Hosts France advanced to the Euro 2016 final with their first victory over Germany in a major tournament since 1958 on a night of high emotion in Marseille.
Antoine Griezmann, the tournament’s top scorer, made the decisive contributions in each half to set up a final against Portugal at the Stade de France on Sunday.
Griezmann scored from the penalty spot right on half-time when Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger was penalised for handball by Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli in an aerial challenge with Patrice Evra.
France held out against German pressure before Griezmann settled the destination of a pulsating semi-final with 18 minutes left when he turned in from close range after keeper Manuel Neuer could only half-clear Paul Pogba’s cross.
Joshua Kimmich then hit the woodwork for Germany and also saw a header brilliantly saved by France keeper Hugo Lloris – but there was no way back for the World Cup holders.
France ride wave of emotion
France made a slow start to Euro 2016 but there was a real sense inside Marseille’s vast Stade Velodrome that Didier Deschamps’ team are now being carried towards the finishing line in Paris on Sunday by a national tide of emotion.
It was, of course, during a friendly between France and Germany at the Stade de France, which will stage Sunday’s Euro 2016 final, that the first explosions were heard on the night of the Paris attacks in November in which 130 people died and hundreds of others were wounded. Fourteen players who started that night were in the line-ups that took to the field here in Marseille.
The atmosphere inside the Stade Velodrome was electric after a day of searing temperatures and the togetherness now felt between France’s players and their supporters was summed up in one moment in the second half.
Germany were applying pressure in an attempt to claw back a 1-0 deficit when the whole ground erupted into a rousing chorus of national anthem La Marseillaise to urge their team on.
One more task remains against Portugal on Sunday – the whole of France expects.
Griezmann world class
Antoine Griezmann carried the hopes of a nation into Euro 2016, the diminutive Atletico Madrid forward seen as their greatest threat and biggest weapon.
And how the 25-year-old has delivered, making light of the burden of expectation to emerge as a talisman and match-winner, taking his tally for the tournament to six – the same number of European Championship goals as Thierry Henry, whose tally came across three tournaments.
Griezmann may not yet be in the class of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez but every performance here at this tournament pushes him closer to that bracket.
He made the difference with two goals when France were trailing to the Republic of Ireland in the last 16 to wrestle the initiative away from Martin O’Neill’s side and here, on an even bigger stage, he was the game-changer once more.
Griezmann had already tested Neuer with a low shot after a slick exchange with Blaise Matuidi and even during a period of complete German domination in the first half, he never let the World Cup holders relax.
He put his pressure penalty away with assurance right on half-time then reacted coolly when Neuer could not deal with Pogba’s cross.
Griezmann has a superb first touch, links play with quality, is an all-round team player and scores vital goals. He is the complete package.
He is carrying France alone in attack at times as Olivier Giroud continues to struggle, with the France supporters now increasing the volume of criticism, but with Griezmann there is always hope and he will be their inspiration again in Paris on Sunday.
Germany’s double dream ends
Germany have failed to follow France and Spain in doing the double of holding the European Championship and World Cup at the same time.
They have been the scourge of host countries in the past, defeating six at the semi-final stage in major tournaments, including England at Euro 96 and, most memorably, thrashing hosts Brazil 7-1 at the 2014 World Cup.
France were able to fight the curse on this occasion and run out winners.
Here, Joachim Low’s side performed impressively for long periods but either lacked the killer touch or found themselves repelled by fiercely determined French defending or outstanding keeping from Hugo Lloris.
Germany have also found a way of giving away needless penalties, Schweinsteiger once again inviting punishment with a raised arm with his team dominant – in the same manner that Jerome Boateng gifted Italy a penalty in the quarter-final.
On this evidence, Germany remain a European football superpower but every weakness was exploited by France in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
Man of the match: Antoine Griezmann (France)
Former France striker Thierry Henry on BBC One:
“A sign of a great team is that you take advantage of mistakes. You punish a team. France did that. They were like an Italian or German side of old times. Two opportunities. Two goals.
“I am actually so emotional at the moment. It’s nice to see that togetherness in the team, and with the fans. At the back they were great, Evra, Sagna, Umtiti. Everybody.
“The main man Griezmann, we all knew that he had to play this type of game. We again have a hero, a striker who can make us win tournaments. Hopefully. What a player.
“It will be a tricky game against Portugal but let’s enjoy it. Final of the Champions League: Ronaldo v Griezmann. Final of the Euros: Ronaldo v Griezmann.”
What they said
Germany manager Joachim Low: “In 2012 or 2010 when we went out, the other sides were better than us. Today that wasn’t the case. We were better than the French.
