Benedikt Höwedes scored in the 90th minute to send Germany through to the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship and France crashing out following a breathtaking climax to their play-off in Metz.
France were on course to qualify on the away goals rule when Höwedes struck from close range to leave Erick Mombaerts's despondent side to reflect on a series of missed chances as they failed to qualify for the finals for the second successive tournament. A mistake by Manuel Neuer had resulted in Younes Kaboul scoring France's equaliser in the first leg in Magdeburg last Friday, but the goalkeeper made amends at the Stade Saint-Symphorien with a number of excellent saves to help Germany to the finals for the first time since 2006.
France in control
France controlled proceedings for much of the return match and were soon making opportunities. Loïc Rémy teed up Kaboul who shot wide early on then Jérémy Ménez drew a stop from Neuer, who was called into action again on 17 minutes to tip over Yohan Cabaye's free-kick. Kaboul had to make way for Yohan Benalouane after complaining of back pain and following the centre-back's departure Germany began to enjoy more freedom in attack – Askhan Dejagah and Mezut Özil both making an impression.
The best chance of the half, though, fell to France, with Neuer touching Benalouane's powerful volley on to the crossbar ten minutes before the break. Trailing on away goals, Germany had to score to advance, but it was not until the 58th minute that they fashioned a clear opening. Dejagah shot low from the edge of the area and Hugo Lloris, back with the U21s after being recalled from the senior squad, tipped the ball away at full stretch.
With one goal likely to decide the tie either way, nerves began to fray and, with 20 minutes left, visiting coach Dieter Eilts replaced Aaron Hunt with Toni Kroos as he looked to liven up his forward line. Still it was Les Bleuets who were the more creative outfit and, after 77 minutes, Neuer kept out close-range attempts from Romain Danzé and Rémy in quick succession. The decisive strike, though, came at the other end just when it seemed France had done enough to qualify – a cross from the left was headed by substitute Gonzalo Castro towards Höwedes who knocked the ball past Lloris to spark German celebrations.