After Saturday’s gruesome horror show against the Netherlands in Amsterdam, the knives are out for German coach Jogi Löw. The next challenge is no easier as die Nationalmannschaft take on newly-crowned world champions France in Paris. Having lost five times in 2018 already, the coach is just one defeat away from taking the team to the worst calendar year in their history.
As expected, the German coach has made a number of personnel changes for this third UEFA Nations League group match. Five in all. It looks like a direct response to the recent media criticism, with a fast-looking attack, new names at the back, and most of the old hands shifted to the bench.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) October 16, 2018
Niklas Süle is in for the injured Jérôme Boateng, though that might have happened anyway. Jonas Hector, Emre Can, Thomas Müller and Mark Uth are all benched, with Thilo Kehrer, Nico Schulz, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané all coming in. It is Gnabry’s first international in almost two years.
With Gnabry and Sané joining Timo Werner in attack, there is plenty of pace in the German team. What they need is that one magic moment that may light the blue touchpaper.
Germany are led out by Manuel Neuer, who is winning his 82nd cap. It is the least experienced starting eleven in a competitive international for a while, and the only other players with over 50 caps are Toni Kroos and Mats Hummels.
The two teams line up for the national anthems, and the Stade de France is a sea of red, white and blue. The band actually stops for the second half of La Marseillaise, and the home crowd take over. That is quite a stirring rendition.
1 min. Peep! Germany kick off. They are kitted out in an all-white, with the hosts in all dark blue. Just the same as it was in Munich last month.
4 mins. Antoine Griezmann sees a shooting chance, but sends his shot wide.
6 mins. A sharp move down the left and Sané gets behind the French back line, but his cross is cleared.
8 mins. Schulz looks to make his way down the left, but is robbed of the ball.
9 mins. The play swings to the other end, and Kylian Mbappé charges down the right. Hummels does enough to keep pace with the French teenager, who still manages to send a cross into the German box. Thankfully, there is a white shirt on hand to head clear.
11 mins. A nice swift move from the Germans. Werner sprints into space and finds Gnabry, who creates plenty of confusion. Gnabry looks for Werner, but N’Golo Kanté gets a foot on the ball. It spins back to Hugo Lloris, who clears.
13 mins. Paul Pogba has the ball nicked off his feet, and Germany break quickly. Gnabry finds Sané, who charges down the right and looks to cross, and wins a corner. But wait. The referee consults the official on the goal line, and points to the penalty spot. Presnel Kimpembe had slid in, and the ball has struck his upper arm. If that was at the other end, I would be saying that the decision is a bit harsh. OK, it is harsh. But this German team needs every break they can get right now.
14 mins. Kroos steps up, and looks to guide the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. It is just about good enough. Lloris gets a hand to it, but can only help into into the net. The run of scoreless competitive matches ends at three. 1-0.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) October 16, 2018
19 mins. Another quick break, set up by Joshua Kimmich who slips the ball up to Sané. The winger darts into the French half and has Werner to his left, but the pass is way too strong. Lloris does well to get a hand on it, and Werner is unable to continue the attack. That should have been 2-0.
21 mins. There is a bubbling sense of confidence in the German team at the moment. They just need to keep calm and look to build on this early advantage.
23 mins. A nice little shimmy from Sané, wins a corner. The ball is swung in, the French defence are in a bit of a mess, and right-back Matthias Ginter forces a great diving save from Lloris. The next corner comes in, but this time Lloris catches safely.
25 mins. Schulz finds Sané down the left, and there’s another corner to Germany. Kroos swings it in, Lloris punches the ball away. The men in white look to send the ball straight back into the box, and there’s a foul on a defender.
28 mins. France win a free-kick out on the right after Kehrer is penalised. Griezmann floats the ball towards the edge of the German penalty area, but the danger is cleared.
29 mins. One foul too many. Ginter brings down Griezmannm, and is booked.
30 mins. Sané has the ball again, and his cross towards Werner is blocked and cleared.
