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Hot topic: Germany the hardest French test #GERFRA

Can France reach another home final or will Germany deny them again? Our reporters ponder the question, with our man in the German camp promising not to mention a key precedent. Much.

Will German-based Kingsley Coman help down his adopted home?
Will German-based Kingsley Coman help down his adopted home? ©AFP/Getty Images

Paul Saffer (@UEFAcomPaulS): When we did the Portugal-Wales chat, there was much said about the surprise element in both teams still being here. David, Steffen, were you confident you'd make it this far?

David Crossan, France team reporter (@UEFAcomDavidC): My predictions are notoriously awful – England will not be in the final – but I had France down to play Germany in the semi-final. I was always confident France would top their group, though I wasn't expecting them to face Iceland in the quarter-finals.

Steffen Potter, Germany team reporter (@UEFAcomSteffenP): I said semi-finals before the tournament and here we are. With Germany, there is obviously a chance to make it all the way most of the time. So let's see!

Andrew Haslam, match reporter (@UEFAcomAndrewH): Like David, I expected France to be here, and my prediction for the tournament was indeed Germany here in Marseille. I always fancied France if they got on a roll and Germany are, well, Germany aren't they? When was the last time they failed to meet or surpass expectations in a tournament?

Paul: 2004 – factual answer.

Steffen: It's really impressive that Joachim Löw has reached at least the semis in EVERY major tournament at the helm. That's five now.

Paul: Six in a row including 2006 is actually a world record for any nation reaching consecutive major semi-finals, and Löw had a hand then too.

Steffen: Should he win the EURO on top of the World Cup, he is probably the most successful Germany coach ever.

Paul: And that's up against STIFF competition.

Steffen: Germany do have a way of raising their game when it comes to the decisive matches. Think two years ago in the semis against the hosts ... not suggesting seven goals this time around though.

Paul: Come on. Six at least?

Andrew: Uncharacteristically modest of you there Steffen ...

Paul: David, Steffen, have we seen the best of your teams yet? Obviously they both can take a lot of heart from the quarter-finals.

David: "Almost perfect" was the L'Équipe headline after the Iceland game. But for the two goals conceded as France took their foot off the pedal, it would have been pretty much perfect. Throughout the group stage you always sensed there was more to come from Les Bleus.

I admit I was sceptical they'd turn things around against Ireland, but since the switch to 4-2-3-1 which brought the best out of Antoine Griezmann, they've been good going forward. There is still more to come from this French side, but of course they haven't come up against opposition as stiff as Germany.

Classic semi-finals
Classic semi-finals

Steffen: David, do you think the expectation could be a problem for France, especially in front of THAT crowd tomorrow?

David: I think France are thriving on playing at home.

Steffen: Löw cheekily insinuated as much in his presser two days ago.

David: The Stade Vélodrome is going to be seriously noisy. France will feed off that.

Steffen: They say it was very noisy in Belo Horizonte ... at least until the middle of the first half.

David: Yeah, yeah. Germany as party-poopers again. Don't think Germany will win 7-1 this time, though I agree with Steffen that we will see goals. Giroud and Griezmann have a good recent record against Neuer.

Andrew: I'm not sure about France at the back at all. I've been at their last three games, and they look vulnerable every time the ball comes into the box.

Steffen: Germany weren't very solid in those two opening games either. I am sure we are in for goals.

David: I agree with Andrew that France have defensive vulnerabilities, yet Lloris actually hasn't had many shots to save this tournament. I've written so much about France defending set plays, and the one that really grates for Les Bleus is Hummels getting the jump on Varane at the last World Cup.

Steffen: Well in 1998 France were very solid in defence and didn't really have a striker of note. It seems the other way around now!

David: Injuries have contributed to this. Umtiti was seventh-choice centre-half at the start of the year and yet may be a starter tomorrow. The French squad are enjoying being together. Those expecting an implosion will be disappointed.

Steffen: Yes, this is interesting to me as well. Many people in Germany talk about all the players sidelined for the Mannschaft, also mentioning Reus, Gündogan and Rüdiger, who picked up injuries before the tournament kicked off. Nobody talks about those French players missing. Are they an issue in the French press, David?

