Antoine Griezmann took up the mantle as challenger-in-chief to Cristiano Ronaldo with two goals that crushed world champions Germany....
Antoine Griezmann took up the mantle as challenger-in-chief to Cristiano Ronaldo with two goals that crushed world champions Germany and saw France into Sunday’s Euro 2016 final against Portugal.
A penalty awarded seconds before half-time caused turmoil in the German camp.
Griezmann took his chance and added a second strike to extend his lead as the tournament’s leading scorer and become France’s new football hero.
“He’s our little Mr Extra,” said fellow striker Olivier Giroud after the dramatic win before 65,000 spectators on a hot Thursday night in Marseille.
France’s first victory over their rivals in a major tournament since 1958 came out of a controversial penalty decision at the end of the first half.
Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli saw that German captain Bastian Schweinsteiger handled the ball in an aerial challenge with Patrice Evra.
German players were furious but Griezmann sent goalkeeper Manuel Neuer the wrong way with his spot kick.
The 2014 World Cup winners had dominated possession and German coach Joachim Loew said he had to “calm the players down” in the dressing room at half-time because of the penalty.
Germany renewed their control of the ball in the second half but Griezmann rattled them again with a 72nd minute goal.
Paul Pogba’s cross from the left was cleared by Neuer into the Atletico Madrid star’s path to fire home through the legs of the goalkeeper who had only conceded one other goal in regulation time at the tournament.
Germany desperately pushed forward.
Joshua Kimmich hit the crossbar with one shot and other efforts went narrowly wide. But France held firm for a famous and thrilling victory.
Sunday’s final will pit Griezmann against Ronaldo and a team from a nation of 11 million people against one of Europe’s giants, who won the World Cup in 1998 at the same venue and the European title in 1984.
French coach Didier Deschamps hailed Germany as a “a great team.”
“We found it tough but we didn’t give up,” he said praising his own players’ determination.
France’s recent years have been clouded by defeats and scandal, including a player strike at the 2010 World Cup. Now the country appears to be behind them again.
“I’ve always believed in my players,” said Deschamps. “The ones I chose to form this squad have repaid me handsomely.
This is their story, their victory.”