Just a few hours before they take on world champions Germany, France are counting on home support and a sense of wanting revenge to make it to the finals, midfielder Moussa Sissoko said on Tuesday.
“Germany are the world champions and we watched their games during this tournament. They are a very strong team but we have also shown good things during this tournament and we play home so with our public it can also help. I would say it is 50/50. About the enthusiasm, we have seen it a bit on TV and on social media but we don’t really realise it because we are in our bubble, out of it so we don’t really see what’s going on around us. But we know there is a strong enthusiasm and a strong expectation. I think they (the fans) are already proud with our tournament route but we hope to go way further,” Sissoko said during a news conference at the team’s base in Clairefontaine outside Paris.
France will try to beat the world champions on Thursday (July 7) in Marseilles – the first time since the 1958 World Cup, although they did win a friendly against Germany last November on the night that Islamist militants struck in Paris.
France will be seeking revenge for World Cup semi-final losses in 1982 and 1986 and most recently a 1-0 quarter-final defeat at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“They have a young team like us, it is a great team and we also have a great team with very good players. But there is no rivalry like you can say. For us it will be a football match we absolutely want to win to qualify. And we don’t forget this World Cup game where we lost 1-0, we still have it across the throat and it is the good time to set the record straight,” Sissoko said.
Many say it will not be easy, with one major French sports daily comparing Thursday’s semi-final match to France climbing Mount Everest with slippery shoes.
Leading 4-0 at halftime against underdogs Iceland on Sunday (July 3), France dropped their guard in the second half, conceding two goals to allow their brave but limited opponents some consolation.
It was not the first time in the tournament that France’s defence showed signs of nerves and looked vulnerable, notably from set pieces.
But Sissoko said the players are ready for Germany.
He also made a cheeky comment about fellow player Antoine Griezmann’s love for the traditional drink “mate.”
Griezmann has now moved to the top of the scorers table with four goals.
“He is always with his glass of ‘mate’. He left early for Spain and I think many players drink it there. Griezmann is French but has the Spanish culture and that’s why he can’t be without his ‘mate’ anymore.” Sissoko said, referring to Griezmann’s ties with Spain.
Griezmann has extended his contract with Atletico Madrid by one more season which will keep him at the club until 2021.
The 25-year-old, who joined the club from Real Sociedad in 2014, has flourished under manager Diego Simeone, scoring more than 50 goals in his two seasons at the Vicente Calderon.
Griezmann also guided Atletico to their second Champions League final in three years, but missed out on the prestigious trophy, both times to local rivals Real Madrid.
The semi-final against Germany kicks off at 1900 GMT (2100 CEST) on Thursday.