UEFA Nations League 2018-19 Preview: Germany vs France
The two most recent world champions are squaring off in the first ever UEFA Nations League match on Thursday. Germany, who were expected to reach the business end of the tournament, was surprisingly knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage after South Korea scraped an unexpected, yet memorable victory over them.
France, on the other hand, progressed all the way to the finals. They managed to beat International stalwarts like Argentina, Uruguay, and Belgium, before easing past Croatia to claim their second World Cup triumph.
Both these teams met in the 2014 World Cup Quarter-final, where Mats Hummels' header in the 13th minute meant Les Blues was eliminated. There most previous meeting in a competitive tournament, however, went the opponent's way as France beat Germany 2 - 0 thanks to Antoine Griezmann's brace.
Germany Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Joshua Kimmich, Mats Hummels, Antonio Rüdiger, Jonas Hector, İlkay Gündoğan, Toni Kroos, Leroy Sane, Thomas Müller, Marco Reus, Timo Werner [Manager: Joachim Löw]
Germany is on a path of rebuilding after falling short of the knockout stages in Russia. Head Coach, Joachim Löw managed to retain his job and will lead the team through its first Nations League.
Regular starting goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer has been fit for quite some time now, but his last performance in the whites of Germany was disappointing at the least, and with ter Stegen putting in some good performances with Barcelona, Löw might give him the nod instead.
Chelsea's Antonio Rüdiger has been a rock in defense for Maurizio Sarri and is expected to play alongside Mats Hummels in the center of defense. Toni Kroos and İlkay Gündoğan would form the heart of the German midfield, while Leroy Sane is expected to start for Die Mannschaft after fans spoke out about his World Cup omission.
France Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Alphonse Areola, Benjamin Pavard, Raphaël Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez, N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Blaise Matuidi, Olivier Giroud [Manager: Didier Deschamps]
The champions of the world aren't expected to make any drastic changes for the UEFA Nations League. France lost Captain Hugo Lloris to a thigh injury last week, and are expected to field PSG's backup goalkeeper Alphonse Areola instead.
The World Cup-winning back-four of Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, and Hernandez will most probably keep their starting positions although there is some fierce competition in the names of Presnel Kimpembe and Benjamin Mendy.
Their midfield and attack are one of the most threatening and dominant in International football as of now with the likes of Pogba, Mbappe, and Griezmann among them. Although Olivier Giroud didn't manage to score a single goal in Russia, his presence in the center of attack helped the likes of Mbappe and Griezmann to play forward and score goals, so Deschamps isn't expected to tinker with his starting attack.