to give everything we’ve got, it’ll be a semifinal at home, in front of so many supporters,” he said after his goal against Iceland left him top of the Euro 2016 scorers’ charts with four.
Hummels will not be there to torture France again as he did on that stifling hot day in Rio as he is suspended for the semifinal.
Deschamps withdrew Giroud and key defender Laurent Koscielny during the Iceland game as they were at risk of suffering the same fate.
Today’s match up is taking place almost 34 years to the day since the 1982 World Cup semifinal in Seville which ended in a traumatic defeat for Michel Platini’s team.
Schumacher’s shoulder-charge on Battiston left the French substitute with three broken ribs, broken teeth and cracked vertebrae. The German goalkeeper escaped without even a booking as the referee claimed he had not seen the incident.]
France roared to a 3-1 lead in extra-time but the Germans fought back to equalise with goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Klaus Fischer. The Germans, inevitably, won the penalty shootout 5-4, but went on to lose to Italy in the final.