When the 1.87 meter tall Wendie Renard climbs up to head the ball in the penalty area, she almost always gets the ball. Whether on offense or defence. “She is an absolute leader. We have to defend her well from set pieces because she has a good header. “We’ll prepare specifically for that,” said German midfielder Sara Däbritz ahead of the European Championship semi-final between Germany and France on Wednesday in Milton Keynes (9 p.m., ARD and Dazn).
The French centre-back has won numerous titles with Olympique Lyon, just one title away with the national team. France have reached at least the quarter-finals of every major tournament since EURO 2009, but have never progressed beyond a semi-final. The German team has a player in Däbritz who has been playing in France for three years. After the European Championship, she will switch from Paris St.-Germain within the league to record champions and reigning Champions League winners Olympique Lyon. Renard will soon be her teammate.
In the duel for entry into the European Championship final, however, the first thing to do is to take the French captain out of the game as far as possible. Especially with standards, Renard is dangerous and is almost exclusively wanted by her teammates. Martina Voss-Tecklenburg also knows about the quality of the French and her other teammates: “It’s a top team. It’s going to take mentality and it’s going to hurt. We are ready and will throw in everything we have – it will be a top semi-final,” said the national coach.
Confidence is high in Germany after the last four games without conceding a goal. “Someone has to come and defeat us first,” says Vice-Captain Svenja Huth. “This team spirit and this knowledge that the base is our defense can take us far.”
The German team is aware of the quality of the opponents, in the quarterfinals against the Netherlands France was clearly the better team. “They definitely deservedly prevailed, they had created many good chances. It will be important to get our game through,” said German assistant coach Britta Carlson. “We are variable and have analyzed which rooms we are going into. The French have already conceded goals and are also vulnerable. We want to take advantage of that.”
In the 1-0 win against the Dutch women, only a penalty goal in extra time secured progress. Selma Bacha from Olympique Lyon in particular drew attention to herself. Substituting for Melvine Malard up front, the regular left-back made an immediate impact on the game at 21. The absence of French record goalscorer Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who was seriously injured in the group game against Belgium, has created a vacancy in the center of the attack that Bacha could fill.
The French women’s head coach since 2017 is Corinne Diacre, who is considered authoritarian and has been criticized for her communication style in the past. One of her first official acts was the dismissal of the previous captain Renard. In the meantime, however, both have spoken out and their disagreements cleared up, it is said.
In terms of sport, Diacre provided the next surprise when nominating the squad for the European Championship and left two absolute star players at home with record goalscorer Eugenie Le Sommer and long-time captain Amandine Henry. But even without the two, France has an enormously strong squad that is at least equal to that of Germany.
France plays in the 4-3-3 system and, like Germany, is very high. That could leave the team vulnerable to counterattacks and be an advantage for the speedy Svenja Huth and Jule Brand on the flanks of the German team. Brand may start for Klara Bühl, who tested positive for the corona virus on Tuesday.
In addition to the offensive power of Delphine Cascarino, Grace Geyoro and Kadiditou Diani, the defense of France is also convincing. There Renard is set in central defence. In addition, Diacre recently switched between Griedge Mbock Bathy and Aissatou Tounkara. The French didn’t have much to defend against the Netherlands, but that should change against Germany.
Both semi-finalists play an extremely high pressing. In the game against Austria, the high start-up didn’t go so well from the German point of view for the first time and Austria got behind the German team’s defensive line several times. In contrast to Austria, the French are much better positioned offensively, especially in terms of speed. This could give them more chances should Germany not find access to midfield again. In addition, France has so far impressed with a quick transition game. The only point of criticism in the quarter-finals was the exploitation of chances by the French, which in turn is a strength of the Germans in this tournament.
With the exception of Bühl, all 22 players are fit to play against France. The team of national coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg also had two days more time to regenerate. France also had to go into extra time against the Netherlands and thus lost some strength.
Nevertheless, the French will try to dominate the game, which according to Giulia Gwinn is also the plan of the DFB team: “Our goal is not to let their strengths develop. We want to have a lot of possession and impose our game on them. France knows what’s coming, we’ve earned respect.”