France are favourites but Germany unfazed by injuries - Bierhoff
By Karolos Grohmann
EVIAN, France (Reuters) - France are favourites in the Euro 2016 semi-final against injury-hit Germany but the world champions' absences will not affect their game, with a string of youngsters ready to step up, team manager Oliver Bierhoff said on Tuesday.
Germany will be without injured holding midfielder Sami Khedira and striker Mario Gomez, while also missing central defender Mats Hummels through suspension.
Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is doubtful for the game, nursing a knee ligament injury, but Bierhoff said the depth of Germany's squad would compensate for the missing players.
"I think France are slight favourites in this game," Bierhoff told a news conference. "They have filled up on confidence with the win over Iceland, they have grown together as a team.
"They also do not have 120 minutes in their bones like we have from our quarter-final with Italy. So I think they are favourites because they have the home advantage and are a bit fresher."
France eased past Iceland 5-2 while Germany needed extra time and then penalties to edge past Italy, with Khedira, Gomez and Schweinsteiger all injured in that game and Hummels booked with a second yellow card of the tournament to earn his one-game suspension.
"We have some injuries, yes, but despite that we do not have a reduced squad. We have players who are ready to go, so we are confident because we can count on players who are prepared and have proved their quality."
Several Germany youngsters, including 22-year-old Julian Draxler and Joshua Kimmich, 21, stepped up and converted their penalties against Italy when usual stalwarts Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil failed.
Draxler also scored one goal and set up another in their round-of-16 win over Slovakia while Kimmich and fellow fullback Jonas Hector, who scored the winning penalty against Italy, have shown remarkable consistency as left-backs.
"The young players have shown they have the quality, not only the skills but the mental attitude, to be there at such big moments," Bierhoff said.
Emre Can is a likely replacement for Khedira in the hold midfield position, with 20-year-old Julian Weigl another midfield option for coach Joachim Loew.
"We have been gradually improving during the tournament. I am convinced we can compensate for these absences," Bierhoff said. "It could also be that players who were not in focus before the tournament or do not have great international experience turn out to be decisive."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)