Mats Hummels' own goal proved to be the difference-maker for world champions France as they narrowly edged out fellow European heavyweights Germany at the Allianz Arena. A 1-0 victory for Didier Deschamps' side brought the first round of group stage games at UEFA Euro 2020 to a close.
The battle of the two most recent winners of the World Cup began with lots of energy but not enough quality on display from both sides. While Germany had more possession and created more chances, it was France who went into the half-time interval in the lead. Hummels diverted Lucas Hernandez’s cross into his own net in ungainly fashion in the 20th minute.
Joachim Low's side upped their intensity in the second half as they went in search of an equalizer. However, Germany were met by a resolute French backline that barely offered them a sniff at goal.
Had France been a little bit more clinical with their finishing and the timing of their runs, their win might even have ended up being much more comfortable.
As such, it’s France who get off to a winning start in the competition, leaving Germany with plenty of food for thought. Die Mannschaft will look to raise their game for the remainder of their group stage matches as they navigate the so-called group of death.
On that note, here are the hits and flops from the game.
#1 Hit: Lucas Hernandez
Part of a sizeable Bayern Munich contingent on the field, Hernandez has, as yet, been unable to establish himself as a regular starter for the Bundesliga champions. However, he is a firm fixture for Les Blues.
The French left-back showcased his value for the national side with an excellent performance in this game. Barely putting a foot wrong all evening, Hernandez didn’t just shut down the left flank but also made the crucial contribution that led to his side’s first-half opener.
While Hernandez put the shackles on Germany's Joshua Kimmich extremely effectively throughout the game, he also chose his moments to bomb forward well. It was on one such occasion he was picked out in space down the left. Hernandez's dangerous ball back across goal found its way into the German net via Hummels.
Even with Germany stepping up their efforts to find an equalizer in the second half, Hernandez proved to be a formidable obstacle for the German attackers. They did not have much joy down the Bayern Munich man's flank throughout the game.
#2 Flop: Mats Hummels
Mats Hummels saw his international career all but come to an end following a post-2018 World Cup overhaul. However, the the 32-year-old has worked his way back into the German side following an impressive campaign at Borussia Dortmund.
Providing experience and leadership from the back, not to mention an impressive passing range, Hummels is one of the key members of Germany’s defense. He would be expected to feature regularly if Germany are to go deep into the Euros.
However, the tournament did not start well for the experienced defender as his first major contribution came in the form of an own goal in the 20th minute. As Lucas Hernandez delivered a probing cross into the box, Hummels got himself into an awkward position in trying to deal with the ball. The Dortmund man only succeeded in sending the ball careering into his own net off his knee.
While he was able to put the own goal behind him and urge his team onwards to score the equalizer, Hummels’ lack of pace was regularly exposed by the speedy Kylian Mbappe. The French attacker seemed to make it a point to target the veteran defender. Hummels had to strain every sinew to keep Mbappe at bay as the Frenchman seemed to have the better of their exchange.
#3 Hit: Paul Pogba
It is no secret that while Pogba’s performances in the Manchester United midfield might not always be of the standard expected of him. However, the Frenchman is a player transformed when he suits up for his national side. This game was a shining example of the contrast in Pogba’s performances for club and country, as the midfielder was one of the stars for his side on the night.
Playing on the right of a midfield three, Pogba was imperious both in attack and in defense. While his excellent positioning and string shielding of the ball nullified many a German attack, his incisive passing regularly got his side moving upfield. In fact, it was one of several excellent passes Pogba played on the night that led to the opener for the French.
France are touted as one of the heavy favorites to lift the trophy. Similar impressive performances from Pogba would go a long way towards helping the world champions deliver on those expectations as the tournament progresses.
#4 Flop: Joshua Kimmich
Kimmich has been extremely effective playing in the middle of the park for Bayern Munich. However, an abundance of quality central midfielders has forced the versatile German to play slightly out of position at right wing-back for the national side of late.
Kimmich's admirable adaptability and tenacity has served him well off the right flank. However, it can be argued that this tactical decision somewhat limits the amount of influence he can have on the game.
Kimmich started the game off on the wrong foot, picking up a booking inside seven minutes for an ill-timed challenge on Lucas Hernandez. Following that offense, he was always walking the proverbial defensive tightrope, with the threat of a second booking looming over his head.
And while he never let his efforts to get his side back into the game flag, Kimmich was extremely well marshaled by his Bayern team-mate.
As such, his attacking contributions were limited to a few hopeful crosses into the box. Furthermore, with the formidable threat of Kylian Mbappe to contend with on his flank, Kimmich did not provide his defenders adequate cover. His failure to track back allowed the Frenchman to make merry down the left-wing.
#5 Hit: N’Golo Kante
Having been an integral part of several title-winning sides over the course of his career, it is a widely-held opinion that the appreciation that N’Golo Kante’s midfield displays have been receiving in recent times has been long overdue.
The seemingly indefatigable Kante is often the man doing the dirty work in the middle of the park, shielding his defenders while affording his fellow midfielders much-needed space to play freely.
This is a role he has virtually perfected for club and country over the past few years. It was evident once again as the diminutive Frenchman quietly and effectively bossed the midfield against Germany.
Showcasing his seemingly endless reserves of energy and superb positional sense, Kante popped up all over the field to make vital interceptions at just the right moments.
His efforts, combined with a superb performance from the French defenders, meant that Hugo Lloris barely had a save to make all game. The French backline repelled attack after attack with consummate ease and professionalism.
Like with Pogba, if France are to go deep into the tournament, they will be relying heavily on Kante to continue performing at the high level he is currently operating at.