WILL FRANCE hold firm against the mighty German side? Or will Germany sweep the hosts aside? Plus kick-off times, match facts, latest odds, team news and quotes ahead of Thursday’s big match. Germany will be without two Mats Hummels, Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira and possibly also Bastian Schweinsteiger, potentially ripping the heart out of a side who have looked occasionally impressive going forwards but who are yet to hit the heights they reached in winning the 2014 World Cup. France, meanwhile, have no such issues – and if they perform as they did in a devastating first half against Iceland, they should have the beating of any team in the world. Yet Didier Deschamps’ men have one big thing counting against them: after matches against Ireland and Iceland so far in the knockout stages, they have yet to face any of the tournament’s heavy-hitters. Germany, by contrast, had a tough battle against Poland in the group stage and come into the semi-finals off the back of an epic victory against Italy, who had been one of the finest teams in the tournament. Some pundits are making a big deal of the fact that France haven’t beaten Germany at a tournament since 1958, but don’t read too much into that. The bookies have made both teams joint favourites to make it to the final, and frankly that looks like a good call: this one is impossible to predict.
THE THREE KEY ISSUES THAT WILL DECIDE THE MATCH Can Germany cope without their key personnel? Losing four players would be a serious blow for any team, but for Germany it could be hugely difficult to overcome. The decision to turn to Mario Gomez over Mario Gotze after the first few matches of the tournament transformed Germany, and the loss of key men (and World Cup winners) such as Khedira, Schweinsteiger and Hummels could unbalance the side once more. Will France keep the fairytale going? They won the 1984 European Championship on home soil, they won the 1998 World Cup on home soil, and they’re on course to win the 2016 European Championship on home soil. But as that goal gets closer the nerves will start to jangle… In the even of a draw, what are Germany’s hopes of beating the shootout jinx? Since the introduction of penalty shootouts at international tournaments only one team had successfully come through sudden death in successive matches. That was Argentina at the 1990 World Cup. Every other side since then who has won one shoot out and immediately face another has gone on to lose it.
There’s a strong chance that this match could end up as a draw after extra time – if so, can Germany break that sequence? Considering that their record in shootouts since 1982 is played six won six, you wouldn’t bet against them. HOW THEY QUALIFIED Germany haven’t always looked at their best during the tournament – by which we mean they’ve yet to put in the sort of performances they did at the 2014 World Cup – but have yet to concede a goal other than through the penalty they gave away against Italy in the quarter-final. They needed a shoot-out against the Italians,
but made it through – and the confidence they’ll take from having finally beaten their bogey team (against whom they’d never won a knockout match) will be huge. France have delivered a devastating 90 minutes of football in their last two games – the second half against Ireland and the first half against Iceland – to get themselves here. When all the parts of the machine are in sync they have looked as dangerous as anyone in the tournament, and even when they have toiled at times they’ve always been able to fall back on moments of individual brilliance from the likes of Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann

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