France will face England in the 2010 UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final at the National Arena in Skopje on Saturday after edging out Germany on penalties.
Solène Barbance opened the scoring for Les Bleuettes just as she did when these teams met in the group stage last year and she must have been having flashbacks as Kyra Malinowski quickly levelled the scores. Germany went on to win that match 2-1 in 2009, but this time it took spot-kicks to separate the sides and France were able to bury all their efforts, with captain Valeria Kleiner shooting wide for the three-time winners.
A committed encounter began with both teams looking to exert control, and while Germany's power and technique slowly earned them the territorial advantage, the skill of France's players and some energetic midfield pressing gave them a solid footing. They demonstrated clinical efficiency up front too as they went ahead from their first corner and first effort on goal, Léa Rubio playing the ball short to Barbance and the midfielder lofting a shot into the far corner from outside the area on the right.
For the first time in their campaign – qualifiers included – Germany were behind, but it took them just nine minutes to restore parity as Carolin Simon picked out Annika Doppler on the left and the winger fired the ball across the face of goal for Malinowski to head in from point-blank range.
The first chance after the interval fell to the same player, yet this time she was unable to beat Laetitia Philippe with a low near-post effort. France's assured goalkeeper also got down well to deny Turid Knaak, while lively substitute Eunice Beckmann had an attempt deflected over and Leonie Maier also shot too high.
The second half was proving even tighter than the first, though, and so the game headed into extra time, with Jean-Michel Degrange's charges threatening when substitute Camille Catala escaped down the right and cut the ball back for Pauline Crammer, whose goalbound strike was blocked by Kleiner.
Crammer then blasted wide and Anaïg Butel drew a save from Almuth Schult as France looked to dominate, yet they were soon thankful to Philippe for thwarting Knaak when the Germany No7 appeared destined to score. The tournament joint top scorer also failed to add to her four-goal tally when trying to find the empty net from 30 metres out, Philippe having raced out of her goal to deny Beckmann and saved with her legs from Malinowski. Germany would ultimately pay for those misses.
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