France Might Well Be The Luckiest European Champions Ever
After getting past Romania, Albania and Switzerland in their group and then the Republic of Ireland and then Iceland in the knockouts, here were France beating the world champions – although they certainly had their fair share of luck along the way.
Nothing should be taken away from the excellence of Antoine Griezmann, who showed a lot of courage to take the penalty following his miss in the Champions League final and did well for his second goal too, but there remains a sense that this tournament has been rather kind to the hosts.
They have been rather fortunate with both their opponents and now the circumstances of their most difficult game, not that anyone in the host country cares, of course.
The Extra Officials Behind The Goal Are There For A Reason
We always need to have something to moan about in football, and in the last few years that ire has been saved for extra officials behind the goals, who have been kept in place at this tournament despite the addition of goalline technology.
‘They don’t do anything’ is a familiar refrain from the confused, but it was Antonio Damato who was keeping a close eye on both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Patrice Evra when the pair came together in the penalty area shortly before half-time.
What he saw was enough to instruct referee Nicola Rizzoli to point to the spot, and a worldwide debate ensued.
Was it a penalty? That probably depends on your bias, but less than a week on from Jerome Boateng’s needless concession of a penalty against Italy, Schweinsteiger – a player of such experience – certainly should have known better than to raise his hand.
You shouldn’t give any official an excuse to penalise you, especially not in a semi-final against the home nation.
Germany Might Be Out, But They Were The Best Team In The Tournament
After some early butterflies, Germany’s first half in Marseille was absolutely excellent, with Mesut Ozil to the fore as they played through France’s midfield – albeit without testing Manuel Neuer other than from distance.
It was at this point that they probably produced some of the best, purest football of the tournament, with all that was lacking being a more of a presence up front where Thomas Muller was struggling badly yet again.
At times Didier Deschamps must have thought about introducing N’Golo Kante as his gamble to start without the Leicester City man wasn’t paying off, but the French boss – although riding his luck – has to be commended for sticking to his guns.
Olivier Giroud Struggled Here, But He Could Be The Hero In The Final
That moment in the first half when France finally sprung from their imprisonment in their own half was seemingly made for Twitter, as Olivier Giroud’s horrendous lack of pace was exposed.
The Arsenal forward was playing catchup the moment that he tried to accelerate away from Benedikt Howedes, who nonetheless deserves great praise for getting back and getting his challenge in.
But this was never likely to be Giroud’s game, and it would be no surprise if he was having the last laugh on his critics come the final on Sunday, when the French will have most of the ball and will be playing in front of a Portuguese defence that Giroud will relish an encounter with.
It seems like his sort of game.