David: The missing players were a major talking point at the start of the tournament, less so as things have gone on. Without the absentees they may not have hit on this winning formula. Giroud, Griezmann and Payet play so well together.

Thomas Müller not worried about lack of goals
Thomas Müller not worried about lack of goals

Paul: Mind you, when the squad was announced there was much discussion about the strength of the players not even able to make the 23, so the depth was always there with France.

David: Any country that can leave out forwards like Lacazette and Gameiro is selecting from a position of strength.

Steffen: The missing players are a major talking point for Germany right now. I have seen so many different possible formations for Germany in the papers today, surely Deschamps must wonder how Löw is going to make his decision.

Or is he just going to let France play their game and not care what Löw does? It looks a little like that from his recent statements.

Paul: Then again, as you have written, Löw doesn't seem a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders

David: Deschamps thinks Schweinsteiger will play, that's my guess.

Andrew: As I see it, Mario Gomez being out is a major blow – especially given the well-publicised susceptibility to set pieces. Gomez would have given the centre-backs, whoever they might be, a bit of a battering. Without him, Germany have to play totally differently.

David: France should go for the bold strategy and play to their strengths. They lose a lot of potential when Griezmann starts from wide. Sissoko will be a big player for France, balancing things in midfield.

Steffen: I agree, Andy, and it's not just Gomez, it's especially Hummels they will miss at set pieces – think 2014. They will surely need Müller up front to provide some penetration.

David: I think Gomez being out could favour Germany, in fact. Müller and Özil finding space and darting in behind is more of a threat to France. Koscielny has been immense in the air all tournament.

Steffen: I am actually thinking that France will play an attacking game and that this will suit both Germany and France. They will be the first side in UEFA EURO 2016 to challenge Germany for midfield possession. Will they get the better of the German midfield? What do you think?

Paul: I give them every chance, thinking how Italy and indeed Croatia knocked Spain off their stride by stepping up to them and not stepping back, as indeed France's opponents have tended to do.

Andrew: France are favourites for me. Home advantage, Germany's absentees, the sense they're going through the gears – it all points to a victory for the hosts. But then they've not beaten Germany in a competitive game since 1958.

Olivier Giroud: We’re ready for Germany
Olivier Giroud: We’re ready for Germany

David: France will definitely want their share of the ball. They will be happy alternating styles. The Griezmann goal against Iceland showed how quickly they can score against a team that plays high up, and Sissoko loves a burst from deep. France can play in many different ways and systems. Deschamps has been adept at finding a way to change things if necessary. Löw will be in for a test ...

Just Fontaine scored four against Germany in that third-place play-off in 1958. I don't think a Bleu will blast a quadruple tomorrow, but I'm sticking to my tip of Griezmann as top scorer. The only historical encounter that really matters is the one from two years ago. France have kicked on since then and are accustomed to winning.

Steffen: Germany are still a force to be reckoned with on the counter. Think about how they played in 2010, they still have that in themselves. They had a great counterattack for their second goal in the tournament opener against Ukraine. Which is why I think France opening up and playing an attacking game will also suit Germany. But I agree that it would be wrong for the hosts to let the Germans dominate, they should play to their strengths.

Paul: So the time has come: WHO. WILL. WIN?

David: At the start of the tournament we weren't allowed to predict as champions the nation we're following, so I picked Germany. They're strong, but there's something about Les Bleus. 2-1 to the hosts in normal time.

Steffen: I see France as small favourites with the German absentees and especially because I have been impressed with their development over the past two, three years. But I still think Germany are somehow going to clinch this, maybe not deservedly, but they will.

Andrew: I think France will have too much for Germany. There's definitely a sense of gathering momentum and I think the injuries and suspensions will hit Germany hard. 3-1 to France for me.

Paul: And I'm sticking with the team I've backed throughout, and amazingly been justified, France. Thanks all – enjoy the game, and you can join in the conversation with Andrew, David, Steffen and @UEFAEURO using #GERFRA.