Kante available for France, no Khedira for Germany

Antoine Griezmann of France plays his best football when he is deployed in the hole behind the striker. Olivier Giroud is the perfect strike partner for him to feed off and make runs around. Whereas, for Germany, the most obvious attacking option would be to go with Thomas Muller up top with Mario Gotze behind him.

N'Golo Kante is back from suspension, but France may not need him as Antoine Griezmann is playing superbly.   -  AP

Sami Khedira's non-availability has weakened the German midfield.   -  AP

France coach Didier Deschamps has been handed a good selection headache ahead of the EURO 2016 semifinal against Germany with the return of N'Golo Kante from suspension. But he might not need the Leicester midfielder’s services if he chooses to structure his starting line-up around Antoine Griezmann’s attacking talents.

 

Griezmann plays his best football when he is deployed in the hole behind the striker. Olivier Giroud is the perfect strike partner for him to feed off and make runs around. If Kante comes in, Griezmann will have to be shunted out wide where his qualities may not bear as much fruit.

Adil Rami will boost the France defence as Samuel Umtiti, who started the quarterfinal against Iceland, was not very convincing and was regularly beaten in the air.

After a slow start to the tournament, Paul Pogba seems to have found his form and together with Blaise Matuidi in the heart of the French midfield, he will look to dominate proceedings against a weakened German midfield sans Sami Khedira.

Joachim Loew has indicated that Bastian Schweinsteiger will start alongside Toni Kroos and this tells me that the German coach really trusts his captain despite the Manchester United player being nowhere close to the level he played at three or four years ago.

Khedira does most of the dirty work in the middle of the park which allows Kroos to dictate proceedings with the ball. Schweinsteiger will not provide that kind of protection to the German defence as he will try to receive the ball more and play one-touch, two-touch passes to keep the game ticking.

After successfully negating Italy by mirroring its 3-5-2 formation, Germany will probably revert to a back four for this match. Mats Hummels’ absence means Benedikt Howedes is likely to partner Jerome Boateng in central defence. Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector will maintain their positions at full-back.

It is in the attacking third where Germany looks like it will have its work cut out. Mario Gomez’s absence has led to a shortage of genuine centre forward options for Die Mannschaft and it will be without its main target man. Gomez’s ability to hold the ball up and be the focal point of the attack will be missed sorely and Loew will have to come up with a makeshift combination up front.

The most obvious choice would be to go with Thomas Muller up top with Mario Gotze behind him. Mesut Ozil and Julian Draxler will be in the wider attacking midfield positions, both looking to cut in from either side. The other option would be to play Muller out wide on the right and deploy Gotze in the false nine position, but considering the lack of success this tactic brought during the group stage, Loew is likely to stick with the former.

Whatever shape the Germans end up using, I don’t expect them to sit back at any stage during the game. With the plethora of attacking talent on display, this game could be a feast of attacking football.

In the first semifinal, Portugal gave a really good account of how street-smart it has become by ending Wales’s dream run. A side usually known for its attacking play, the last couple of games have seen the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani (both starting as forwards in a 4-4-2 formation), coming back to help out in defence.

Coach Fernando Santos’s pragmatic approach has paid off and his team has the necessary spirit and capability to lift the trophy in Paris this coming Sunday.