Alexandra Popp flew, scored and won. It was just unbelievable what the captain of the German national soccer team did in the semifinals of the European Championship on Wednesday.
Popp had almost all the German team’s good chances against the French and the captain also scored both goals in the 2-1 (1-1) win in front of 30,500 spectators in Milton Keynes.
The longest-serving player in the German team was also the best player on the field and that’s one of the reasons why the Germans are now playing for the title on Sunday – against the hosts from England, who rushed into the final on Tuesday after beating Sweden 4-0.
The stadium of Milton Keynes has rarely experienced great highlights in football, the local Milton Keynes Football Club, founded in 2004 and officially the successor to FC Wimbledon, only plays third-rate. The biggest sporting events in the pretty arena so far were probably Rugby World Cup games in 2015.
On Wednesday, however, a big football evening was announced, even if it started with a rather weird song performance from the German team. The opponents from France were still better in the singing of the Marseillaise than the German players in the national anthem.
But that was probably also due to a certain healthy nervousness. After all, they should play well and not sing well.
In the beginning, however, the French attacked quite early and looked for their chances but didn’t find them. They had never won against a German team at World or European Championships, the French obviously wanted to demonstrate that this time they wanted to achieve more than just a European Championship semi-final, because they had never made it to the final.
After 15 minutes, however, the team of national coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg took the initiative, had more possession and a lot more of the game. Alexandra Popp had the 1:0 on her foot with a free kick, her long-range shot towards the bottom left corner was just able to steer Pauline Peyraud-Magnin to the corner.
Five minutes before the break, France’s goalkeeper didn’t stand a chance against Popp: the captain converted a cross from Svenja Huth under the bar with full force. The French didn’t look shocked, however, and immediately formed a circle on the field and cheered each other on – and equalized before the break.
Striker Kadidiatou Diani shot from distance after a German defensive error and hit the inside of the post, but from there the ball bounced over German goalkeeper Merle Frohms and into the German goal.
A bitter moment for the woman from Wolfsburg and a bitter end to the first half for the overall better team on the pitch. It was the first goal for the Germans in their fifth European Championship game and thus in the entire tournament.
After the restart, it was a duel at eye level. The German opponents became stronger again. Substitute Bacha had a huge chance that Kathrin Hendrich was able to clear with her head. In the following corner kick, captain Windie Renard had the 2-1 upside down, but Frohms just about saved. The Germans had luck on their side in this phase.
But they also had Alexandra Popp and she made everything clear for the Germans and the final against the English on Sunday at Wembley Stadium with all determination in the 76th minute with her header. It is already the tenth European Championship final for a German team – but many finals are the result of different times.