MILTON KEYNES: Germany captain Alexandra Popp said she is savoring a starring role at Euro 2022 all the more following years of injury struggles after scoring twice beat France 2-1 in Wednesday’s semi-final. Popp’s side will face hosts England in front of an expected record crowd for a women’s Euro match of 87,000 at Wembley on Sunday. Just making it to the Euro was a success for the Wolfsburg striker after missing the two previous European Championships through injury. The 31-year-old battled back from two knee surgeries in the past 15 months to make the tournament and has exploded in England with six goals in five games.
“I am enjoying these moments a lot more. I enjoy football a lot more,” said Popp after setting a new record by becoming the first woman to score in five consecutive women’s Euro matches. “It doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it before, but it became a bit pedestrian. Now to have the moments on the pitch, I really value that a lot. “It makes it very special to be here with such a performance individually, but also as a team being so successful.”
Popp’s double also took her level with England’s Beth Mead on six goals in the battle for the Golden Boot, matching the record for a single women’s European Championship held by Inka Grings from Euro 2009. That tournament ended in a German rout over England in the final and Die Nationalelf will be hoping for a repeat as they aim to upset the hosts. “England versus Germany is a classic,” said German boss Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. “We will play at Wembley in front of 80 or 90,000 people. Most will be supporting England but we accept the challenge. It will be a incredible final.”
In contrast to Germany’s pedigree as eight-time winners of the women’s Euro, France were in the last four for the first time. Les Bleues were left to regret a series of missed chances early in the second half as they lacked a clinical goalscorer without the injured Marie-Antoinette Katoto. “Unfortunately we weren’t efficient tonight,” said France coach Corinne Diacre. “We weren’t able to hone in on the goalscoring chances we had.”
Popp gave France a warning of what was to come when her powerful free-kick from the edge of the area was brilliantly clawed away by Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. The French goalkeeper was helpless five minutes before half-time when Svenja Huth’s cross picked out Popp, who smashed home a volley into the roof of the net. However, the lead lasted just five minutes in unfortunate circumstances for German goalkeeper Merle Frohms. Kadidiatou Diani’s fierce strike from outside the box came crashing off the post into the back of the Wolfsburg stopper and into her own net.
Frohms more than made amends at the start of the second period with a brilliant save to her left to turn Wendie Renard’s header behind. Selma Bacha’s goalbound effort also rebounded behind off Kathrin-Julia Hendrich’s face and Diani’s shot from a narrow angle stung the palms of Frohms. But France failed to make that bright spell count and were made to pay by Popp’s predatory instincts. Another Huth cross was hung high into the Milton Keynes sky and Popp timed her leap perfectly to power a header into the ground and past Peyraud-Magnin. – AFP