Group F was billed as the “group of death”. The last two winners of the FIFA World Cup grouped with the last European Championship winner in Portugal, and then Hungary.
France vs Germany was the game everyone had been waiting for. Portugal took charge of the group earlier in the day with a 3-0 win over Hungary and so one of these guys needed to make their mark too. Germany knocked out France in the quarter-final on their way to the World Cup in 2014 and France knocked Germany out of Euro 2016 on their way to the final. These are two of the best teams in the world with some of the best footballers in world football.
Much of the pregame talk was about the mini spat between Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe but that would not matter on the day. Didier Deschamps’ side came into the game as favorites to win the tournament but Joachim Low’s Germany were no pushovers. Despite a palpable drop in performance by the Germans since winning the World Cup in 2014, they are a strong side with world-class players all over the pitch.
Joshua Kimmich’s yellow is the first eventful action of the game as Germany took control of early proceedings. Some good work from N’golo Kante and Antoine Griezmann and Kante nearly found Karim Benzema behind the German defense. Luckily, he got another bite and slipped Benjamin Pavard in but his cross was cut out by Matthias Ginter. From the corner, Paul Pogba shoulders the cross over the bar. Kylian Mbappe got his chance to stretch his legs. The French attacker cuts in, drives at Ginter, and tests Manuel Neuer with a shot but the keeper is capable and palms his effort away. In the 20th minute, after immaculate work from Benzema, Benjamin Pavard, and Pogba, Pogba sent a glorious ball out to Lucas Hernandez on the overlap. He got his cross in and Mats Hummels couldn’t reshuffle his legs and sent it into his own net. France 1-0 Germany.
Die Mannschaft responded well but struggled to find the right combination to create the clear-cut chance they needed. This leaves space behind for Mbappe to run at the German defense, especially with minimal screening from the lightweight German midfield. Germany’s first sight of goal came when Ganbry reversed the ball with a bicycle kick but Ilkay Gundogan’s half-volley trickled away. Half-time and the score remains 1-0.
Inside the first minute of the second half, Mbappe was running at Hummels but the veteran did well to hold him up and prevent him from executing a dangerous final action. On 50, Adrien Rabiot slipped through on goal but his shot hit the outside of the post when he could have squared it for Griezmann. Let off. Minutes later, Serge Gnabry sidefoots a Gosens cross a little over the bar. Gnabry finds some space behind the defense but Hugo Lloris is off his line early to put off the attacker.
On 54, Kai Havertz who had been largely anonymous held the ball up and set up a cross for Kimmich. Gosens came flying and nearly took off Pavard’s head. Better from Germany. Kimmich’s delivery was causing the French backline a lot of problems, however, the next goal came from France. Pogba reversed a pass for Mbappe and he dazed 3 defenders before curling past Neuer. The assistant raised his flag, the goal did not stand. Still 1-0, France lead.
On 73, Timo Werner came on for Gnabry, and Leroy Sane was on for Havertz. France continued to hang on with Germany doing the probing with little result. Mbappe on the counter is a danger and Hummels had to put in one of the best tackles you’ll ever see to prevent him from going clean on goal. There was nothing he could do though when Paul Pogba combined with Griezmann before slipping Mbappe in. Mbappe’s cross was easy for Benzema to finish but again the offside flag was up. Mbappe the culprit. What a story it would have been for Benzema on his return but it was not to be.
Germany pressed relentlessly but all to no avail. It finished France 1-0 Germany. What a game of football this was! Not many goals in it but what a watch it was!