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Dublin: 18 °C Wednesday 17 July, 2019
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Good evening everyone and welcome to our coverage of what promises to be an absolute barnstorming clash between the Euro 2016 hosts and the pesky, relentless Germans.

They’re attempting to follow Spain and France’s lead by following up a World Cup with European Championship success while Les Bleus are aiming to be in the final of a major tournament for the first time in a decade.

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So Germany are without Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez. They bring in Emre Can, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Julian Draxler.

For France, they’re unchanged from the side that thumped five past Iceland. That means no Kante while Griezmann will continue in that central zone, just behind Olivier Giroud.

The big surprise is Emre Can’s inclusion but I’m sure Jogi Low wants some added steel and physicality in that German midfield.

Bastian Schweinsteiger last started a match on 9th January – a FA Cup tie against Sheffield United.

Muller has struggled when pushed into that main striker’s role – where he’ll probably be tonight.

Gomez is a big loss in that context and Low’s decision to start Draxler shows that he’ll be looking for a bit more energy and sparkle in the final third.

Big discussion over on RTE about Kante’s exclusion but it would be pretty naive of Deschamps to not implement a decent plan to cover the centre of the French defence.

The Leicester man is a bundle of energy and covers so much ground and there will be added pressure on Matuidi and Pogba tonight to do the dirty work.

By the way, Deschamps has elected to retain Umtiti in the centre of defence, despite Adil Rami’s return from suspension.

It’s the new Will Grigg…

1Mins

Early moment of indecision as Neuer has to take a ball on his chest and kick clear under pressure. Germany immediately threaten at the other end and now France have a corner. Fantastic opening!

4Mins

France have started very well here – energy, pressing, hunger. And some nice touches in key areas. Griezmann has already been involved quite a bit, Pogba and Payet too.

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VERY CLOSE! Oh, that’s superb. Griezmann, take a bow. Magnificent interchange from deep between him and Matuidi – a collection of one-twos before Griezmann picks it up in the area, heads across goal and sends the low strike towards the bottom corner. But Neuer gets down and palms it away. Maybe a little too close to the keeper but what a magical goal it would’ve been.

9Mins

Germany are a little rattled by just how well France have started here. They’ve tried to take the sting out of the game but the hosts aren’t interested.

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VERY CLOSE! And there’s a reminder of how easily Germany can create something. Kimmich sends Can away in the right channel and his low cross is perfect for Muller but he drags his shot wide of the bottom corner.

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VERY CLOSE! And more pressure from Germany as Can tries his luck from distance but Lloris gets down superbly at his near post to beat it away. France find it difficult to clear the loose ball but eventually manage it.

18Mins

This is riveting stuff so far. Incredible opening from France but now Germany are dictating the pace with both full-backs pushing really high and Hector featuring heavily. Boateng is pushing up when Germany are in possession as well.

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PENALTY CLAIM! Germany want a spot-kick here after Kroos plays a lovely one-two with Muller and bursts into the area. Pogba catches him from behind and the Real Madrid midfielder goes down. But referee waves away the protests. On the replay, there was a trip but it was outside the box, I reckon.

23Mins

Free-kick to France here and it’s Payet territory…

25Mins

Tentative effort from Payet, really. He seemed to be anxious to get it over the wall so it lacked power. Neuer moved across to his right and gleefully grabbed it without difficulty.

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CLOSE! Another effort from Germany – this time from Schweinsteiger –  as he whips the shot towards the roof of the net and forces Lloris to tip over. It was pretty central but the keeper couldn’t take any chances.

29Mins

That’s a sign of how this game is going. Griezmann is very deep but does pick up the loose ball. Plenty of space ahead of him and off he goes. But there’s a lack of support. Only Giroud through the middle and Payet comes short alongside him. Griezmann thinks he’s wide left though and plays a heavy pass that ends up running tamely out of play.

31Mins

For all Manchester United fans, Schweinsteiger has looked sharp this evening.

33Mins

Half a chance for Germany as another cross from the right causes panic. Muller can’t quite reach it and Umtiti manages to clear with Draxler hovering.

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BOOKING! Anytime Griezmann has got on the ball and turned, he’s caused problems. Been far too deep far the majority of the half but he pops up again to provide some relief and wins a free-kcik after Can brings him down. Yellow card for the Liverpool midfielder.

37Mins

Pogba takes the free-kick this time and it’s a carbon copy of Payet’s earlier. Too tame and lacks pace and power. Neuer easily deals with it.

38Mins

Muller has a strike from a really optimistic distance/angle after France cheaply surrender possession and Germany unexpectedly break. Lloris watches it all the way and saves at his far post. Moments later, Germany force a corner down their left side.

40Mins

Pogba’s a bit fortunate here again. He’s grappling with Schweinsteiger as the corner is deliciously swung in from the left side. The veteran is perfectly placed to head it home but the Juve midfielder manages to do enough, whether legally or illegally, to put him off.

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CLOSE! The French system is very clear: find Griezmann pockets of space. He pops up again as Payet and Pogba combine and he makes the third man run in the left channel of the area. He rushes the shot though and it’s into the side-netting.

