Germany v France preview: Favourites battle it out for place in the final
By Ben Nagle
Last Updated: 07/07/16 8:10pm
France will look to beat Germany in a competitive fixture for the first time in 58 years when they face off in the semi-final of Euro 2016 on Thursday night.
The hopes of a nation rest firmly on France's shoulders as they look to avenge their 2014 World Cup quarter-final heartbreak at the hands of Germany in Brazil.
Moussa Sissoko was an unused substitute two years ago, but he admits revenge is top of his side's agenda heading into the match in Marseille.
Speaking at a press conference, he said: "We want to win at all costs in order to qualify. Being knocked out in the quarters at the last World Cup still sticks in the throat.
"We have a calmer team than two years ago and we've had good results. We now need to prove ourselves on the field. Thursday, on paper, is the biggest game of the tournament."
And it is France who come into the tie in better form, following their 5-2 thrashing of Iceland in the quarter-final.
Olivier Giroud, Paul Pogba, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann were all on the scoresheet at the Stade de France, and the home nation will book a return to the national stadium on Sunday night if they can overcome the world champions in the last four.
Germany themselves have not had an easy run to the final, battling past Italy by the finest of margins in a quarter-final penalty shootout.
Joachim Low's side won Group C with two wins and a draw, before easing past Slovakia in the round of 16 as they look to win a second successive major tournament.
Germany will be without striker Mario Gomez after the forward was ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.
The Fiorentina forward started in his side's quarter-final win over Italy, but scans post-match showed a torn muscle in the 30-year-old's leg.
Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger was passed fit on the eve of the match, but fellow midfielder Sami Khedira has been ruled out while Mats Hummels is suspended after picking up one yellow card too many in the quarter-final.
France, meanwhile, have no suspensions and welcome back both N'Golo Kante and Adil Rami from their bans.
Arsenal pair Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny were both one card away from a ban during the Iceland game, but were substituted early to ensure they could play on Thursday night.
L'Equipe report that, despite the fully-fit squad, Samuel Umtiti will keep his place at centre-back for France, while Sissoko will hold off competition from Kante to start in central midfield.
Alain Giresse is the last French player to score against Germany at a major finals tournament; coming in the 1982 World Cup semi-final.
France have never kept a clean sheet in their four meetings with Germany at major finals tournaments.
France and Germany's last head-to-head dates back to 13 November 2015. Didier Deschamp's men won 2-0 in a friendly at the Stade de France, but the tie was marred by terror attacks in the French capital.
Germany have reached the semi-finals in each of their last six major tournaments (WC 2006, EURO 2008, WC 2010, EURO 2012, WC 2014, EURO 2016), the longest ever run for a European team.
However, they last won the European Championships 20 years ago, in 1996, their longest ever drought in the history of the competition.
Germany have won 14 of their last 18 games at major tournaments, drawing three and losing only once (1-2 v Italy in the EURO 2012 semi-finals).
Germany have kept the most clean sheets at EURO 2016 (4 in 5 games). The only goal they've conceded was a penalty against Italy.
Germany's possession in the EURO 2016 group stages averaged 72%. It has dropped to 61% in the knockout phase.
France looked good the other night against Iceland. They showed England how good Iceland really are, but I'm going to go for Germany. I think they'll be done in 90 minutes.
I watched them the other night and when they went 1-0 up, I just couldn't see Italy getting back into it because they were that good. They obviously got the penalty in the end, but I'm backing Germany in this one and predicting Germany v Wales in the final. Who would have called that?
PAUL PREDICTS: Germany 2-1 France in 90 minutes (10/1 with Sky Bet)
The draw and extra-time is 2/1, with either side to win in the additional 30 minutes 6/1, while a penalty shoot-out is 7/2. Olivier Giroud and Thomas Muller share favouritism in the a wide-open first goalscorer market at 11/2 apiece.