Women's Euros: France must stop Popp as first-time semi-finalists bid to topple mighty Germany

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France must defy the weight of history as they attempt to sink Germany in the second semi-final at the Women's European Championship.

Corinne Diacre's French team have already made a colossal impact on the tournament in England, starting from when they smashed five goals past Italy in the first half of their opening group game.

That felt like a statement 45 minutes, a message to their rivals that this France team are different to those who have come before. Although France have not quite hit those swashbuckling heights since, they are through to their first Women's Euros semi-final, after falling in the quarters in each of the last three editions.

Coach Diacre made some tough choices for this tournament, omitting star forward Eugenie Le Sommer and Champions League player of the match Amandine Henry, and Les Bleues suffered a crushing blow when star striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto suffered an ACL injury during the group stages.

It became imperative that those players Diacre has trusted to perform delivered for the coach, and a 1-0 quarter-final win over the Netherlands, secured by Eve Perisset's extra-time penalty, took France further than they have ever gone before.

However, and here comes the kicker, each of the last four first-time semi-finalists fell at this hurdle: Spain (1997), Finland (2005), Netherlands (2009) and Austria (2017).

To boot, Germany have progressed from eight of their nine previous European Championship semi-finals, with the lone defeat coming in 1993 against Italy.

France will be up against it in Milton Keynes, with their opponents yet to concede a goal in these finals.

Germany might not be at their absolute pomp, but their next goal will be Die Nationalelf's 100th in European Championship football. No team has yet reached that landmark.

Germany look to turn back time

Germany's players do not need to look far to be served a reminder of their rich heritage in this tournament. Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg was a four-time European champion in her playing days, helping the national team to titles in 1989, 1991, 1995 and 1997.

A run of six consecutive European titles was ended with a shock quarter-final exit to Denmark five years ago, and Voss-Tecklenburg was hired in November 2018 to lead the team forward.

She played 125 games for her country, scoring 27 goals, and was twice Germany's footballer of the year.

Germany cannot rely on past glories once the whistle sounds on Wednesday, even if France will be aware of their opponents' illustrious history.

This is the third Women's Euros clash between Germany and France, and the previous two resoundingly went Germany's way: 3-0 in 2005 and 5-1 in 2009, both in the group stage.

There are players in Germany's 2022 squad looking to live up to the feats of stars gone by, and captain Alexandra Popp can become the first ever player to score in five consecutive appearances at the Women's Euros when she lines up against France. Her four goals so far put her outright second in the race for the Golden Boot ahead of the semi-finals getting under way, one behind England's Beth Mead.

Collectively, Germany have been solid and have yet to concede a goal after four games. Only Germany themselves have kept five or more consecutive clean sheets in the history of this tournament (seven in a row between 2001 and 2005).

Alexandra Popp
Alexandra Popp

French fancy a final flourish

The Wembley final beckons on Sunday, and France would dearly love to be involved in that showpiece. They have won two of their last three internationals against Germany (L1), most recently a 1-0 victory in a friendly in June 2021.

Germany won on penalties when these sides met in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals, their last major tournament clash, but sufficient time has passed for that to have little bearing.

Diacre is expected to be rewarded with a new contract after this tournament, with French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet saying at the weekend it was important to put that on the backburner for now.

Le Graet said, quoted in L'Equipe: "The competition is not over. Decisions are made when it's all over. It is logical that we will discuss it again soon. I am very happy with Corinne and the progress that has been made. The players and Corinne are very motivated and good together."

If anything has been holding back France, it has been their finishing, which might be a surprise given how deadly they were in that opening 45 minutes against Italy.

Overall, they have had 94 goal attempts but scored just nine times, with their 9.6 per cent shot conversion rate the lowest of the four semi-finalists prior to the last-four games getting under way.

Curiously, France have scored eight of those nine goals in the first half of games, and the other came in the first half of extra time as they knocked out the Dutch, who were the reigning champions.

France goals and xG
France goals and xG
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