Antoine Griezmann accepted it was the France team’s duty to excel at the European Championship to lift the mood of a nation wounded by terrorist atrocities and social unrest, and his two goals eliminated Germany and booked the home country’s passage into the final.
Les Bleus withstood prolonged pressure from the World Cup winners throughout the first half before benefiting from the award of a controversial penalty on the stroke of half-time. Griezmann, who had missed a spot-kick for Atlético Madrid in May’s Champions League final, converted and added a second after the interval to earn the French their first competitive win over Germany since 1958.
The striker has six goals at Euro 2016 and is on course to claim the Golden Boot. “It was our duty to win the matches and try and entertain the French public, to spread some happiness and try and go all the way in this tournament,” said the forward, whose sister, Maud, had escaped unhurt from the Bataclan theatre last November on the night 130 people were killed in terrorist attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis. “That’s what we needed to do.
“Just before the Romania game at the start of the tournament the president [of the French Football Federation, Noël Le Graët] came to talk to us about the security measures in and around the stadia, so we’ve always been pretty calm. Our focus was just on winning games. I hope we can continue that now in the final.”
Didier Deschamps stressed there remains a significant job to be done against Portugal in Sunday’s final but the France manager basked in his team’s first competitive win over these opponents in 58 years. “We’ve written history because it’s been such a long time since we’ve beaten Germany,” he said. “I’m delighted for my players because this was a very tough game against a team who made us suffer. But we suffered together, and you could see the fervour and passion in the stands. This team has everything that it takes to be loved, and I’m proud of them all. Now there’s a trophy up for grabs against Portugal, and that is our target.
“The French players wrote history tonight by knocking out Germany. Okay, we’re the hosts and we’ve knocked out Germany, but that doesn’t give us additional powers. Portugal believe in themselves. We do, too. It’s still very open. We don’t have the power to solve all the French people’s problems, but we can generate emotions. There was a lot of passion, a lot of fervour, in the stadium. But, tonight, there’s also a lot of happiness in France.”
Joachim Löw, who deflected questions over his future despite having two years to run on his contract as Germany’s manager, was reluctant to criticise the referee, Nicolas Rizzoli, for awarding a penalty for handball against Bastian Schweinsteiger at the end of the first half. “Look, there is this rule where, if the hand is up and it hits the ball, a penalty can be awarded,” he said. “But it was point-blank range and Bastian had a split second to react.
“He could not put his hand down. That’s just bad luck. You can say his hand shouldn’t have been up, but there are movements when you jump up and you can’t control them. That was like that. I’m not blaming anyone from that.
“We were the better team. We’ve put in a good performance, a powerful display, but we didn’t have the luck we needed. In 2010 or 2012 when we went out, the sides who beat us were better than us. Today this wasn’t the case. We were better than the French. We showed a lot of courage and the players did all that was asked of them.”
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