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VERY CLOSE! Oh, dear. Giroud is suddenly through after beating Boateng and races towards the area. Well, it actually looks like he’s walking through treacle. As he ambles in the general direction of Neuer’s goal, he prepares to pull the trigger but because it’s taken him so long to get set up, Howedes conjures a superb, last-ditch challenge.

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Oh, goodness me! We asked for drama and we’ve got it. The first half had been good enough and then this.

France forced a corner from nothing and when it was swung in, Schweinsteiger went to challenge for the header and it was eventually cleared. But the referee clearly got a call from one of his assistants, went back and awarded a penalty for a handball.

It was harsh. Schweinsteiger’s hands were up to give him elevation when jumping and, naturally, he was incredibly close to the ball when it was flicked on.

Up stepped Griezmann and kept his cool wonderfully for his fifth of the tournament.

Incredible stuff.

45Mins

Wow – take breath.

It’s a big call but the right one. I’ve just seen another replay of that penalty incident and Schweinsteiger’s hands are quite high – an unnatural position – and officiating team have done really well there.

46Mins

Germany dominated the first half but France had their moments too, with Griezmann being at the centre of all their positivity.

It hasn’t all been one-way traffic though the French were on the back-foot plenty of times throughout the opening period.

45Mins

47Mins

By the way, Schweinsteiger and Ozil were both booked in the aftermath of the penalty decision at the end of the first half.

48Mins

Giroud has another chance as Germany’s defence afford him some space. But he takes an age to fire in the shot, by which time Boateng gets close and blocks. It was another proper opportunity squandered.

49Mins

Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann is absolutely buzzing here. He combines with Giroud in the area before his strike is deflected over for a corner. He gestures wildly to the crowd to make more noise and they respond passionately…and loudly.

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BOOKING! Germany need to be careful here. Draxler has his pocket picked by Sissoko as he tries to make something happen in the corner and, as the midfielder races clear, he brings him down with a rash tackle.

53Mins

I’m sure we’ll see a switch in the German attack sooner rather than later. It doesn’t suit Muller as the leading man up top – he usually needs someone to play off or in behind.

57Mins

Well, that was a let-off for Germany. Emre Can, who’s already on a booking, blatantly dives in front of the referee to try and get a free-kick. Nicola Rizzoli had a look and decided against taking any action.

59Mins

This could be a major blow for Germany here as Boateng is being helped off the pitch…

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SUBSTITUTION! Mustafi (on) – Boateng (off)

Well, that’s a problem for Germany and Low knows it, thumping the top of the dugout with his hand in frustration just a moment ago. Is this slipping away from him?

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SUBSTITUTION! Gotze (on) – Can (off)

A second change for Germany and they’ll change the system here to go more attacking. 20 minutes plus interest left.

69Mins

Decent chance for Germany to swing in a decent corner delivery and instead it’s a free-kick to France because of Muller’s foul.

That’s a catalogue of errors by Germany and how they’ve been punished. Howedes puts Kimmich in all sorts of problems and Pogba picks it up on the left of the area. He makes a fool of Mustafi with some superb skill and puts up the cross. Neuer comes for it but loses it in the air and there’s Griezmann to tap it home.

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VERY CLOSE! Well, Germany go right up the other end with Kimmich, who cuts inside and curls a brilliant strike on his left foot that catches the outside of the far post. That could’ve put them right back in this!

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VERY CLOSE! Kante goes in the book for a challenge on Draxler but he dusts himself down and whips the free-kick towards the far corner. It just whistles past Lloris’ upright, with the goalkeeper scrambling.

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SUBSTITUTION! Gignac (on) – Giroud (off)

Customary change for France around this time of games with a like-for-like switch.

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SUBSTITUTION! Sane (on) – Schweinsteiger (off)

This is the last throw of the dice for Jogi Low. They need something and quick. The 20-year-old from Schalke is in.

80Mins

FYI…

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VERY CLOSE! After a couple of half-chances, Howedes rises highest and flashes his header just over the top – it catches the netting on the roof of the net as it flies over.

87Mins

This has been very well-handled by Deschamps, in fairness. Certainly dominated in the first half but they’ve been excellent in the second period and restricted Germany to very, very little.

90Mins

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SUBSTITUTION! Cabaye (on) – Griezmann (off)

And there’s the fitting ovation for the game-maker and game-changer. What a remarkable tournament he’s had.

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VERY CLOSE! What a stop that is by Lloris. What. A. Stop. From about seven yards, he sticks up a strong hand to block Muller’s booming header.

90Mins

That’s the romantic storyline ahead of Sunday’s decider sorted.

France through to face Portugal and they will be favourites in Paris. It’s all set up for them and Cristiano Ronaldo will, again, try and play the bad guy.

It was a strange game that Germany will certainly look back on with regret. They had issues ahead of this with Mario Gomez missing and Mats Hummels out too. It unsettled the system that had been ticking over nicely and Thomas Muller, who has struggled for form here, was asked to play a role he doesn’t like very much.

The penalty was a huge turning point but the mistakes made by Germany for the second goal said much – it was so completely non-German.

Poor possession, unforced errors and Manuel Neuer dropping a clanger.

Thanks for staying with us throughout the night and we’ll have plenty more reaction on the site over the next while.

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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