Antoine Griezmann came to Marseille, Antoine Griezmann conquered Marseille, Antoine Griezmann left the world champions Germany befuddled and distraught. On the back of two goals from their in-form striker, France stormed into the final of Euro 2016, setting up a clash with Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal at the Stade de France on Sunday.
Griezmann, playing in his preferred second striker position again, made most of a questionable, yet also understandable, handball decision to smash the ball home from the spotkick to give France the lead, before a true poacher's goal with 18 minutes to go proved to be the dagger in Germany's hopes of completing a World Cup-European Championship double.
The game, as expected and hoped, started off at a great pace, with both sides attacking with gay abandon in an attempt to find the crucial opening goal.
Griezmann was the first to send those oohs and aahs ringing around the stadium, with his shot, after a nice couple of passes between him and Dimitri Payet, forcing a good save from Manuel Neuer.
Germany, though, soon, took control of possession and the majority of the chances, with Thomas Muller failing to find the target off a cross from Emre Can, before the latter got those gloves of Hugo Lloris working with a strike from the edge of the box. Can had a bright beginning to the game, playing a lot more forward than first thought, with Toni Kroos staying alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in deep midfield.
The chances kept coming in the match, with a Mesut Ozil deflected shot falling for Schweinsteiger, who forced Lloris to tip the shot over.
France, at the other end, struck the target with a couple of freekicks – from Dimitri Payet and Paul Pogba – but both were easily saved by Neuer.
The more Germany had control of the possession, the more France seemed to get nervous, giving the ball away a fair few times. And yet, there was that sense of danger and threat about them on the counter, even if Germany seemed to have the match under control.
That control went near the end of the first half, however, when Jerome Boateng, who would later be forced off in the second half with an injury, gave the ball away in his own half, allowing Olivier Giroud to run through on goal. The Arsenal striker's lack of pace, however, meant Benedikt Howedes was given a chance to come back and save his central defensive partner, and save him he did with a brilliant tackle to deny Giroud from opening the scoring for the hosts.
France, though, would take the lead right on halftime, from the penalty spot, after a handball decision that could be argued both ways. Schweinsteiger was the man punished for putting his arms up while going for a clearing header off a corner. The ball seemed to strike Patrice Evra a fraction of a second before hitting Schweinsteiger's hand, and while that might seem harsh, a case can also be made for the fact that he should not have been leaning with his arms up in the air.
Either way, the referee Nicola Rizzoli gave the penalty after waiting to see if France had an advantage, and up stepped Griezmann to thump the ball home after sending Neuer the wrong way. That would have been a difficult pill to swallow for Germany, who had 64% of the possession in the first half, and good possession too, not just passing the ball back and forth in their own half.
Germany needed to come out in the second half, force the pace a little more and show why they are the world champions, but that pace of play just was not there, surprisingly, and with France always dangerous on the counter, there was a good chance of a second goal coming the hosts' way.
So it did in the 72nd minute, with Griezmann, adding to his Euro 2016 legend. Paul Pogba showed some trickery down the left before lobbing a cross towards Giroud in the middle. Neuer came to swat the ball away from the France striker, but that swat only went a couple of yards, with Griezmann on hand to poke the ball into an empty net.
Germany kept at it, desperate to find a way back into the game, and while they came close on a couple of occasions, France, much to the delight of the majority at the Stade Velodrome, held on to move one step away from a dream European title at home.