World champs Germany meet hosts France in enticing clash
MARSEILLE, France (AP):
The World Cup winners against the hosts, the resumption of an old rivalry, the "Marseillaise" sung loud in Marseille France's semifinal against Germany makes for a mouth watering semifinal tomorrow.
Germany go into the game missing key players through injury or suspension, while France are so far untested against top-level opposition at this tournament.
Though politics and wartime history are certainly part of the France-Germany rivalry, there are plenty of football grudges too.
Few French fans could forgive the World Cup semi-final in 1982 when a physical West German team beat France on penalties. German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher became a national hate figure in France after charging into France's Patrick Battiston, leaving him unconscious and with multiple injuries.
France have won five of eight meetings with Germany since German reunification in 1990 including a 2-0 win in November but those victories were all in friendlies. The French lost the one game when it really mattered, going down 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. Indeed, France have not beaten the Germans at a major tournament since 1958.
Mats Hummels, the German goalscorer in 2014, misses tomorrow's game in Marseille through suspension after picking up a second booking in the quarterfinal win over Italy. Germany must also face France without forward Mario Gomez and midfielder Sami Khedira, who are both injured.
By contrast, France coach Didier Deschamps has a fully fit squad. However, his team has so far avoided the other leading contenders at their home European Championship.
France would do well to be cautious in the semifinal. The last time Germany faced the host nation in the semifinals of a major tournament, it was more a demolition than a victory.
While Germany's injury-depleted team may struggle to repeat their 7-1 crushing of Brazil at the 2014 World Cup, the world champions remain a big threat to French dreams of dominance at home.