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Why Germany could not get the better of France

The world champions will not be in Paris for Sunday's UEFA EURO 2016 final; homeward-bound team reporter Steffen Potter explains why they fell short.

Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger after the final whistle in Marseile
Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger after the final whistle in Marseile ©AFP/Getty Images

Lack of a finisher
Germany lack a world-class forward and significant back-up options up front. They started UEFA EURO 2016 with attacking midfielder Mario Götze in a 'false No9' role, and when that did not work out, fielded a more conventional striker in Mario Gomez. The 30-year-old gave Germany penetration and balance: the hamstring injury he suffered in the quarter-final win against Italy was a massive blow.

Thomas Müller is a world-class finisher, but this wasn't the Bayern man's tournament. He worked hard and was right to point out that he had not squandered many chances in France – he just did not get as many as he is used to. Thus an agonising conclusion for Germany: imagine this side with a Robert Lewandowski or Antoine Griezmann in attack. That team would have been in the final.

Lack of finishing
A subtle difference from point one. If the absence of an out-and-out striker was an issue, Germany still created enough opportunities to win matches comfortably, and might have scored more in all their games. The worrying signs were already there in the 1-0 victory against Northern Ireland, where the FIFA World Cup holders carved out enough openings to prevail by a significant margin. Joachim Löw warned afterwards that his side would pay dearly for continued profligacy. And, in Marseille, they did.

Neuer: Germany weren't ruthless enough
Neuer: Germany weren't ruthless enough

Absent friends
Gomez, Müller, Marco Reus and Götze are the most dangerous German players when it comes to goals, so with Gomez and Reus absent and Müller and Götze far from their best, the Mannschaft struggled against France. Having begun the semi-final without the suspended Mats Hummels and the injured Sami Khedira, they also lost Jérôme Boateng to a knock after the interval. "Losing four pillars is just too much," Löw concluded.

Hope for the future
Maybe Thursday was just "one of those nights", as their coach put it. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this team, and Löw was right to say they made "very few mistakes" over the course of this championship.

Joshua Kimmich
Joshua Kimmich©Getty Images

For all their shortcomings, Germany still bossed France in midfield, and their pressing and possession game is still mighty; the world champions completed more passes (319) in the first half than France did over the course of the entire match (250).

That midfield will be stronger still with the return of İlkay Gündoğan (another absentee) while Germany's Kimmich-Hummels-Boateng-Hector defence was very solid. Bayern's Joshua Kimmich was one of the discoveries of the tournament at right-back, and while France's second goal came from the 21-year-old trying to play his way out of trouble – an indicator, perhaps, of Germany's tendency to take passing football to extremes – he will learn.

Whichever way you analyse it, this is the end of a campaign, not the end of an era.