June 16, (THEWILL)- Group F, at the ongoing European championships, is rightly referred to as the “Group of Death” and one of the reasons why is because it has two previous World Cup winners in France and Germany and also three past winners of the continental title including defending champions Portugal.
The World Cup winners went head-to-head on Tuesday in the second game of the group and although the Germans started well in front of a heavily partisan crowd in Munich, it was France that grew into the game and coincidentally, it was a Bavarian player for France that forced a 20-minute own goal to see to a Les Bleus victory.
Unfortunately for Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels, the Euros could not have started on a worse note. He went for a clearance after an incredible pass to Bayern’s Lucas Hernández from Paul Pogba was invitingly crossed into the German danger area. He could only watch as the ball connected with his shin instead and went into the net to put his side behind.
It was a harbinger of things to come because it was not the best showing of Die Mannschaft. Although the French were comfortable to sit back, soak up the pressure and use Kylian Mbappe’s remarkable pace on the counter to pose regular threats to the German backline, the incisive plays expected of Serge Gnabry in attack with the midfield command of Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos did not materialise.
Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger and Kai Havertz, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Muller and well-heeled substitutes like Timo Werner and Leroy Sane did not deliver on the promise of their cohesive threat. It was an underwhelming display of their potential and the result did not reflect the quality on offer.
If anything, it was the French that could have increased the deficit as Mbappe, who had two goals of his struck off for off-sides, released Juventus midfielder and man of the match, Adrien Rabiot for a near-post shot that beat Manuel Neuer and could have made it 2-0 but for the woodwork.
The immediate impact of Kimmich in the midfield after he was switched to dictate affairs from the middle of the park by German manager Joachim Low, should give the coach team-formation ideas in their next game against the defending champions in their upcoming fixture.
The difference it made was so swift, it is a wonder it took so long to come to pass. Kimmich turned the team into a renewed attacking force and Gnabry came within a whisker of an equaliser but it was too little too late and the French held on for a narrow victory in the opening of the continental competition where they are considered favourites.