France heeded the call of their coach Paco Rubio to seize the moment in a dramatic UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship semi-final victory against Germany.
A 6-5 win on penalties, after a 2-2 draw in normal time, sets up a final against holders Spain on Sunday. Forward Meryll Wenger, who scored what turned out to be France's final spot-kick before Melanie Leupolz missed for Germany, acknowledged that the specific nature of a semi-final had proved difficult to overcome in the early stages of the match
"At the beginning, we struggled a bit," she said. "I think we were feeling the pressure of the occasion, what with all the fans that had come to see us play, the fact it was a crunch match against Germany, and that a place in the final was at stake. We're normally not used to such big crowds in women's football.
"We're really happy for ourselves, because we knew we had the quality, and for our coach, who said that if we won this game it would be a nice present for him because Germany have always been a difficult side to beat in the past.
"We know that penalties can be like the toss of a coin," Wenger added. "
There were quite a few of us who didn't want to take one of the five initial penalties. I was one of them, but then it went to sudden death.
"You just don't want to be the one that misses. You also realise that yours could be the decisive kick, that you can win it for your country. But it was also our goalkeeper [Solène Durand] who helped win it for us, and for that I'd like to thank her."
France captain Claire Lavogez, who equalised shortly after half-time, was also buoyed by the support received. "The crowd was excellent," she said. "It was great for the players. There were also a lot of youngsters there watching who really spurred us on and I think that without them we might not have done it; I think they gave us a little something extra."
For Germany's disappointed players, the first task is to pick themselves up for Sunday's play-off against Iceland. "What we must do now is look forward and secure third place," said winger Linda Dallmann.
Substitute Annabel Jäger, whose splendid second-half goal set up the penalty drama, added: "It's a shame to lose like that, a penalty shoot-out is almost all down to luck – and today the luck was not with us."
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