Evian (France) (AFP) – Germany face hosts France in the Euro 2016 semi-finals on Thursday in the midst of an injury crisis, but buoyed by memories of their flooring of Brazil at the same stage of the 2014 World Cup.
The Marseille clash will be another test of Germany’s mettle after their historic quarter-final defeat of Italy.
Die Mannschaft are without three stars with defender Mats Hummels suspended, plus striker Mario Gomez and midfielder Sami Khedira injured.
Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is highly doubtful with a knee strain, but nevertheless the world champions are relishing the French challenge.
Joachim Loew has compared the situation to two years ago when Germany stunned hosts Brazil 7-1.
France’s 5-2 hammering of minnows Iceland in the quarter-finals on Sunday means the hosts come to Marseille with hopes high — game on, says Loew.
“The majority of the people in the stadium will be behind France, the country is now full of this euphoria, this energy,” said Germany’s head coach.
“It’s great when it’s like this.
“In Brazil, it was just the same. There were 200 million behind the team and we coped well,” he said with a heavy hint of understatement.
– Midfield changes –
A scoreline similar to the sensational 7-1 drubbing is very unlikely, but the message from the German camp is clear — challenge accepted.
“France will have gained a lot of confidence from their victory, but they know, regardless of our personal situation, what we can do. I’m looking forward to the game,” said Loew.
Thomas Mueller and Mario Goetze, who will replace Gomez, are likely to start up front in Marseille as Loew hinted at a 4-4-2 line-up, rather than the 3-5-2 which beat Italy.
But a new face is set to be seen in the middle.
Either Emre Can of Liverpool or Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Weigl is set to parter Toni Kroos in the defensive midfield with Khedira out and Schweinsteiger struggling.
“We’re going to have to make changes and find solutions,” said Loew.
I trust any of my players in the squad, but I won’t play anyone who is not 100 percent fit.”
He was full of praise for France’s star-studded attack of Olivier Giroud, Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann, all of whom scored against Iceland.
As it was against Italy, who Germany had never previously beaten at a major tournament, this is another tie steeped in history, while France will want revenge.
– French revenge –
Les Bleus lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals at Rio de Janeiro’s Marcana, thanks to Mats Hummels’ first-half header.
And France has never fully forgiven Germany for their penalty shoot-out defeat in the controversial semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain.
An epic 3-3 draw, with four goals scored in extra-time, came down to a penalty shoot-out which Germany won 5-4, but the match is remembered for a brutal incident.
France’s Patrick Battiston was knocked unconscious, with two teeth missing and three cracked ribs, after a collision with Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher.
Although no foul was given by the referee it did nothing for diplomatic relations between the European neighbours.
Loew deflected any questions of the 1982 match, but talked up the current French team, who he believes will be harder to beat than Italy.
“France are harder to predict, they are more flexible,” said Loew after their win over Iceland.
“They had a few problems to get into the tournament, but you could see that the early goal freed them up and were 3-0 up at half-time.
“They will have almost a fanatical support behind them in Marseille and forwards in form, like Giroud, Griezmann and Payet.
“I’ve always said they are amongst the favourites. I love games like this.”