Germany have set up a FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup final against Nigeria after eking out a 2-1 win over an excellent France side in Montreal. The outcome was harsh on a Bleuettes team that dominated much of this excellent, enthralling last-four encounter, but who were ultimately punished for failing to convert a string of superb chances.
Many had predicted that this would be the most open, evenly contested and exciting match yet at Canada 2014, and it lived up to its billing, with both sides committed to attack. Germany had been expected to be fresher, having avoided extra time in the last eight and enjoyed an extra day's rest, and initially it seemed that would be the case.
Indeed, with 12 minutes gone, everything looked to be going to plan for Maren Meinert's team as Pauline Bremer handed them a precious lead. Theresa Panfil had sprung the France offside trap with a fine ball over the top for Sara Dabritz, and while the resulting goal-bound shot was saved by Solene Durand, the France keeper could only block, allowing the predator Bremer to gobble up the rebound from five yards.
France, though, had beaten Germany at this same stage of last year's UEFA European U-19 Women's Championship, and they were not about to roll over and accept defeat. The remainder of the first half was a tale of uninterrupted *Bleuettes *dominance, with Gilles Eyquem's side producing some wonderful flowing football and pinning the favourites back in their own half.
The only French failing, and not for the first time at Canada 2014, was in failing to take their chances, with Mylaine Tarrieu setting the tone on 29 minutes with a volley high and wide from Claire Lavogez's delicious defence-splitting pass. Tarrieu was involved again six minutes later, turning the German defence inside-out before forcing a brilliant reflex block from Meike Kamper. That superb save was then followed by an incredible miss as Sandie Toletti, with the keeper out of position and the goal seemingly at her mercy, headed the rebound over.
But France were not deterred by these and other missed opportunities, and in the final minute of the half they finally found a breakthrough. After all the slick interplay, the goal ended up coming from a corner, with Griedge Mbock Bathy charging in to meet Lavogez's cross and seeing her deflected volley loop over Kamper and into the back of the net.
It wasn't the first time that France's classy captain had led by example and she proved a threat once more early in the second half as her team continued to dominate. Again winning the ball at a corner, she sent a diving header across goal, where substitute Faustine Robert just missed out with an attempted overhead kick.
There was only one team deserving of a place in the final, it seemed, and yet it is never wise to count the Germans out. Their ability to grind out results is legendary, and it again came to the fore here as they snatched victory with nine minutes remaining.
Again, it was a corner that provided the opening, with Rebecca Knaak seeing her header cleared off the line before Lena Petermann poked home an opportunistic two-yard winner when the ball was returned towards goal.
France pushed hard for an equaliser in the final minutes but it was to no avail and they must now face up to a third-place play-off against Korea DPR, while Germany compete for gold.
*Live Your Goals player of the match: Meike Kamper (GER) *