Germany 'tried to turn over a new leaf' in draw with world champions France

• Germany 0-0 France
• Alphonse Areola shines in goal for world champions

Germany walked out to a heart-shaped display of flags waving in the stands and, by the time they came off, perhaps a little bit of the old love had found its way back. They finished this match on top against the world champions, who had barely been troubled for three-quarters of it, and would have won had it not been for a series of excellent saves from the debutant goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. Yet there is little cause to go overboard, either, after a largely stodgy affair that provided nothing like the kind of entertainment Uefa’s suits will have sought from a Nations League opener.

“After our disappointing World Cup, we tried to turn over a new leaf,” a broadly satisfied Joachim Löw said. This was no one-stop rehabilitation but there was evidence a few lessons had been drilled home, even if excitement levels suffered accordingly. Löw sent his side, shredded on the counter to such traumatic effect in Russia, out with caution in mind and for long periods they applied the handbrake even when their opponents encouraged them on. Plenty of France’s summer victims fell for that one; in the event Germany were rarely exposed although Manuel Neuer was tested by Olivier Giroud shortly before half-time.

The satisfaction for Löw will be that 12 years’ work did not completely unravel in Russia and that, tactically, Germany may be ready to adapt. “We were compact and well-organised,” he said. “We stopped France from counterattacking. I can live with the result and our performance.”

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In fact Löw made few changes to the side that fell catastrophically short against South Korea in Kazan, although the selection of four specialist centre-backs indicated his intentions. The retired Mesut Özil needed replacing too and, when the coach attempts to get in touch with the Arsenal playmaker next week, he might be tempted to point out that Germany’s present-day options offer next to no creativity between the lines. In the first half it was Timo Werner, who badly needs a goal, who offered most of their threat with a series of runs from across the front line. Thomas Müller and Marco Reus had quiet nights; once the back four is tightened to Löw’s satisfaction his attention may be required further forward.

Supporters hold up German flags to form a heart before kickoff.
Supporters hold up German flags to form a heart before kickoff. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

That they did not put France to the sword owed much to the Paris Saint-German keeper Areola, though, and on this showing the injured Hugo Lloris has a credible rival for the No 1 jersey. He had only been sporadically employed before a whirlwind of German salvos around the 70-minute mark but made exceptional fingertip stops from Toni Kroos and Matthias Ginter, also parrying from Mats Hummels and taking decisive action when Müller’s cross threatened to swirl in.

“He seized his opportunity calmly and with his usual serenity,” Didier Deschamps said of Areola. Like his opposite number, the France coach departed with low-key contentment. “A back-to-school match is never easy,” he said. “It was a bit laborious.” He could say that again; it was only during a spell either side of the interval that his team threatened to lay Germany’s neuroses bare, Neuer getting down well to Giroud’s header and Antoine Griezmann drawing a parry from range. Kylian Mbappé, who provided the occasional backheel or stepover to illuminate proceedings, dragged wide later on when his pace looked to have done the hard work but opportunities to turn on the afterburners were rare.

Löw tried to increase the tempo in Germany’s favour by introducing Leroy Sané eight minutes from time, that flurry of action having died down. It was a way of addressing one of many elephants scattered around the hosts’ room: the previous day Kroos had accused the recalled Sané of displaying poor body language, but he looked as happy as anyone to be there even if there was to be no grand act of redemption. It was not that kind of night for player or country, but a stopping of the rot may in time resemble a minor victory.



Neuer; Ginter, Boateng, Hummels, Rüdiger•; Kimmich; Müller, Kroos, Goretzka (Gundogan 66), Reus (Sané 83); Werner 

Subs not used

Ter Stegen, Tah, Kehrer, Draxler, Brandt, Schulz, Süle, Sané, Havertz, Petersen



Areola; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernández;
Pogba, Kanté; Mbappé, Griezmann (Fekir 80), Matuidi (Tolisso 86); Giroud (Dembélé 66) 

Subs not used
Lecomte, Costil, Kimpembe, Lemar, Nzonzi, Rami, Sidibe, Thauvin, Mendy

Referee D Orsato (It)