After a winter hiatus lasting the best part of three months, the Nationalmannschaft’s schedule for 2013 would finally get underway in Paris against France, an opponent against which a victory was long overdue.
The French had spoiled Germany’s party in the corresponding fixture played in Bremen at the beginning of 2012, and to gain some measure of revenge Joachim Löw’s side would have to overturn a number of records that had started to hang over them as the years had gone by. It had been twenty-six years since any German team had beaten Les Bleus – a record that stretched over six matches with the last positive result coming in late 1987 – and no German team had actually won in France since Dr. Otto Nerz’s charges carved out a 3-1 victory way back in the spring of 1935.
As the game approached there would be the usual spate of last-minute escapes, and the team looked decidedly thin as they took the field. With no Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marco Reus, Mario Götze or Miroslav Klose and a rusty Mario Gómez leading the line, one can understand why many German fans may not have been massively optimistic.
Hamburger SV’s René Adler would start in goal for the first time in more than two years, and in front of him would be the same defensive foursome that had lined up in Amsterdam at the end of 2012. The defensive midfield would have a new look as the fit-again Sami Khedira was partnered with İlkay Gündoğan, and the attacking midfield would also see a few changes as the recalled Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski joined Thomas Müller.
Gómez’s role as the sole striker was not much of a surprise after the withdrawal of Klose, but the coach’s selection would raise quite a few eyebrows in the German media given the FC Bayern München striker’s clear lack of match practice and the excellent goal-scoring form of Bayer Leverkusen’s Stefan Kießling.
On what was a crisp and slightly chilly evening in the French capital Italian referee Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni would lead out the teams, with the home side in an all-blue ensemble and the Germans in their familiar Schwarz und Weiß.
1 min. The visitors gets the game under way. I have managed to find a half-decent stream: the US-based ESPN2, with English commentary.
2 mins. The Mannschaft launch the first attack of the game, as Thomas Müller makes a good run down the right.
3 mins. France attack down the right flank, but Moussa Sisoko fails to meet to cross into the box. Moments later, Sami Khedira sends a low skidding shot to the right of French ‘keeper Hugo Lloris.
5 mins. A looping ball is played into the German box and evades Karim Benzema. It has been a frenetic and entertaining opening five minutes.
6 mins. Lloris does well to charge off his line and block a Mesut Özil effort after the midfielder is put into space by Müller.
12 mins. Things have settled a little, and Germany are putting some good passes together. Left-back Benedikt Höwedes shows good movement down the flank, but his cross is a poor one.
13 mins. Germany are looking to play down the wings, as this time Lukas Podolski shows good pace to charge past his marker towards the byline. His cutback is good, but fails to find a recipient.
15 mins. France win the first corner of the game which is cleared by centre-back Per Mertesacker, but the home time regain possession. Franck Ribéry makes his way into the box and wriggles past Mats Hummels, but once again the ball is hacked away.
17 mins. Müller shows good pace and strength as he bustles through the middle of the field, and he finds Özil to his right. Unfortunately the number eight’s left-footed effort flies high over the target.
19 mins. Mario Gómez has half a chance but scuffs his shot wide of the French goal.
20 mins. Khedira finds space down the right, but defender Mamadou Sakho does well to send the ball behind for a corner. The Eckball is swung in and is brilliantly met by Mertesacker, but Lloris is equal to it as he tips the ball over for another corner.
21 mins. Özil’s corner from the left is not as testing, and Les Bleus clear their lines. Meanwhile my stream collapses and dies, and I manage to find another. Good old reliable ARD.
26 mins. France launch a blistering left-sided counter-attack through the pacy Ribéry, and Mathieu Valbuena sends a shot high over the bar. Moments later Benzema looks marginally offside as he is put through on goal, but German ‘keeper René Adler is quickly off his line to quell the threat with an excellent block.
29 mins. France are playing the better football now, and are testing the Germans on both sides of the field. They win a corner out on the right which is cleared by Mertesacker.
30 mins. It’s Mertesacker to the rescue again as he gets in the way to block another French effort as both Ribéry and Benzema cause havoc in the box, but the Mannschaft counter-attack quickly. Özil finds Müller out on the right with a nicely-weighted ball, but the FC Bayern man’s cross is poor.
33 mins. Özil, Müller and Philipp Lahm combine well down the right, but the German skipper can’t find anyone in the box.
35 mins. The play is swinging from one half to another, and both sides are creating plenty of opportunities. Germany launch another attack down the left, but Höwedes scuffs his attempt at a cross.
37 mins. The energetic İlkay Gündoğan picks the ball up in his own half and charges into the opposition half, but the pass is a little ahead of the fast advancing Höwedes.
39 mins. Some tight passing once again by Jogi Löw’s side, let down once again by the final ball. France make their way to the other end of the pitch and win a corner, but Valbuena’s effort is easily cleared. Germany are able to regroup and clear their lines when Mertesacker is fouled by Ribéry.
41 mins. Nearly every dangerous French move is being initiated by Ribéry, and the little winger is unable to unlock the well-marshalled German defence.
42 mins. It’s Germany’s turn to attack as Özil’s low pass fails to find Gómez who is quickly closed down by two blue-shirted defenders.
