France may have needed an own goal to beat a fitful Germany in their Euro opener but their organization showed why they are world champions. With every side having played once at the tournament, Belgium are arguably the only other side that could rival the French.
Germany’s Toni Kroos tried to put a very positive spin on their 1-0 defeat to France in their European Championship opener – but even many Germany fans would struggle to share his optimism.
“We implemented much of what we set out to do,” the midfielder told ZDF after the Group F clash in Munich. “We didn’t have fewer chances than France.”
France took the lead through Mats Hummels’ unfortunate own goal on 20 minutes – after a wonderful pass from Paul Pogba – but also had two goals in the second half chalked off for tight offsides, with Kylian Mbappe’s pace and trickery causing real problems.
Adrien Rabiot also struck the post for France while Germany’s best effort saw Serge Gnabry scuff the ball just over the bar.
German pundits mostly agreed that France had deserved to win and had created more. The fact they can clearly play better should frighten the rest of the tournament.
Even Hummels knew Germany were lacking in some areas.
“The defeat hurts us a lot and for me especially because my own goal decided the game in the end,” he wrote on Instagram.
“We threw everything into the game and put up a great fight. Of course we know that we still have room for improvement.”
But giving your all is the least than can be expected of teams at the Euros. Guile and creativity are what will win the tournament and few teams have shown enough of that, with every side now having played once.
France demonstrated spark on the break while their organization and the incredible defensive midfield abilities of N’Golo Kante offer a base that Germany at times clearly lacked.
Coach Joachim Loew must be pondering whether to switch Joshua Kimmich from right wingback to centre midfield against Portugal. Lose and Germany could be out.
European champions Portugal won 3-0 against Hungary in the other Group F opener on Tuesday but it did not tell the full story.
Hungary, backed by the only capacity crowd allowed at the tournament, impressed in the first half and Portugal’s goals – including two from Cristiano Ronaldo to become the outright top scorer in all Euro finals – only came in the last 10 minutes.
Italy were decent but number one-ranked Belgium are perhaps the only side to have matched France’s swagger so far, the 3-0 demolition of Russia in St. Petersburg coming without Eden Hazard starting and with fellow genius Kevin De Bruyne not there at all.
If the Belgium duo get fit and also begin to shine, Pogba and Mbappe will have some serious rivals.