Germany captain Melanie Leupolz's spot-kick luck failed her as France made it through to the final of the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship on penalties following a 2-2 draw in Nyon.
Leupolz fired wide to bring the curtain down on a nervy shoot-out as Germany bowed out at the semi-final stage for a second season in succession. Lina Magull had fired them into an early lead, but goals from Claire Lavogez and Lydia Belkacemi turned the tables after the break before substitute Annabel Jäger levelled with 12 minutes to go. With no extra time, the game went straight to penalties. Lavogez missed France's first spot-kick, but Les Bleuettes just about regained their composure, Meryll Wenger converting their crucial sixth.
Germany came desperately close to breaking the deadlock when livewire winger Linda Dallmann's early drive hit the bar, but it took just three more minutes before the Germans went in front. Industrious midfielder Magull and spearhead Lena Petermann broke though the middle and combined intelligently, Magull's firm effort giving French goalkeeper Solène Durand no chance.
Dallmann proved a handful for the French defence on the right as Germany settled, and after a mazy run and cross, Petermann's shot was scrambled away by Durand. France responded in determined manner, with Sandie Toletti firing just wide, and German keeper Friederike Abt made a crucial block to deny Léa Declercq, but the forceful and direct Germans shaded a tough and tense first half.
France fashioned a wonderful equaliser on 48 minutes. From a free-kick 25 metres out on the left, captain Lavogez lashed in a swerving right-foot shot that flew past Abt. The game was now on a knife-edge, with Durand beating out a fierce Sara Däbritz piledriver and France creating several moments of danger in the German box.
The youngsters in blue took a dramatic 59th-minute lead with Lavogez, who grew in influence as the game progressed, swinging in a corner for Belkacemi to head home, but Germany hauled themselves level on 69 minutes – Jäger producing a 30-metre lob to make it 2-2 and propel a thoroughly enjoyable game towards an agonising climax.
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