Eight-time champions Germany booked their place in Sunday’s Euro 2022 final against England as Alexandra Popp scored twice in a hard-fought 2-1 victory over final-four debutants France.
Die Nationalelf’s path to the semi-finals had been flawless – without conceding a single goal – and despite being tested by an ebullient France frontline, they were unlikely to ever surrender their chance of contesting a record-high ninth Euro final.
France head coach Corinne Diacre vowed that her side were going to “saviour” every moment of their first semi-final appearance, but such sentiment was soon spoiled when Popp rounded off a free-flowing team move to fire Svenja Huth’s pinpoint cross home from close range (40).
The captain’s strike was the 90th of the tournament, while it also represented Germany’s 100th at European Championships – an all-time high.
France hit back on the stroke of half-time, as Germany were breached for the first time via a fierce shot from Kadidiatou Diani that cannoned awkwardly off the post and onto stranded goalkeeper Merle Frohms (45). The rebound was cruel, but the strike was emphatically executed by France’s brightest attacking threat on the night.
The Germans then rode a sustained wave of pressure, which saw efforts from Selma Bacha, Wendie Renard and Diani all thwarted by Frohms, who kept her side in the tie before it was settled by the competition’s joint top scorer Popp.
The same formula that provided the first opening created the second, as Huth picked out the late run of Popp who planted a thumping header beyond Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (76). A nervous wait ensued as VAR checked the validity of the goal, which was shortly cleared.
Prior to this game, Germany had scored in all 23 of their knockout phase matches at European finals. Make that 24. They will meet England at Wembley Stadium on Sunday in a repeat of 2009’s final.
Popp makes the difference (again)
History was somewhat against France this evening, with no side winning a debut semi-final bout since West Germany in 1989, and their mountainous task was made that much harder when Popp’s volley found the target from a well-measured Huth cross in the first half.
Four nations – Spain, Finland, Netherlands and Austria – have all tried and failed to progress further than the final four on their first attempt, with France now adding a fifth name to that list.
The French, who produced a spirited second-half display, will feel aggrieved they didn’t make a further dent on the scoreline as a flurry of chances passed them by. Renard’s back-post header went close, while Diani was denied by the brilliance of Frohms at her near post moments later – atoning for her earlier mishap.
Germany’s efficacy in front of goal ultimately made the difference as their talismanic captain Popp, who has scored six of her side’s 13 goals (46 per cent) at this summer’s tournament, rose to another momentous occasion in front of a 27,445 strong crowd in Milton Keynes.
“I had the feeling that many people had already written me off. I”m able to show that I’m still a force to be reckoned with,” the 31-year-old said after scoring against Austria in their narrow quarter-final win. And you can bet, with the Lionesses in wait, she’s not done yet.
Popp: Doesn’t get better than England at Wembley
Germany captain Alexandra Popp:
“I can’t put it into words. We played an amazing game and threw everything in. We are incredibly happy; nobody expected us. We’re in the final at Wembley against England – it doesn’t get any better than that.
“We earned our self-confidence in all the games. The team is just great; they have my back and are happy with me after my whole story of suffering. Now it’s time to regenerate quickly.
“It [the Golden Boot] is not my priority – my priority is to win the Euro. If I have the chance to crown the title with that achievement, it would be nice – but if it doesn’t happen, then I’ll still be happy.”
Voss-Tecklenburg: Pure pride of totally deserved win
Germany head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg:
“I feel pure pride for this achievement and these players from numbers one to 23,” she said. “We have worked so hard and have become such a tight-knit bunch who support each other on the field. We totally deserved to win.
“France made a change for the second half after only having one shot on goal before the break. We knew that they could do more offensively and hurt us. It was a terrific team effort and that’s what we wanted. It worked out in the end but it was super-exciting and super-exhausting.
“It will be a great football feast, it’s a classic game and England has been incredible in this tournament, every single game full of dynamics, loads and loads of goals, but the first 30 minutes against Sweden showed you can hurt them.
“We will play in Wembley in front of 80,000 most of them probably for England, very few for us but we are accepting the challenge.
“I am very proud. I look forward a lot to this game, this will be an incredible final.”
Diacre questions shorter recovery time
France head coach Corinne Diacre:
“We saw that some of the French players were maybe not on par with their normal level of fitness, but we didn’t give up, we didn’t throw in the towel,” she said.
“Maybe if we had 48 hours more [rest] it would have been different. I don’t know what the players would have looked like, but I don’t think we should take this win away from Germany.
“Obviously disappointment is the overriding feeling right now because we have lost this match, but we have got foundations to build on and we just need a bit of time.”
France exit the tournament at the semi-final stage but have gone further than any previous appearance at a Euro finals, while Germany will contest Sunday’s final at Wembley Stadium against Sarina Wiegman’s England.
The knock-out phase…
Wednesday July 20
Quarter-final 1: England 2-1 Spain (AET)
Thursday July 21
Quarter-final 2: Germany 2-0 Austria
Friday July 22
Quarter-final 3: Sweden 1-0 Belgium
Saturday July 23
Quarter-final 4: France 1-0 Netherlands (AET)
Tuesday July 26
Semi-final 1: England 4-0 Sweden
Wednesday July 27
Semi-final 2: Germany 2-1 France
Sunday July 31
England vs Germany – kick-off 5pm, Wembley
Follow Euro 2022 across Sky Sports
Sky Sports News and Sky Sports’ digital platforms will be following every step of England’s Euro 2022 journey ahead of Sunday’s championship final at Wembley Stadium.
On the road, the Sky Sports News Mobile Presentation bus will continue to bring you all the best guests and analysis from the likes of Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett offering their expert insight. The bus will be based in the heart of Sheffield ahead of England’s last four fixture, before heading to Wembley for the final.
Across SkySports.com, the Sky Sports App and on social media, we’ll have all the big moments covered with our previews, features, reports, analysis, plus the the Sky Sports Women’s Euros podcast with Sky Sports’ senior football journalist Charlotte Marsh and Sky Sports News reporter Anton Toloui.
And if you’re new to the England squad, don’t worry – here’s our guide to meeting the Lionesses.
As well as England, Sky Sports News and Sky Sports digital will also be covering all the knockout games as we head towards the showpiece final on July 31.
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