Euro Semifinals: France Versus Germany Is Truly a Clash of the Titans
France and Germany, two world soccer powers, will tangle today in the 2016 European Championship semifinals in what promises to be a high-octane matchup.
According to thepowerrank.com -- which uses analytics, including placing weights on major tournament matches (Euros, Copas and World Cup), to come up with rankings -- the clash is a matchup of two of the world’s 10 best teams, with Germany ranked 2nd and France checking in 8th.
Let’s break down the players in each side and compare how the two behemoths of the sport have done in this tournament.
The French haven’t heard of southern hospitality. When Les Blues hosts a tournament, they like to just go ahead and win it themselves.
In the modern era, France has hosted the World Cup in 1998 and Euros in 1984, and they hoisted the trophy each time.
As the host nation for the 2016 Euros, they’re on their way to doing it again, going 4-0-1 through their first five games of the tournament.
|Group Stage||Romania||W 2-1|
|Group Stage||Albania||W 2-0|
|Group Stage||Switzerland||T 0-0|
|Round of 16||Ireland||W 2-1|
Counting friendlies, the French haven’t lost since November 17, 2015, recording a nine-match unbeaten run.
With as much top-end talent as any team in the world, France has benefitted greatly from the emergence of Dimitri Payet, a relatively little-known player a short time ago who has burst onto the scene and become a world-class performer.
Payet is a flashy star, an always-on-the attack winger who can make a ball do things that would make Clayton Kershaw jealous.
The West Ham United stud can hammer home a free kick from just about anywhere on the pitch, making France especially lethal from set pieces.
I mean anywhere.
Payet is far from France’s lone headliner.
Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud will likely join Payet up top for Les Blues, with Giroud serving as the striker. The trio has combined for 10 of France’s tourney-best 11 goals, and they’ve each dished out 2 assists.
The midfield will consist of Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi -- plus either N’Golo Kante or Moussa Sissoko, depending on what formation France manager Didier Deschamps chooses. The French went without a holding midfielder in their quarterfinal match against Iceland, but Deschamps may want to combat Germany’s powerfield midfield with Kante, a relentless ball-winner who was one of the key cogs in Leicester City’s remarkable run to the Premier League title this past year.
The back four has been made up of Patrice Evra, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna and new Barcelona signing Samuel Umtiti for the majority of the tourney while Hugo Lloris will be in goal. Umtiti has completed a mind-numbing 79-of-79 passes in the event.
France is so loaded that uber-talented whiz kids Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman can’t crack the starting 11.
If any national side boasts more depth and all-around talent than France, it’s Germany. The defending World Cup champions feature a roster overflowing with world-class stars.
Germany’s depth will be tested, however, as they’ll be sans three key players, one at each level of the formation. Defender Mats Hummels (suspension), midfielder Sami Khedira (injury) and striker Mario Gomez (injury) have all been ruled out.
Manager Joachim Low -- whose side knocked out France (1-0) in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals and has reached the semi-final level in six straight major tournaments -- will have to get creative with his starting 11, but there’s no shortage of skill on the bench.
Low has played his cards close to the vest, refusing to reveal his lineup, other than confirming midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger will be bumped up into a starting role.
Germany has been led by its impenetrable defense, which has allowed just one goal through five matches.
|Group Stage||Ukraine||W 2-0|
|Group Stage||Poland||T 0-0|
|Group Stage||Northern Ireland||W 1-0|
|Round of 16||Slovakia||W 3-0|
|Quarterfinals||Italy||W 1-1 (6-5 Pen)|
Center back Jerome Boateng spearheads Germany’s back line. He’s been flanked by Jonas Hector, Hummels and Benedikt Howedes. The foursome has permitted that one lonely goal in over 540 minutes of play through five matches.
Emre Can may be called upon to replace Hummels, or Low could deploy a three-man back line as part of a 3-5-2 system, which Germany used last time out versus Italy.
The back line will be playing in front of the world’s premier goalie, Manuel Neuer. The sweeper keeper, Neuer does things no other goalie dares to try.
Just so we're clear: that's a goalie coming at least 35 yards off his back line, outside of the penalty area, to making a tackle on a forward.
Whether it’s by smothering a chance before it truly develops -- like the clip above -- or using a stone hand to stop a point-blank header, Neuer is a wall between the posts. Dating back the 2014 World Cup, he has allowed just 5 goals in his last 12 matches in major international tournaments.
Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil anchor the midfield for Die Mannschaft, playing every second of this tourney. Ozil gets more involved in the attack while Kroos lags back as a holding midfielder, picking his spots to come forward.
Ozil is still more of a pass-first guy, though, scoring just 6 goals to 19 assists in 35 appearances with club side Arsenal this past year. He has 1 goal and 1 assist in this tournament.
Kroos is a passing, facilitating machine. The Real Madrid star has attempted an eye-popping 557 passes in the Euros (next most is 398), completing an immaculate 94% percent of them.
Without Khedira, Schweinsteiger is getting the nod while Julian Weigl, a 20-year-old rising star, may see his first action of the tourney as either a starter or substitute. Joshua Kimmich is another option in midfield, depending on what Low opts to do with Can, who can play as a defender or midfielder.
Up top, Thomas Mueller will be joined by Julian Draxler, with either Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle or LeRoy Sane for taking Gomez’s spot. Mueller is in the midst of a bad run of form. After scoring 20 goals in 26 appearances for club side Bayern Munich this past campaign, he has yet to score in the Euros, although Mueller has a very respectable 7.44 player rating on Whoscored.com.
Who Has the Edge?
While France has the impressive firepower, they have struggled at times in the tournament. Despite facing inferior opposition, the hosts needed late magic to win each of their first two games, often relying on individual brilliance rather than cohesive team play.
With that said, France has scored as many goals in their last two matches (7) as Germany has the entire tournament, so they may be hitting their stride at the right time.
Germany, on the other hand, hasn’t been as clinical in front of goal -- France leads all teams in goals-per-chance ratio -- but they’ve been the more dominant side, topping all Euro 2016 teams in possession (63%) and passing accuracy (91%).
They also hold a slim lead over France in just about every offensive statistic -- except, of course, goals, the one that truly counts.
|Shots Per Game||18.2||17.4|
|Shots On Target||31.4||29.6|
|Corners Won Per Game||7.2||6.8|
Betegy.com, a soccer-based analytics site, gives Germany a 53% chance to win. If Die Mannschaft was at full strength, a majority of the numbers point to them as the better side, but the support of their home nation and the opposition missing three key cogs may be enough for France to advance to the final.
Whoever emerges from this heavyweight bout will be the favorite to lift the trophy against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side, which thrashed red-hot Wales, 2-0, in Wednesday’s other semifinal.