Germany put French goalkeeper Alphonse Areola under a brutal test in Thursday night’s match-up against the World Cup winners, but both teams failed to find the net at the Allianz Arena in Munich.
The clash of world football heavyweights began as a stalemate, goalkeeper duel between Germany’s Manuel Neuer and Areola. The match ended as it started; however, the inaugural UEFA Nations League fixture unfolded under different circumstances. This wasn’t an ordinary friendly.
Areola has made his debut against a German squad that included five Bayern outfielders playing on their home pitch. The 25-year old has been playing second fiddle at Paris Saint-German due to the arrival of Italian Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon.
Germany forced six saves from 13 total shots while Neuer needed four to keep the clean sheet, the team’s first in nine matches.
After the first 18 minutes, Timo Werner’s odd start out wide caused him to create chances differently than with his club, RB Leipzig.
His first chance came after swapping wing positions, now playing on the left. He received a pass a few yards outside of the 18-yard box. In a one-on-one situation, Werner made a move to his right and shot a bullet to Areola but it was saved— no dive needed.
From there, Die Mannschaft showed a great deal of counter attacking ability. The two chances that followed in the first half came from corner kicks as Antonio Rüdiger and Mats Hummels both goal just moments apart from each other in the 35th minute.
With FC Bayern right back Joshua Kimmich starting as a holding midfielder alongside Toni Kroos, the right back position welcomed a new face. In this match, the right back caught Les Bleus by surprise with his performance on and off the ball.
A German surprise
Borussia Mönchengladbach defender Matthias Ginter sat the bench in all three matches for Germany during the World Cup.
But as Thursday’s match unfolded, Ginter began to settle in on the ball, winning a couple free kicks and his physical strength and technical skill played a part in Germany’s 60 percent of possession.
Although Ginter made his mark primarily in the first half, his biggest moment came in the 75th minute when the 6-foot-2 right back leaped into the air for a Kroos cross and forced France’s Areola to save a header destined for goal.
In 18 appearances, Ginter has yet to score at the senior level for Germany but his scoring ability is solidified due to his prolific record in the Bundesliga. Ginter scored the second-most goals by a defender in the German league last season.
(Bad) Man of the match
Leon Goretzka’s debut in an FC Bayern shirt did not translate to his return to the German national team. Goretzka started in the no. 10 role against France and was a ghost in the first 25 minutes of the match. From there, the midfielder hardly saw the ball.
France’s deadly triangle of N’Golo Kanté, Antoine Griezman and Paul Pogba caused problems when Les Bleus were in possession.
In the 64th minute, France was building up in Germany’s third of the field. A laser of a pass came to Pogba’s feet, which he opted for a back heel that set up Griezman for a shot on goal. The Atletico Madrid star tried Neuer from the edge of the 18-yard box but ended in a clean save.
Directly following, Goretzka found space in the middle of the park and received a laser pass at the halfway line. Goretzka quickly pivoted and played a quick lob pass to Timo Werner. A low cross ensued, finding Marco Reus, who’s one-tap finish could not bypass Areola.
Goretzka’s most notable moment came moments before İlkay Gündoğan replaced him as Germany’s first substitution.
A look ahead
The UEFA Nations League continues this weekend for both countries Sunday when Germany face Peru at TSG Hoffenheim’s home ground, Rhein-Neckar-Arena, at 2:45 ET.
France will return home to face the Netherlands Sunday at the Stade de France- Saint Denis also at 2:45 ET.