Germany reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals after winning a thrilling penalty shootout against Italy in Bordeaux. Joachim Low’s World Cup holders looked on course for victory in normal time – against a country they had never beaten at a major tournament – when Mesut Ozil rounded off a slick build-up with Mario Gomez and Jonas Hector to score at the near post in the 65th minute. Italy did not flinch but were grateful for a moment of madness from Germany defender Jerome Boateng when he needlessly handled, allowing Leonardo Bonucci to score the first penalty of his career with 12 minutes left. Germany missed more penalties in one shootout than in their history – three – but were once again the winners on penalties.
They have still never lost a shootout since the 1976 final of this competition when they lost to Czechoslovakia – some 40 years and 13 days ago. It was settled when Hector drove low under Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon after Manchester United’s Matteo Darmian saw his side’s ninth penalty saved by Manuel Neuer. Germany will now play either hosts France or England’s conquerors Iceland in the last four. This was a meeting between two of European football’s superpowers – a last-eight match-up that would have graced the final itself in Paris next weekend. Instead it was a fight for a place in the last four and Low’s Germany did what they do best. They found a way to win, however it was achieved.
France scored five to bring a brutal end to the Iceland fairytale and set up an intriguing Euro 2016 semi-final against world champions Germany in Marseille on Thursday. There was almost a sense of disbelief around the Stade de France at the break as the host nation walked off with a 4-0 advantage, two of the goals coming in the closing minutes of the half. Olivier Giroud’s low strike and Paul Pogba’s powerful header from a corner had settled early French nerves and put their side in control. Dimitri Payet scored his third goal of an increasingly memorable tournament for the West Ham playmaker with a precise low strike from 20 yards that skidded across the greasy surface before Antoine Griezmann deftly lifted the ball over Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson. After the restart Kolbeinn Sigthorsson stabbed home at the near post from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross as Iceland refused to give in before France restored their four-goal advantage when Giroud headed in a free-kick.
Still, there was more to cheer for the excellent Iceland fans when Birkir Bjarnason headed a second for his side in the final stages of what has been a remarkable tournament debut for their team. Didier Deschamps’ side had only conceded twice in the tournament before meeting Iceland – both penalties – but they had not scored in the opening half of a match and only really shown in flashes that they can reproduce on the pitch the ability they appear to have on paper. That changed at a wet but atmospheric Stade de France on Sunday. Griezmann had not scored in 648 minutes of football for France at this ground but he ended that with his composed, delicate finish. In some ways the goal was everything that was best about France; a patient 14-pass move that ended with a moment of invention to open up the opposition. A raking ball forward was superbly dummied by Giroud, completely bamboozling the Iceland defence and giving Griezmann a clear run at goal. The goal took Griezmann to four in the tournament and he is now the highest scorer at Euro 2016, with Payet and Giroud among several players one behind. But even though France were very comfortable winners, it was far from a flawless performance.