France coach Didier Deschamps admitted that Germany finished the stronger side in the European heavyweights’ eagerly awaited Nations League opener in Munich on Thursday night.
After Germany’s shock early exit in Russia this summer, a game against their successors as world champions was the perfect opportunity to take stock of their standing in the game.
A 0-0 scoreline would suggest they are not far off the standards they set before this summer – never worse than third in five tournaments since 2006, including victory in 2014 – and Deschamps said he was satisfied with the draw.
“We were better for a while, they were better for a while but it was a game of few chances,” said Deschamps.
“It was a good result even if the objective was to win. There were mistakes from both sides and we had a certain amount of fatigue.
“Germany were very disappointed this summer and gave it everything in this game.”
France certainly shaded the first hour, without creating many clear-cut openings, but their longer World Cup campaign appeared to tell in the final half hour as Germany gained the initiative.
In fact, without three superb saves from debutant Alphonse Areola, in for the injured Hugo Lloris and the only change to France’s World Cup final line-up, the 67,000-strong crowd at the Allianz Arena would have got the Russian redemption they wanted.
The 25-year-old Paris St Germain goalkeeper foiled Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Matthias Ginter in 10 frantic minutes for an otherwise unruffled France.
“I had a fair amount of work to do and stayed focused, that was the important thing,” he said afterwards.
“I was part of the World Cup squad and I know everybody. My team-mates put their confidence in me and I just needed to play the way I do every weekend.”
The sense that both teams were happy with the draw was reinforced by Germany head coach Joachim Low in his post-match press conference.
“After our disappointing World Cup, we tried to turn over a new leaf,” said Low.
“Against Mexico (at Russia 2018), in particular, we were left exposed to counter-attacks and we stopped France from doing that.
“We had two or three really good chances and you rarely get so many chances versus a world champion.
“So I am pleased with the strong running and fighting qualities of the team. We were compact and well organised. I can live with the result and our performance.”
Asked why he did not start any of the five players he brought into the squad after the World Cup, Low repeated what he said in the build-up to the game: experience matters, Germany should not forget what has brought them so much success and the younger players will get their chances soon enough, probably as soon as Sunday’s friendly against Peru.
France meet Holland in Paris that night in what will be the second game of their Nations League group.