France showed the watching world why they are the Euro 2020 favourites with a 1-0 win over an impressive Germany in Munich. A Mats Hummels own goal was the difference on the night, with the world champions later having two goals disallowed for offside.
Didier Deschamps’ men are going to take some stopping, with Presnel Kimpembe rock solid behind the perfect midfield pairing of the tireless N'Golo Kanté and gracious Paul Pogba. Kylian Mbappé showed why he is one of the most feared forwards in football by causing havoc down the left-hand side all evening.
Deschamps himself is bidding to become the first man to win European Championships as a player and as a manager, and it would take a brave punter to bet against him doing just that. Germany, however, had their moments and will no doubt have a say in the latter stages of this tournament.
In what was the standout tie of the first round, both outfits spent the opening 15 minutes feeling each other out in a tepid opening. The game soon burst into life as Mbappé, who has spoken out about a disagreement between him and Olivier Giroud, tested Manuel Neuer with a right-footed effort that the Bayern Munich stopper was equal to.
The crucial goal came on the 20-minute mark with Lucas Hernandez latching onto a beautifully-weighted Paul Pogba ball to drill a low cross into the six-yard box which Mats Hummels turned into his own net.
It wouldn’t have been the return that the Borussia Dortmund man had in mind after his two-year spell away from the German fold, with his own goal taking the current tournament total level with the three that were recorded at Euro 2016 – a tournament record.
With the first half drawing to a close, Ilkay Gundogan ought to have levelled the scores but instead scuffed his effort from 12 yards after Serge Gnabry did well to find him.
Die Mannschaft had lost their previous seven Euro games when trailing at the break, and had it all to do when referee Carlos del Cerro Grande blew his whistle to signal the end of the first half.
Although France could have doubled their lead shortly after the restart when Adrien Rabiot hit the outside of the near post with his left-footed strike, it was Germany who pounced into life from there with Gnabry mistiming his volley and finding the roof of the net when he perhaps should have found the back of it instead.
With 25 minutes left on the clock, Mbappé thought he had settled things when he did brilliantly to stand up two defenders and curl an effort into the far corner after Pogba had found him, only for the referee to correctly rule his effort out for offside.
The PSG man thought he should have been awarded a penalty when Hummels, who struggled to keep up with the 22-year-old all night, timed his last-ditch tackle to perfection to prevent what would have been a certain goal. Joachim Low injected some late pace into proceedings with Timo Werner and Leroy Sane entering the fray, but it wasn’t to be for the three-time champions.
Karim Benzema looked to have bagged his first France goal since 2015 when he met Mbappé’s cross to fire home on the counter, but the goal was once again ruled out after Mbappé had strayed offside in the build-up.
Germany have a big part to play in this tournament and will take heart from this performance against the favourites.
As for France, they showed exactly why they are world champions and will take some stopping with the pace of Mbappé complementing the midfield pairing of Pogba and Kante perfectly.