“We were the better team. We had good body language. We were good in the one-on-one. It was unfortunate that we conceded the goal.
“The side did everything I told them. We had a lot of courage. There’s nothing to blame them for.
“We had our chances. Regretfully we didn’t score. We didn’t have the luck we needed.”
France manager Didier Deschamps: “I’m delighted for the players. It was a tough game against a team that made us suffer but we suffered together.
“We haven’t only had easy games. Germany were and are still the best side. We did what we needed to do. We were clinical, and Lloris was great when we needed him to be.
“We are in a final. We have our chance and Portugal have their chance too. It’s not as if just because we’re hosts and have knocked out Germany that gives us extra power. Portugal believe in themselves, and we believe in ourselves. It’s still very open.”
France forward Antoine Griezmann: “I’m very pleased. We knew it would be very tough and we held firm defensively, our keeper played very well.
“We have to rest up well and already start thinking about the final. We will start training for it tomorrow.
“Against Portugal, it’s 50-50, anything can happen in a final, it’s a one-off game.”
The stats you need to know
- France are the first nation to reach the Euro final twice as hosts (also in 1984).
- France have beaten Germany at a major tournament for the first time since 1958. They have also kept their first major tournament clean sheet against Germany.
- Germany have lost four of their last six semi-finals at major tournaments (2006, 2010, 2012, 2016).
- Bastian Schweinsteiger made his 38th appearance at a major tournament, more than any player in the history of the World Cup and European Championships.
- Only Michel Platini (nine at Euro 1984) has scored more goals at a single Euro finals than Antoine Griezmann has at Euro 2016 (six).
- 17BoatengSubstituted forMustafiat 61′minutes
- 14CanBooked at 36minsSubstituted forGötzeat 67′minutes
- 7SchweinsteigerBooked at 45minsSubstituted forSanéat 79′minutes
- 8ÖzilBooked at 45mins
- 11DraxlerBooked at 50mins
- 22ter Stegen
- 3EvraBooked at 43mins
- 7GriezmannSubstituted forCabayeat 90+2′minutes
- 8PayetSubstituted forKantéat 71′minutesBooked at 75mins
- 9GiroudSubstituted forGignacat 78′minutes
- Nicola Rizzoli
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Germany 0, France 2.
Second Half ends, Germany 0, France 2.
Offside, Germany. Manuel Neuer tries a through ball, but Thomas Müller is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Mario Götze (Germany) header from the left side of the six yard box misses to the right. Assisted by Toni Kroos.
Attempt saved. Thomas Müller (Germany) with an attempt from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Joshua Kimmich.
Attempt blocked. Joshua Kimmich (Germany) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Shkodran Mustafi with a cross.
Toni Kroos (Germany) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Yohan Cabaye (France).
Substitution, France. Yohan Cabaye replaces Antoine Griezmann.
Attempt missed. André-Pierre Gignac (France) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Paul Pogba.
Attempt saved. Antoine Griezmann (France) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Attempt missed. Benedikt Höwedes (Germany) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Toni Kroos with a cross following a set piece situation.
Mario Götze (Germany) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Patrice Evra (France).
Joshua Kimmich (Germany) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by André-Pierre Gignac (France).
Corner, France. Conceded by Jonas Hector.
Attempt missed. Shkodran Mustafi (Germany) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high following a corner.
Corner, Germany. Conceded by Blaise Matuidi.
Substitution, Germany. Leroy Sané replaces Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Toni Kroos (Germany) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Moussa Sissoko (France).
Substitution, France. André-Pierre Gignac replaces Olivier Giroud.
Attempt missed. Julian Draxler (Germany) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right from a direct free kick.
N’Golo Kanté (France) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Julian Draxler (Germany) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by N’Golo Kanté (France).
Attempt missed. Paul Pogba (France) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Olivier Giroud with a headed pass.
Joshua Kimmich (Germany) hits the left post with a left footed shot from outside the box. Assisted by Mario Götze.
Attempt missed. Antoine Griezmann (France) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Olivier Giroud.
Goal! Germany 0, France 2. Antoine Griezmann (France) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal.
Substitution, France. N’Golo Kanté replaces Dimitri Payet.
Offside, Germany. Mesut Özil tries a through ball, but Shkodran Mustafi is caught offside.
Toni Kroos (Germany) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Moussa Sissoko (France).
Foul by Thomas Müller (Germany).
Laurent Koscielny (France) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Germany. Conceded by Samuel Umtiti.
Attempt missed. Dimitri Payet (France) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Patrice Evra.
Substitution, Germany. Mario Götze replaces Emre Can.