On paper, it was meant to be the Euro 2020 group stage game.
France against Germany. The 2018 World Cup champions against the 2014 champions. Two European giants, neighbors and the two most prolific producers of top-level football of the previous decade, their players filling the lists of the biggest clubs in the world. In the diluted group stages of a 24-team European Championship, it was the obvious climax, the last match of the first round, the centerpiece of his Group of Death.
On paper, it didn’t turn out that way. The two teams combined for just two shots on target and posted the tournament’s lowest combined goal tally, according to statistics. Opta Joe. The only goal was scored by German defender Mats Hummels in his side’s net, giving France a 1-0 victory.
But the relative paucity of statistics produced fails to capture how thrilling it was to watch the sheer sum of French freestyle talent pass through the German midfielder and how devastating his stars were. The own goal, for example, does not count in the total expected goals, nor the two very nice goals that France had rightly recalled for offside. Nor was the penalty shot that the Blues had refused in the second half, after Kylian Mbappé rounded Hummels on the ball and Hummels slipped through Mbappé to attack the ball.
France could simply do more. He could be so good that he doesn’t even need the full extent of their powers to beat Germany.
French forces in 2018 remain French forces in 2020 – er… 2021. Paul Pogba hits long passes so perfectly weighted you’d swear the ball turns into a frisbee while it’s in the air, sliding up to a cushioned stop on the foot of his teammate. Mbappé speeds up like something the Mythbusters should be watching from behind a ballistic window.
In the first half in particular, Germany gave Pogba time to measure those long passes and Mbappé the space to gain momentum with the ball at his feet, and if you do those two things at the same time. time, you should probably lose to France by more than one goal. Mbappé’s pace created much of the French danger. One of those Pogba balls allowed Lucas Hernandez to hit the cross which Hummels turned into his own net.
It says a lot about a German side that have looked fragile for much of the past three years, that they’ve been able to take France’s best shots and make it into a game. Germany had the opportunity to score – a header from Thomas Müller took off, a shot from Serge Gnabry scuffed high – and never seemed deflated by French superiority. That says something else about this team that they have so rarely managed to disturb a French team that spent around 75 minutes playing on cruise control. So many of the best German attacks seemed to come when French intensity faltered. Despite all the ease Pogba and Mbappé showed in getting around individual German defenders, France did not appear to be showing great urgency to complete their lead by one goal. More worrying for the future prospects of the tournament favorites could be the slow pace of his rotations when N’Golo Kanté left his position to squeeze the ball. There have been times when neither midfielder Adrien Rabiot nor Pogba rushed to nip and cover precious real estate directly in front of the defense, and a team playing better than Germany might be able to give the balloon to someone in that area quickly enough to cause trouble.
Or France could just try harder. It could be so good that he doesn’t even need the full extent of their powers to beat Germany. The mercurial configuration of the midfielder of France – an analyst Formation 4-vibes-2 at halftime – consistently gave the ball to his dangerous players with much more space than any opponent would like. Defensively, even when these midfielders seemed to scramble to apply pressure, they still managed to channel the Germans into the central areas where Kante and center-backs Raphaël Varane and Presnel Kimpembe could clear the danger zone.
The best way to beat such a talented French team in an international football tournament has always been to bring all the French players together in the cloistered environment of a national team camp and wait for them to tear each other apart. . This team hinted at it, with Mbappé already in conflict with striker Oliver Giroud after Giroud complained in the press that Mbappé failed to pass him. Giroud did not play on Tuesday; the starting point instead went to Karim Benzema, who is back with the team for the first time since 2015, when he was arrested and suspended for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to blackmail his French compatriot Mathieu. Valbuena threatening to post a sex tape. (Benzema also called Giroud a go-kart and himself a Ferrari, making the French attack a complex hate triangle.)
For now, the status quo reigns supreme in the tournament death group. Portugal, their third heavyweight, brought a much more talented squad to support Cristiano Ronaldo this year than the squad that beat France in the Euro 2016 tournament final, with forwards like Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United and reigning Premier League Player of the Season, Manchester City defender Rúben Dias. But all that firepower doesn’t mean much if they still have to ask Ronaldo’s permission to shoot on goal. Portugal spent 80 minutes of their 3-0 win over Hungary earlier Tuesday, earning the disapproving gaze of an emotionally distant father figure from Ronaldo and 10 minutes finally making him proud (finally setting him up to score easy goals, bringing it down to three goals). to match Iranian Ali Daei’s record as top men’s international scorer.)
Now Portugal is moving up to the level of the next challenge, a game against Germany that will go a long way in proving the quality of each team. If he beats the Germans, the third game against France is likely to be crucial, with each side looking to avoid finishing second in the group and leading a dangerous England side to the round of 16. If an unbeaten France and Portugal come into the last game of the group stages looking to win, we might get the tournament game. On paper at least.
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