World champions France open their Euro 2020 campaign on Tuesday against an embattled Germany team eager to rediscover their best form in the first clash of two traditional European heavyweights in this year’s tournament.
Didier Deschamps’ France head to Munich for the Group F game with a feud brewing between forwards Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud but are still the title favourites, while the Germans are struggling and under pressure.
After 15 years in charge, their coach Joachim Loew will step down after the European Championship and wants to forge a mentality “like 2014” when his squad “pulled together” to win the World Cup.
The French need no reminding of Brazil, where they bowed out in the quarter-finals when a Mats Hummels header sealed victory for Germany at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
The French got their revenge when Antoine Griezmann scored both goals in a 2-0 semi-final win at Euro 2016 before the hosts lost to Portugal in the final.
France won the last meeting between the neighbouring countries in 2018 when Griezmann again scored both goals to seal a 2-1 Nations League win in Paris.
Germany face a tough start to Euro 2020, with a match against holders Portugal four days after the France game before finishing their group campaign against Hungary.
Tension is already bubbling in the French squad after Giroud, who scored twice off the bench in a 3-0 friendly warm-up win over Bulgaria, complained about the passes he received, which Mbappe took to heart.
It promises to be a heated match after Chelsea defender Antonio Ruediger admitted Germany may need to be a “little dirty” to counter the French attack.
“Germany have good, young players and I don’t believe they are as weak as they were,” said France’s Bayern Munich defender Benjamin Pavard.
– Germany wary of France front three –
Loew, 61, is desperate to land Germany a record fourth European title and enhance his reputation, dented after his side failed to get out of their 2018 World Cup group.
Three years after that debacle in Russia, Loew must hope his shaky defence can cope with France, who could name a fearsome front three of Mbappe, Griezmann and the re-called Karim Benzema.
The Germans are expected to play with a 3-5-2 formation in an attempt to counter France’s obvious threat.
But Germany have conceded 20 goals, keeping just three clean sheets, in their last 13 matches.
Loew has assured fans that his players will wear the shirt “with pride”.
“(We will) have to go through hell and be capable of suffering if we want to achieve something. We will give everything,” he said.
Germany reached at least the semi-finals of every major tournament from the 2006 World Cup to Euro 2016, but the last three years have been bleak.
After the World Cup disaster, they finished bottom of their 2018-19 Nations League group, were thrashed 6-0 by Spain last November and slumped to a 2-1 home defeat by minnows North Macedonia in World Cup qualifying in March.
“The blows of the last three years have left their mark,” admitted centre-back Hummels, who along with Thomas Mueller has been recalled after Loew reversed his 2019 decision to axe the pair.
Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich says the team are seeking redemption from their own fans.
“We have only disappointed people over the last few years,” he conceded. “We can’t always hide and say that we have a lot of quality. Now it’s up to us.”