Germany eliminated France on Friday night and booked their slot in the Women’s World Cup semifinals, 5-4 in the penalty kick tiebreaker after a 1-1 draw. Germany sunk all five of their penalty kick attempts, while France’s Claire Lavogez had the final attempt well saved by Nadine Angerer. Germany will now face the USA in the semifinals after the USWNT edged China later on Friday.
It was a game considered a de-facto final by many and it lived up to the billing. This was a fast and technically adept match that showcased the best of the women’s game, and both teams showed why so many people feel the winner of the World Cup will come out of this game.
"Everyone says, ‘You had a great game. You are at the level of Germany,’ But we lost," France coach Philippe Bergeroo said. ”So what matters is to learn, to learn that to dominate doesn’t mean that you’ll win. They need to learn what will allow them to win games in the future.”
Both teams had enjoyed torrid runs: The French, after being upset by Colombia in the group stage, had recovered their form to make the quarters with ease at the expense of South Korea; Germany steamrolled Sweden to continue what seemed an inexorable march to the finals. But history also loomed as Les Bleues had never managed to beat Germany in a competitive match, with the memory of a stinging 4-2 defeat in the 2011 Cup clearly in front of their minds.
Yet it was not the imperious Germans, but France who came out guns blazing, throwing Elodie Thomis out wide and Louise Necib down the gut, and Les Bleues nearly grabbed the opening goal inside the first minute. With Tabae Kemme and Alexandra Popp outmatched by France’s speed, the Germans were compressed into their own half for much of the early going, with Thomis peppering Angerer’s area.
Time and again, Thomis whipped a ball in for Necib or Amandine Henry, and the French could easily have been up by two or three. But Thomis was unable to craft a final ball consistently, and when France had their best chance, a charging header from Marie-Laure Delie, Angerer was the equal to it. Necib basically took over the game, producing an electrifying shot in the 38th minute after she screened the defender, chested the ball down and then whipped in a shot near post that Angerer was forced to save at full stretch.
But Germany also had a couple of undeserved breaks. As has too often been the case at this tournament, the referee was the center of attention for all the wrong reasons. Canadian ref Carol Anne Chenard looked visibly unfit, and in fact interfered with a French free-kick when she failed to get out of the way. She also missed what looked to be a clear handball on Anja Mittag in the box off a shot from Amel Majri, and then was quite lenient on Mittag five minutes later again when she went in studs up and late, only seeing a yellow.
Celia Sasic had Germany’s only first-half response, a ball headed over the bar. Dzsenifer Marozsan would spell Mittag after the interval and nearly made a mark on the game, combining well with Sasic to force Sarah Bouhaddi into a save. Marozsan would also flight in a tricky free kick after a needless foul from Laura Georges, but Bouhaddi had her near post covered.
Necib’s goal broke the game open though, finally just reward for France’s domination. Collecting a long outlet, Delie laid the ball off for Necib, who took a touch, picked her spot and blew a shot in past Angerer to the far post. The strike might have taken the slightest of touches off Annike Krahn, but Angerer had no chance on the shot regardess.
Germany started throwing numbers forward, with sub Sara Dabritz seeing her shot blocked to kickstart a spell of pressure that ended when Simone Laudehr found herself all alone with an empty net to shoot at – only to miss the outside of the post by inches.
Germany would claw back on another debatable call. Laudehr fired in a cross with five to play in regulation that caught Majri on the shoulder, only to see Chenard point to the spot. The French protested to no avail, while Sasic stepped up to the spot and slotted home the penalty to tie things up.
That would send the game into extra time, and the French tried to fight back. Kemme cleaned out Necib in the 96th minute atop the box, only to see the ref swallow her whistle. Krahn would handle the ball moments later, but Majri wasted the ensuing free kick, slamming it straight into the wall.
Jessica Houara almost served up the winner, firing a cross in in the 177th that eluded the entire German defense, but Gaetane Thiney was unable to turn the ball home at the far post.
That miss would prove dear as Germany would go on a perfect run in the tiebreaker, sending Les Bleues home once again in disappointment.
”We sang a few songs; we were happy to have made it one match further,” Angerer said. ”We didn’t go overboard. We weren’t dancing on the chairs or tables. But, yes, we were happy. It was a very intense game, and I was extremely elated along with the rest of the team.”