Germany Beats France 5-4 In Shootout To Reach Semifinals
MONTREAL, Quebec -- Germany advanced to a fifth FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal after defeating France 5-4 in a penalty kick shootout at the end of a pulsating encounter in Montreal.
France had the No. 1 team in the world on the brink for much of the first 90 minutes, but Nadine Angerer's save of 21-year-old Claire Lavogez's penalty saw Germany emerge triumphant and remain in Montreal for Tuesday's semifinal against the United States-China winner. Here are three observations from Olympic Stadium.
1. A match to remember
It might not have been the final, but this game is bound to go down in WWC history as one of the most memorable matches in women's soccer ever. It had it all.
France, undeterred by what it had seen from Germany's previous games in Canada and what would have intimidated most beyond breaking point, showed no fear of its opponent and attacked the Germans from start to finish.
That was not to be enough, though. It ended with France coach Philippe Bergeroo escorting a distraught Lavogez off the field toward the dressing room.
She had just missed France's fifth penalty in the shootout, after a controversial late penalty in regulation time had given Germany the lifeline it needed to get back into a game dominated by Les Bleues. Celia Sasic tucked that in, preserving Germany's perfect record from the spot (12-for-12) in World Cup play. Sasic later converted Germany's winning spot kick in the shootout before Lavogez's effort was saved.
It was the ultimate punishment for France's inability to transform its superiority into goals, but credit for that must also be paid to Germany's goalkeeper. Angerer's saves after three weeks of relative inactivity earned Germany a second chance, and it was she who denied Lavogez, sparking tears of joy and sadness, delirium and devastation.
The emotions were flowing at the end of the game, which lived up to its billing as the 2015 WWC final.
2. France can go home proud
Bergeroo was hoping to see his players get at the Germans the way they had bitten at the heels of Mexico and South Korea in blistering recent starts, and he was not to be disappointed.
Right in the first minute, a great break down the right with Elodie Thomis racing clear and showing great vision to pick out Louisa Necib was only inches from being turned in by France's number 14. It set the tone for the whole game.
Thomis hugged the right wing, and Germany could not get near her. It was like she had a buffer zone around her and the pace to leave anybody who came near her for dead. France was striking fear in its opponent.
It led to an uncharacteristic moment of panic from Annike Krahn to turn the ball behind for a corner when Angerer was just a yard behind her and ready to collect. The call might have come from Angerer, but given the amount of pressure Germany was under, she did not want to take any risks.
Another prodigious move involving Marie-Laure Delie and Thomis unlocked the German defense once again, but one vital thing was lacking. Despite getting in 14 shots compared to Germany's six -- most of which were excruciatingly close -- the teams were still tied 0-0 at the break.
Germany had Angerer to thank for that, as she proved why she is one of the best goalkeepers in the business, despite having spent much of her month in Canada pretty much on vacation. When she was finally beaten, it took a deflection off the toe of Babett Peter from Necib's shot to curl beyond her reach. Not a single goalkeeper on the planet would have kept that out, but then, few teams in the world would have been able to deny this France team on Friday.
Germany managed it, but only on penalties after being given a major scare in Montreal. France will be World Cup hosts in four years' time, and it can already count itself among the favorites for home glory.
3. New territory for Neid
Germany coach Silvia Neid, perhaps for the first time all tournament, got to see what the very edge of her technical area looked like Friday.
It was new territory for the Germany coach, who had seen little reason in any of her team's previous matches to leave the comfort of her seat on the bench. Indeed, she was used to rising only to give a high five to every member of her bench after each goal Germany scored. Her right hand was getting sore as a result.
There was real concern on her face this time, however, as she took her seat again following another in a string of wasted opportunities from France. She appeared to ask her assistant what was happening. Neither could quite understand. She rose again to check if the white paint outlining her technical area was indeed dry. It was starting to fade from her almost permanent presence on the very corner of her zone.
There she stood, watching as France dominated her side and cracked it but, ultimately, did not break it. Germany is made of strong stuff, and it fought its way back to win, and Neid -- who played for Germany from 1982-1996 -- was finally able to burst out of her technical zone and put in a 50-yard sprint to join in the celebrations.
It was probably more relief than joy. Her World Cup dream is still alive, though she will probably prefer to watch her side's next match from the comfort of her seat again.