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Why France will triumph on home soil

Having watched Les Bleus finally come out of their shell, David Crossan is backing the hosts and their in-form talents to match their illustrious predecessors in 1984 and 1998.

France's players revel in their 5-2 win against Iceland
France's players revel in their 5-2 win against Iceland ©AFP/Getty Images

Just look at the adidas Golden Boot table
France have more chart-toppers than David Guetta. In at No1 with four goals is Antoine Griezmann, at two it's Olivier Giroud, and propping up the top three is Dimitri Payet. Together, the trio have amassed ten goals at UEFA EURO 2016, but France's enviable attacking strength goes beyond the raw statistics. Crucially, Griezmann has returned to prime form since being switched to a central position off Giroud, while the Atlético forward has struck up a fruitful understanding – and mutual admiration society – with Payet, despite the pair having played just 90 minutes together once at international level.

Peaking at the right time
Since half-time in their round of 16 tie with the Republic of Ireland, France have been an irresistible force, notching seven goals and conceding two in 135 minutes of football. Up until the heated dressing-room exchanges during the break in Lyon, France had impressed only in patches, getting results thanks to moments of brilliance from Payet and Griezmann. The latter, like Paul Pogba, has grown in stature as the tournament has advanced, while the move to 4-2-3-1 has helped several players produce their best. France now appear well capable of maintaining their fluency through the business end of the competition.

Watch classic semi-finals featuring France and Germany
Watch classic semi-finals featuring France and Germany

Home advantage
France are unbeaten in their last 17 major finals matches on home soil, winning 15 and drawing two. The current crop have embraced the chance to emulate their predecessors who conquered Europe in 1984 and lifted the 1998 FIFA World Cup, feeding off the backing of increasingly vocal support from the French public. Pre-match against Iceland, the players ran behind the goal to salute their fans before warming up, prompting Giroud to explain: "It's really important for us to feel like they're behind us." Expect record decibel levels when France run out to take on Germany at the Stade Vélodrome on Thursday.

On the other hand ...

It's Germany next
The Mannschaft know how to spoil a party, demolishing hosts Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals at the last World Cup after knocking out France at the last-eight stage. Les Bleus haven't beaten the Germans at a major championship since the 1958 World Cup and Giroud admitted: "They're our bogey team, even if we've beaten them in friendlies. It's harder to beat them in competition football. I hope the outcome will be different on Thursday."