Who would take on England at Wembley on Sunday then? Would it be eight-time champions Germany, or first time semi finalists France, both were decent candidates to take on England in the final, you had the precision of the Germans, and the flare of the French, it was sure to be a very high quality contest in front of a superb 27,445 at Stadium MK.
Germany were yet to concede in the tournament in four games, netting wins over Denmark, Spain and Finland in what was dubbed the ‘Group of Death’, before a 2-0 win over Austria in the Quarter Finals, netting eleven times in those four games too, whereas France had wins over Italy and Belgium before a draw against Iceland in their group, before they saw off 2017 champions Netherlands after extra time to set up this semi final against the Germans.
Both sides are ranked inside the top five in the world, however, both sides struggled to create chances in the opening forty minutes, with Alexandra Popp’s free kick that was pushed wide by French keeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin the only notable effort, but Popp would go one better five minutes before the break.
The German striker became the first player in the competition to score in five consecutive games, this after only returning to action in March after a serious knee injury had kept her out for ten months, when she volleyed home a Svenja Huth cross from the right, but the German joy was short lived as they conceded their first goal of the tournament as the French mustered up a prefect repost.
This is because right on half time when Kadidiatou Diani broke free and sent a surprising snap shot from outside the box and although this effort thumped off the post, it came out and hit German keeper Merle Frohms on the back and then rebounded back into the net, and it meant the sides would go into the break all square.
Those last five minutes of the first period had certainly sparked the game into life, prior to that the crowd had produced a Mexican wave, which is normally a sign that the game in front of them could be better, but the second period was to be a much better spectacle, and for a time it looked like France were going to be the ones who may reach Sunday’s final.
Diani created a opening for the French when after doing excellently to get to the byline, her pullback found substitute Selma Bacha who spun and shot but saw it parried by Frohms, and from the resulting corner French captain and leader in more ways than one Wendie Renard rose superbly to send a downward header at goal, only for Frohms to save with her legs.
And Frohms and to save again from Diani and at this point the German’s were for the first time in the tournament looking very vulnerable, but, just when the German’s needed some inspiration, up stepped Popp to power home a header, again from a Huth cross with fourteen minutes to go, to give Germany the lead once again, and it was a lead they were not to pass up this time as they reached yet another Euro final.
France, who also lost in the semi finals of both the 2011 World Cup and 2012 London Olympics, did push forward in search of an equaliser that would have taken the game to extra time, but they found the German back line impossible to breach for a second time, and there dreams of a first Euro title were gone for another tournament at least.
My player of the match has to be Lena Oberdorf, the twenty year old’s work rate is exceptional and she literally covers every blade of grass, her reading of the game is world class, and she plays a simple but very affective game, Popp may have got the plaudits but Oberdorf for me deserved them just as much for another superb performance to help her side reach Sunday’s final.
Sunday’s final takes place at a sold out Wembley and the match could set a new attendance record for a match in a Euro Championship, either male or female, as this tournament continues to break new ground, and German boss Martina Voss-Tecklenberg has labelled the final as being ‘a great football feast’.
It should be just that, and also a great battle between Voss-Tecklenberg and England boss Sarina Wiegman, who of course won this competition with the Dutch when it was last held in 2017, whatever happens though it should be a great final and cap what has been a superb competition.