Dynamic, quick, free-flowing—adjectives to describe the German front-line after the opening 45 minutes. Jurgie Lowe set out his team in a 5-2-3, pushing his wing backs very high up the pitch making the formation look more like a 3-4-3. It was a roll of the dice, a chance to flip the script after seven consecutive defeats. Lowe was given a vote of confidence after the World Cup, but the German National team has only seen it’s form suffer long past the World Cup. With a front line of Sane, Werner, and Gnarby, Germany had the characteristics to return to their famed roots—lightning quick counter-attacks. With Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich holding down the center of midfield, they did just that; Germany looked like the side we had all remembered, a relentless machine. The score could have very well been 2 or 3-0 to Germany after the first 45 minutes. Mpabbe was the one X-factor for France, whose speed on the counter made Toni Kroos look like an old man on more than one occasion. Varane had to deal with the dynamic movement and lightning counters of Germany’s front three meaning his pace was essential in keeping them off the scoreboard. On more than one occasion, Varane was able to track down Sane and end a counter before it happened. There were no signs of the niggle that forced him off midway through the Iceland game. Despite Varane’s best efforts, France did give away a penalty kick due to a poor challenge from Kimpembe. It was none other than Toni Kroos who stepped up to dispatch the penalty and give Germany a deserved lead.
After so many losses, Germany were desperate for a win. The 1-0 lead in half-time must have boosted their confidence, but the French went on to show their championship mentality. Two goals from Antoine Griezmann: one a connection with his Atletico Madrid teammate, Lucas Hernandez and the other a deserved penalty that was slotted home. Deschamps and France nullified the German threat in the second half, with the young and dynamic front three of Sane, Gnarby, and Werner being kept quiet. Varane was immense in the back and has proven to be a true leader of this World Cup winning side along with Pogba and Greizmann. Toni Kroos, for all his best efforts, will be left disheartened. This German side may very well need a new coach and new cycle to get out of this rut. Kroos put in an exemplary performance, playing oftentimes a 2-man midfield. As has come to be expected, he was composed in possession and, like Varane, was the clear leader of the German side. Both players will return to Madrid tomorrow. Given Varane’s heavy minutes thus far in the season, it may be worth resting the center back. Under pressure Lopetegui, will hope the recovery time is enough to use them both against Levante at the weekend.