Germany played out a 0-0 stalemate against World Cup holders France in their opening fixture of the newly-forward Nations League. Joachim Loew’s side had come into the encounter with plenty of pressure after a poor showing at the World Cup finals but they managed to produce a strong defensive performance which kept the opposition at bay. The hosts also made a number of attempts to find the scoresheet towards the end of the encounter but Les Bleus debutant Alphonse Areola was on guard to deny them three points.
Three things we learned:
Germany’s defensive showing: Germany’s aggressive style of play hampered them at the World Cup where they were often left open at the back. However, against a counter-attacking side of France’s calibre, Loew decided to place much emphasis on the defence with Mathias Ginter and Antonio Rudiger being slotted into unfamiliar full-back positions. Rudiger, in particular, was tasked with the role of limiting the threat of the left side of the backline and he managed to win the battle over opposition right-back Benjamin Pavard. He was fortunate to have not seen red right at the start for a visible stamp on the Frenchman’s neck.
Kylian Mbappe sizzles in the France frontline: With the World Cup under his belt, Mbappe looked full of confidence against the ex-champions and with a bit of luck, he could have quite easily contributed an assist for his teammates. The 19-year-old was a regular presence on both flanks during the game and his backflicks were mesmerising to watch, given the accuracy with which he found his compatriots. At 19, Mbappe has already achieved things which many players would only dream of and the attacker can now surely set the aim of competing for the Ballon d’Or crown.
Alphonse Areola sets unique footballing record: Areola may have been with the French setup over the past year but surprisingly, the game against Germany was his first ever in Les Bleus’ shirt. Moreover, the Paris Saint-Germain keeper made his debut after winning a World Cup medal in Russia and this makes him the first player ever to achieve such a feat. Despite this, Areola had no jittery moments between the sticks and he ultimately proved France’s leading performer after making a string of saves towards the end to restrict the hosts from scoring. Areola is still expected to drop into a deputy role once Hugo Lloris returns from his injury.
Image – Getty