31 mins. Griezmann slides a long low pass for the fats-advancing Mbappé, but Hummels covers well and Neuer gathers. The pass was a little too strong, even for Mbappé.
34 mins. A lovely move. Kroos sends a killer ball out to Schulz, who cuts it back inside for Sané. His shot is blocked, and the ball ends up in the arms of Lloris.
35 mins. Kehrer’s cross attempt is poor, but he is a little lucky as he wins a corner. Kroos curls it in, and Ginter’s slightly looping header is wide of the target.
37 mins. Gnabry almost finds Kehrer who is charging into the box, but Lucas Hernández makes a well-time challenge.
40 mins. France come close. A lovely ball from Griezmann almost finds Mbappé, who is inches a way from getting a toe on the ball. A relieved Neuer collects.
42 mins. Kimmich fouls Mbappé, and France have a free-kick some 25 yards out. There is movement in the German wall, and the referee orders the players back. Pogba’s second attempt is straight into the wall, and Germany clear their lines.
44 mins. The visitors seem content to pass the ball around a bit, as the match approaches half-time.
45 mins. Hernández makes a strong run down the left, and almost finds Olivier Giroud. It is a tough chance. Süle closes the gap well, and the ball goes over the target.
45+1 mins. The whistle blows for half-time.
After Saturday’s trauma, that has been an encouraging 45 minutes. Germany finally got a break, but it so easily could have been better. France have looked off the boil, and didn’t even register a shot on target.
Kimmich and Kroos have looked pretty solid in midfield, and the back line has also done its job well. In attack, there has been a distinct uptick in tempo. If there is one problem, it is that chances are still going begging. France have been poor, and Germany, despite having the lead at half-time, have failed to take advantage.
46 mins. The hosts get the second half under way. There are no changes for either side.
47 mins. Lovely movement from the Nationalmannschaft. Sané almost finds Werner with a sharp pass, but it is a little too strong for the RB Leipzig man.
48 mins. France win a couple of corners in quick succession. A Pogba shot is blocked by Hummels.
52 mins. There’s another darting move from the Germans, but Sané is flagged for offside. As the play quickly switches to the other end, Mbappé is almost through on goal as he muscles past Süle, but Neuer blocks well with his left foot.
54 mins. More encouraging combinations from Löw’s men. Werner releases Schulz, whose neat cutback is pulled wide by Sané.
57 mins. Mbappé is brought down by Kehrer by the left touchline, and his free-kick is ballooned over the box and off for a German goal kick.
59 mins. There have been plenty of positives tonight, but there is still plenty of work to do. Didier Deschamps’ side have not been particularly fantastic so far, but are starting to crank things up a little. Germany’s lead is looking increasingly precarious.
60 mins. Gnabry wins a corner for Germany, but they cannot create anything. France set up another swift counter. Mbappé looks to break down the right, but Schulz does brilliantly to keep pace before putting the ball behind for a corner.
61 mins. Two corners in a minute for Les Bleus, but this time Griezmann’s outswinger is headed clear by Hummels.
62 mins. Out of nowhere, France are level. The machine-like Pogba finds Hernández to his left, and Griezmann is waiting by the penalty spot to meet the cross. His header looks almost impossible, but is perfectly guided with a well-timed flick into the top right hand corner. Neuer flies high to his left, but is left clutching at thin air. 1-1.
66 mins. Sané gets a couple of glimpses of goal. We could be in for an exciting final twenty-odd minutes.
67 mins. Hernández looks to send a cross into the German box, but it is too close to Neuer who makes a safe catch. At the other end, France lose possession. Kehrer’s cross is collected by Gnabry, whose shot is well parried by Lloris.
68 mins. Hernández again, this time looking for Giroud. Süle intercepts, and it goes behind for a corner. The corner comes to nothing, and Germany clear.
71 mins. There are plenty of white shirts up in and around the French box, but Werner goes for the shot when he could have looked elsewhere. Blocked.
75 mins. Sané’s time is up. That’s a bit of a strange change, and Julian Draxler is on. Unless Sané is injured, it is another curious Maharishi Jogi off-the-bench moment.
