Germany took on France in what seemed like would be one of the more exciting encounters this international break. Unfortunately, we got the exact opposite - a 0-0 draw undergirded by slow, dull football.
Germany manager Joachim Löw went with quite an experimental lineup, deploying Antonio Rüdiger at left back, Joshua Kimmich in a double-pivot with Toni Kroos, Timo Werner out wide on the left, and Marco Reus up top.
In contrast, Didier Deschamps stuck with his tried-and-trusted 4-4-2 containing all the classic names in the starting eleven.
The game started the same way it would end - with Germany having plenty of the ball but failing to make their dominance pay. Their tempo in possession was far too slow and this suited France’s deeper defensive shape. N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba comfortably shifted from side-to-side and blocked off any and all access to the center. After long spells of nothing, Germany began to find some joy in switching play to their right. This exploited Matuidi’s narrow positioning, which occurred due to Mbappe’s lackadaisical commitment to tracking back on the opposite flank, and often created 2v1 overloads.
Perhaps in response to this, France began setting pressing traps higher up the pitch after a comfortable amount of time had passed in the first half. Griezmann or Giroud would allow Hummels and Boateng time and space to pass to their fullbacks before closing in on the central defenders. This was supplemented by aggressive actions by Matuidi (and sometimes Mbappe) towards the fullback in question. Consequently, France troubled Germany’s build-up throughout large portions of the first half and even won possession in dangerous areas on a few occasions.
Germany countered Deschamp’s shrewd strategy in the second period by forcing everything through Kroos, who calmly dusted off pressers and took advantage of Mbappe’s shaky work-rate. This gave Löw’s men more time in the final third, which they mostly wasted by poor crosses from clogged situations.
As the game drew to a close and the need for a goal become more urgent, Werner took things into his own hands and relied on his pace to drive to the byline and punch balls into the box. This created some danger, but none of his efforts quite compared to the chances Germany got from corner kicks - something Toni Kroos was in charge of.
If it weren’t for a couple of good Areola saves near the end of the game, it is plausible to think Germany might’ve nicked a 1-0 win against a France side who mainly looked to sit deep and counter as the end drew near. However, the goal didn’t arrive, and Löw and co. had to be content with a 0-0 draw.
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The midfield maestro, who generally stuck to the deep left half space, swiftly and neatly distributed the ball from side-to-side and evaded opposition pressure without breaking a sweat. He was the key to Germany’s long switches that caused France trouble (he completed 10/11 long balls) and managed 3-4 threatening set-pieces that resulted in shots on goal.
Varane didn’t have too much to do thanks to the slow nature and low event characteristic of the game. He cleared away almost everything that entered the area in open play and was generally neat with his distribution. If one were to look for mistakes, it is possible to argue that he could’ve better defended some of Toni’s corner-kick deliveries.