Germany go into their semifinal match against France missing a few key players, forcing coach Löw to make changes. BFM-TV journalist Saber Desfarges think this may France’s best chance to beat Germany in 48 years.
DW: Who is the favorite in this match? France, who are playing at home, of Germany, the World Cup champions?
Saber Desfarges: I believe this is the first time since 2014 that Germany are not the favorites going into a match. Why? For one thing they are playing against a very high quality team will be playing in Marseille, where we can expect an exceptional atmosphere, where the majority of supporters will be completely behind Didier Deschamps team. On the other hand, the German team will be without four key players. Among these is a player that is very well known in France: Mats Hummels was the player who scored against them in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Rio in 2014. So the feeling in France is that this is one of those rare occasions when France have a slight advantage, due to Germany’s personnel problems and particularly because France are playing at home in Marseille.
It seems like the French team were sputtering as they opened the tournament, but they have come on since then and against Iceland they seemed to finally be firing on all cylinders.
Yes of course! You have to remember that the French team had been hit by an enormous amount of injuries ahead of the tournament. We all know of course about the omission of Karim Benzema due to the sex tape affair. The injury troubles were the worst in midfield, where Didier Deschamps had to do without several experienced players, also Rafael Varane, and make do with some youngsters who were almost entirely lacking in international experience. For example, in the game against Ireland, N’Goto Kante made just his seventh international appearance.
In effect, Deschamps was forced to build a new team due these absences, and to find a system of play that could be as effective as possible with the players that he had at his disposal. We all know about Blaise Matuidi or Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet Finally, it was also necessary over the course of the tournament to find the right combination, a starting 11 with the right chemistry to make things work. This was something that Deschamps couldn’t do in the friendlies, before the tournament, because he was dealing with a significantly different set of players.
As it turned out, France were able to take advantage of the fact that they started out by playing against weaker teams. Romania, Albania, Ireland or even Switzerland are not among Europe’s top international sides. So I think France have found the mix that works and they are on the right path.
Having spent virtually the whole tournament here in Evian-les-Bains, which as pleasant as it is, definitely is not a footballing hot bed, so it’s been hard to gauge what the mood of the country is. But you got the impression during and after France’s quarterfinal against Iceland, that the people were starting to really get behind the team. So what about the rest of the country?
I think the fans weren’t really all into the tournament during the group stage, but they did start to get into it as soon as the games really began to mean something, so when the knockout stage began. It was at the point that you started to see a lot more people wearing French jerseys in bars or in the streets, and you also started to see a lot more flags being displayed. At the same time, you’ve also been seeing a lot more people turning up the fan zones since then.
The last really big team that France produced was a generation ago, when France won the World Cup at home in 1998, before following that up with the European championship two years later. How would you compare the two teams.
There is no comparison. Not only are these two completely different teams, but football has changed completely since then. It is simply impossible to compare the two.
So the French fans are finally into Euro 2016, France may have a slight advantage over Germany, at least on paper, for the first time in quite a while. But of course, we know that Joachim Löw has found solutions for injury problems before. What is you prediction? Who will win in Marseille on Thursday?
I think it will be a very tight game, but for all the reasons we have talked about, I think it will be a very tight match, but France will do just enough to come out on top in the end.
Saber Desfarges is a sports journalist who covers the French national team for France’s BFM-TV. He travelled to Germany’s base camp in Evian-les-Bains to find out more about France’s next opponent, after it became clear that the two rivals would face each other in Thursday’s Euro 2016 semifinal in Marseille.
The interview was conducted by Chuck Penfold