Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema had goals ruled out for offside after the break, but that didn’t matter in the end as world champion France took three valuable points at the Allianz Arena.
With Portugal having beaten Hungary 3-0 earlier in the other Group F game, the French and Portuguese remain more in the ‘death group’ as the Hungarians and Germans now face a difficult task to qualify for the round of 16.
In one of the tournament’s most anticipated group matches, there were surreal pre-kick-off scenes as a Greenpeace protester parachuted into the stadium moments before the match started.
The protester slipped into the stadium and appeared to lose control after connecting with wires attached to the roof for television cameras, struggling to avoid crashing into spectators but managing to land on the pitch, where the German players Antonio Rudiger and Robin Gosens were the first to approach him.
He was then taken away by security guards and treated at the side of the field. The parachute bore the words “Kick out oil Greenpeace”.
Following the distraction, attention turned to the game – and France enjoyed the best of the ball in the early stages.
In his last tournament as Germany coach, Joachim Low deployed his squad in a 3-4-3 – although France seemed more comfortable in a 4-3-3.
Paul Pogba stretched Germany’s back line 20 minutes after finding Hernandez with a ball over the left side; the full-back resumed the volley through the goal, and Hummels could only awkwardly return the ball in front of Manuel Neuer.
Germany entered the game with Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry seeing the half chances slip away, but France entered the meantime with a goal clear – and they may have been unlucky to not riding a man as well as Antonio Rudiger and Pogba were involved in a bizarre clash in which the German defender appeared to bite the midfielder on the shoulder.
Low’s men swayed out and put pressure on the French defense, with Gnabry wasting a presentable opportunity by shooting from a cross while unmarked.
Mbappe thought he added a brilliant second after twisting and turning left flank to finish through Neuer, but a delayed offside flag denied him a huge goal.
The France star then made Hummels look like all 32 years old as Mbappe easily caught 20 meters in one of the most one-sided running races in football history, only for the center-back to make a brilliantly desperate last-ditch glide challenge inside its own box.
Still, the nature of the players’ battle was testament to the fact that as Germany faces a rebuild with World Cup legends like Hummels set to bow out soon, Mbappe and France really are the squad. from here and now.
Low sent Tino Werner and Leoy Sane late to try to find an equalizer, but France came closest to the next goal as Benzema’s close range end was ruled out by VAR for another Mbappe offside .
The result leaves Germany facing a must-see match against Portugal on Saturday, while France would almost confirm a place in the last 16 if they beat Hungary this weekend.