76 mins. Kehrer threads the ball through for Werner, who sends a low cross across the French penalty area. It is a little too far in front of the advancing Draxler. Might Sané have got there?
79 mins. Blaise Matuidi is running towards goal, and falls over in the box as Hummels makes up ground behind him. The referee points to the penalty spot, providing his second harsh decision of the evening. There was no contact from the German defender, and Matuidi seemed to stumble over his own feet. It was not a dive, but not a penalty either. But then one could say that Germany’s Elfmeter was soft (or harsh, depending on your perspective).
80 mins. Griezmann strokes the ball into the right side of the net, as Neuer dives he wrong way. With ten minutes left, Les Bleus have the lead. 1-2.
83 mins. A second change for Germany, and an attacking one. Ginter is off, and Julian Brandt is on.
86 mins. The first switch of the evening for France, as Ousmane Dembélé replaces Mbappé.
87 mins. The ball breaks kindly for Giroud, but he has no pace. He is closed down by Hummels and Süle, who puts it behind for a corner.
88 mins. Thomas Muller replaces Gnabry as Löw makes his final change. Griezmann takes the corner, and Dembélé’s crisp shot is well collected by Neuer.
89 mins. Germany win a corner, and for a moment there is a little mild panic in the French defence. Brandt flings a throw-in into the danger area, but the home side clear.
90+1 mins. Two-goal home hero Griezmann makes his way off the pitch to a standing ovation, and is replaced by Tanguy Ndombelé.
90+2 mins. A tired-looking Werner gives the ball away, but France cannot capitalise on the error.
90+4 mins. The final change for France. Kanté is off, and makes way for Steven Nzonzi.
90+5 mins. There has been a final gust of German pressure, with a corner sandwiched in between the couple of free-kicks. The final act of the game sees an inswinger from Kroos, which is cleared. That is the prompt for the final whistle.
We can take plenty of positives from this match, as can the German coach. But Löw did let himself down at the end, with what was the inexplicable replacement of Leroy Sané with the ineffective Julian Draxler. For a man teetering on the brink of the scaffold, it was at best bizarre.
The defeat means that Germany have suffered the worst calendar year in their long and proud history, and have failed to win four competitive matches in a row. The last time this happened was in the dark days of Erich Ribbeck. Jogi Löw has set some magnificent records as Nationaltrainer, but some of his more recent statistics have been truly horrifying. Next month, it could get worse.
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) October 16, 2018
That said, a better performance is not the same as winning and picking up crucial points. The numbers are the only things that matter. Next month, Germany have to beat the Netherlands, after hoping that the French can pull the same trick. Anything else, and die Nationalmannschaft will be staring right down the relegation barrel.
For many, the UEFA Nations League is not a massive deal. But having to play in League B along side the likes of Turkey, Finland and Israel will be a really bitter pill to swallow. (The latter two teams look good for promotion from League C).
v France, Stade de France, Saint-Denis, 16.10.2018
Kroos pen 14. / Griezmann 62., pen 80.
Germany: Neuer (c) – Kehrer, Süle, Hummels – Ginter (83. Brandt), Schulz – Kimmich, Kroos – Gnabry (88. Müller), Werner, Sané (75. Draxler)
France: Lloris (c) – Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernández – Pogba, Kanté (90.+3. Nzonzi) – Mbappé (86. Dembélé), Griezmann (90.+1. Ndombelé), Matuidi – Giroud
Referee: Milorad Mažić (Serbia)
Assistants: Milovan Ristić (Serbia), Dalibor Đurđević (Serbia)
Goal Assistants: Danilo Grujić (Serbia),
Fourth Official: Nemanja Petrović (Serbia), Igor Stojilković (Serbia)
Referee Observer: Luciano Luci (Italy)
Yellow Cards: Ginter 29. / –
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 56% / 44%
Attempts on Target/Blocked: 3 / 4
Attempts off Target: 6 / 10
Corners: 8 / 5
Fouls Committed: 13 / 11