With all eyes focused on Munich and what was a star-studded showdown on Tuesday night, France managed to get their European adventure off to a flying start with a deserved victory at the Allianz Arena.
While the fans in attendance didn’t quite get the action-packed display that they would have been hoping for, Les Bleus landed themselves a 1-0 win after Mats Hummels turned into his own net after 20 minutes.
Keeping up the pace with Portugal after the defending European champions picked up a 3-0 win away in Hungary earlier in the day, France also extended on what has been a real purple patch against the Germans.
Now unbeaten in each of their last six straight meetings against their fellow European heavyweights, we have taken a look at the major talking points after Tuesday’s meeting in Munich.
France’s professional display
Despite watching Portugal stun them on home soil five years ago, France opened this summer’s delayed European Championships tipped as a standout pick to build off of their World Cup success from 2018.
Fully deserving of their lead in the first-half and hosting a starting XI that had eight players that came past Croatia thanks to that famous 4-2 win out in Russia, Didier Deschamps’ side put in another professional display on foreign soil.
Unlucky to have not left with more goals to show for their troubles with Kylian Mbappe going close and Adrien Rabiot striking Manuel Neuer’s post five minutes after the restart, Les Bleus opened their Group F campaign with the statement that they had hoped for.
Benzema gets the nod
With Olivier Giroud bagging two goals in France’s 3-0 friendly win against Bulgaria last week when signing off their preparations, there remained plenty of speculation as to whether Karim Benzema could force his way back into Deschamps’ starting XI.
With the Chelsea striker now sat just five goals adrift of becoming The Blues’ all-time leading goalscorer and leapfrogging Thierry Henry, the decision to bring their controversial forward raised some eyebrows in Paris.
Picking up a knock in France’s pre-tournament friendly against Wales, the Real Madrid ace made his first international appearance at a major tournament since 2014 after serving time in exile from Deschamps’ squad.
Bagging 30 goals for Los Blancos this season, Benzema also came inches from opening his account as Kylian Mbappe was ruled to have been offside by VAR with just minutes remaining.
While the likes of Mbappe and Benzema might have stolen most of the headlines before Tuesday’s heavyweight showdown in Munich, it was once again N’Golo Kante who proved to be the most crucial part of Deschamps’ plan.
Allowing Paul Pogba the freedom that he is often without at Manchester United, the Chelsea midfielder put in a Man of the Match display in front of Raphaël Varane and Presnel Kimpembe. The one-time Leicester star also only underlined why he is one of the leading contenders for the Ballon d’Or this year.
With only Bayer Munich right-back Benjamin Pavard making more tackles than Kante on Tuesday night, there is no doubt that the 30-year-olds partnership with Pogba will be critical to France in their bid to become the defending world and European champions.
A nightmare for Hummels
While both Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller might have been brought back from two years in international exile back in May, it was a night to forget as the Borussia Dortmund defender made his return to the major tournament stage.
Despite scoring against Les Bleus on route to lifting the 2014 World Cup, the former Bayern Munich ace instead fired into his own top corner from close range as he turned in Lucas Hernandez’s cross after 20 minutes.
Only just about managing to save himself with a last-ditch tackle as Mbappe burst away with moments left, Hummels also broke an unwanted record on what was meant to be his welcomed return to the Germany squad.
Failing to help a German defence that has now recorded just three clean sheets in their last 15 matchups across all formats, Hummels also became the first German player to score at both ends at a major tournament (Euros and World Cup).
Löw out of ideas?
With it announced earlier in the year that long-standing boss Joachim Löw will be replaced by Hans-Dieter Flick come the end of the summer, Germany have continued to struggle with their form since their nightmare out in Russia three years ago.
Questioned for his decision to make a U-turn back in May as he brought back the likes of Hummels and Muller, the three-time European champions had the feel of a side who have simply run out of ideas.
Shocking many across Europe as they were hit with that infamous 2-1 defeat against North Macedonia in March’s World Cup qualifiers, Löw’s choice to play Joshua Kimmich as a right wing-back also raised plenty of eyebrows, including with former German legend Philipp Lahm.
France: Lloris (6), Pavard (7), Varane (7.5), Kimpembe (7), Hernandez (7), Pogba (7.5), Kante (8), Rabiot (7), Greizmann (7), Benzema (5.5), Mbappe (6)
Subs: Dembélé (N/A), Tolisso (N/A)
Germany: Neuer (6), Kimmich (6), Ginter (6), Hummels (5), Rudiger (5), Gosens (6), Kroos (5), Gundogan (5), Havertz (5.5), Muller (5), Gnabry (5.5)
Subs: Sane (5), Werner (5), Volland (3), Can (5)
Goals: Hummels OG 20′
Yellow Cards: Kimmich
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande