MILTON KEYNES, England — Prolific striker Alexandra Popp scored twice as Germany beat France 2-1 in their Euro 2022 semifinal on Wednesday to set up a clash with host England in Sunday’s final at Wembley.
The Germans, eight-time European champions, will take on an England team on a high after their 4-0 thrashing of Sweden in Tuesday’s other semi.
“We played an amazing game and threw everything in,” said Popp, who has scored six goals in five games at the tournament after a lengthy spell of injury troubles.
“We are incredibly happy; nobody expected us (to do it). We’re in the final at Wembley against England — it doesn’t get any better than that.”
“We earned our self-confidence in all the games. The team is just great; they have my back and are happy with me after my whole story of suffering,” she added.
Popp fired Germany ahead in the 40th minute, sneaking in from the left to meet a fine cross from Svenja Huth and beat Pauline Peyraud-Magnin with a crisp finish.
The lead lasted less than four minutes, however, as France leveled when Kadidiatou Diani unleashed a fierce drive on the turn which rattled off the post and flew in off the back of Germany keeper Merle Frohms.
France had the better chances after the break, putting intense pressure on the German defense, but they could not find a way through.
Diani set up Selma Bacha, whose goalbound shot was blocked by Kathrin Julia Hendrich and then Wendie Renard’s header at the back post was well saved by the alert Frohms.
The lively Diani then intercepted a poor back pass and burst forward, but Frohms kept out her low drive from a tight angle.
Popp won the contest with her sixth goal in five games in the tournament, powering a superb header home from another excellent Huth cross in the 76th minute.
France continued to push, but with increasing desperation — Bacha went close with a curling first-time effort and Clara Mateo saw an effort fly just over the bar.
But in the end, it was Popp who proved the difference and England will need to find a way to stop her if they are to win their first title against the country which has dominated European women’s football for so long.
The enterprising French team, who had impressed many during this tournament, was left to rue the chances they couldn’t turn into goals.
“I wasn’t surprised by Germany because we knew that they were a very big team offering a lot of intensity. They were efficient, unlike us. We will learn from it,” said Bacha.
“All that was missing was efficiency. We are not going to discard everything. We can be proud of our journey. No one thought we were going to make it to the semifinals. Next time, it will be the final. You really have to believe in it and never give up.” — Reuters