44 mins. Khedira slides in on Blaise Matuidi, and the French win a free-kick some twenty-five yards out. Benzema’s stinging effort crashes off the crossbar, and with the German defence standing like statues Sissoko calmly sets up Valbuena who nods the ball into the net from close range. 0-1.
45 mins. There’s no time to restart as the Italian referee blows for half-time. Germany have looked lively in what has been a very high tempo game, and the goal just before the break is a major blow. What makes matters worse is that Sissoko was clearly in an offside position when the free-kick was taken. The half-time replay footage shows Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel getting animated as usual, while French president François Hollande is struggling to look interested.
46 mins. There are no personnel changes for Germany at half-time, and the home side get things underway. France quickly win the first corner of the half, but the Mannschaft clear and immediately counter-attack. Podolski’s attempt at a cross is dreadful as he only succeeds in passing the ball to an opposition defender.
49 mins. Gündoğan is continuing to show great strength and guile, and has quickly picked up where he left off in the first half.
51 mins. Gündoğan is in the thick of things again, as he challenges well and steals the ball in midfield. The Borussia Dortmund youngster has time to roll the ball out into space to his right, and the in-form Müller collects before lifting the ball beautifully over the advancing Lloris to level the scores. 1-1.
53 mins. The visitors look to have the wind back in their sails now.
56 mins. Benzema is flagged for offside, and with the break in play Germany make their first change as Toni Kroos comes on for the disappointing and largely anonymous Gómez. The stream is getting patchy now and I have to keep refreshing – this is pretty frustrating as I almost missed the equaliser.
62 mins. Benzema almost creeps in at the near post, but the ball is safely held by Adler who has positioned himself perfectly. Ribéry charges forward to launch another French attack, but his pass fails to find a blue shirt.
68 mins. Benzema skins Lahm down the left to reahc the byline, and whips in a fast low cross which is just too good for Ribéry who is prowling at the near post. It’s a lucky escape for Germany, and the coach responds by sending on André Schürrle for Podolski.
70 mins. Some good build-up play from Özil sees the ball end up at the feet of Müller, and the winger gets a shot on goal from the edge of the box, but it is easily collected by Lloris.
71 mins. The dangerous Ribéry is allowed to break free and get a shot on target, but it is weak and Adler cleans up easily.
73 mins. France attack down the right, and Benzema is unable to hit the target. It’s a difficult chance but Germany were lucky to get away with that one.
74 mins. The game has been end to end from the start, and this time it’s the Germans who profit. It’s all Read Madrid: after Benzema’s chance at one end, Özil and Khedira combine brilliantly to give the visitors the lead. Khedira rolls the ball to Özil before charging into the box, and the number eight provides a dream return pass. Khedira still has work to do, nbut controls the ball brilliantly before stabbing it past Lloris with his right foot. 2-1.
82 mins. Mertesacker has the ball in the back of the French net, but the whistle has already gone for a foul. It’s still 2-1 to Jogi Löw’s side.
84 mins. There’s some pretty football from Özil and Müller, and Schürrle fashions a shooting chance from the edge of the penalty area. The shot is on target but weak, and Lloris collects easily.
86 mins. Another French attack ends up with Müller being challenged by FC Bayern team mate Ribéry in the box, but the Italian referee waves play on. President Hollande is smiling.
88 mins. A sparkling dribbling run from Ribéry sees the nimble Frenchman weave his way into the box, before forcing a fine save from Adler who has been outstanding all evening. The ball if finally forced into the net, but substitute Olivier Giroud is clearly offside.
90 mins. There’s three minute of addition time, and the excellent Müller makes way for Lars Bender.
90.+2. mins. Özil breaks and plays the ball wide to Kroos, but the Bayern man’s shoot is ballooned high over the bar and into the crowd.
90.+3. mins. Benzema almost gets a chance right at the death, but Hummels does enough and Adler gathers.
90.+4. mins. The French are throwing everything forward now, and there’s time for another chance and another German block. The ball is cleared, and the final whistle is blown.
A fantastic performance from what was an arguably depleted side, and a hard-fought win against excellent and dangerous opponents. It’s Germany’s first win against France since 1987, and their first positive result in France since the spring of 1935.
Only after the match is over do I find out that the Guardian was offering a free live feed to viewers in the UK and, bizarrely, the Netherlands and Japan. I will have to look out for that next time.
v France, Stade de France, Paris, 06.02.2013
Müller 51., Khedira 74. / Valbuena 44.
Germany: Adler – Lahm (c), Mertesacker, Hummels, Höwedes – Khedira, Gündoğan – Müller (90. L. Bender), Özil, Podolski (68. Schürrle) – Gómez (57. Kroos)
France: Lloris – Sagna, Koscielny (46. Rami), Sakho, Evra – Cabaye, Matuidi (46. Capoue) – Sissoko (81. Giroud), Ribéry – Valbuena (86. Ménez) – Benzema
Referee: Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni (Italy)
Assistants: Mauro Tonolini, Lorenzo Manganelli (Italy)
Yellow Cards: – / –
Red Cards: – / –
Attempts on Target: 5 / 4
Attempts off Target: 9 / 8
Corners: 6 / 5
Fouls Committed: 6 / 8