Euro 2020 Special

Euro 2020: Tactical Analysis of France’s 1-0 Win over Germany

France vs Germany was hyped up to be the biggest clash in the first round of Euro 2020 and it certainly lived up to the billing.

There was no shortage of firepower on the pitch from the two teams in the Group of Death in Munich as they put out their extraordinary XIs. Germany dominated the early proceedings in the game, but they failed to carve up a clear chance in front of goal. France, nimble on their feet and creating openings at will, soon clawed their way back into the game and were rewarded for their efforts in the 20th minute of the match.

Pogba’s exquisite and delightful ball directed towards Lucas Hernandez’s overlapping run fell right in his path. The Bayern Munich full-back brought it down with ease and hit a low cross intended for Mbappe and Benzema in the middle. Mats Hummels was the first to get to the ball and instead of clearing it for a corner, he ended up making a mess of it for an own goal.

Germany went into the half-time break with zero shots on target. Adrien Rabiot had the chance to double France’s lead in the second half, but instead of passing to Antoine Griezmann, who was clear in front of goal, he took a shot that hit the post and went wide. Kylian Mbappe got the ball in goal from a fantastic piece of individual play, but the linesman’s flag saved Germany from further embarrassment.

France did double their lead from a beautiful link-up play involving Griezmann, Mbappe and Benzema, who nearly marked his return to major international football with a goal. However, VAR ruled it out for offside. 



France won the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and then finished second in their UEFA Nations League Group in 2018/19. They are also on top of Group D having won two out of their three World Cup qualifying matches so far. France arrived at Euro 2020 after crushing Wales and Bulgaria in the two warm-up friendlies. 

Meanwhile, Germany have been horrific in the last few years. They were knocked out in the group stages in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. They endured a tough time in the UEFA Nations League as well and suffered a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Spain in 2020. Germany also surprisingly lost against North Macedonia in April this year. They drew 1-1 with Denmark but beat Latvia 7-1 in the pre-Euro 2020 warm-up fixtures.



Didier Deschamps started with pretty much the same XI in the 4-3-3 system that has been his core for the last few years. The only exceptions were Karim Benzema and Adrien Rabiot. Benzema was recalled to the French squad after years away for this Euro 2020 campaign and he led the line tonight. Rabiot also got the nod over Corentin Tolisso in midfield.

France (4-3-3): Hugo Lloris, Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Adrien Rabiot, Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe



Joachim Low, on the other hand, chose to play Serge Gnabry as a false 9 with Thomas Muller and Kai Havertz operating in the holes behind him instead of a direct out-and-out striker in Timo Werner. Toni Kroos, who just returns after being COVID-19 positive, and Ilkay Gundogan formed the bedrock of the 3-4-2-1 system for Germany.

Germany (3-4-2-1): Manuel Neuer, Matthias Ginter, Mats Hummels, Antonio Rudiger, Joshua Kimmich, Ilkay Gundogan, Toni Kroos, Robin Gosens, Kai Havertz, Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry



Though France played a 4-3-3 on paper, in reality it was more of a 4-3-1-2 with Antoine Griezmann often moving away from the left flank and tucking in centrally in order to create an advantage. This was aimed at creating a numerical superiority over Kroos, Gundogan and Kimmich in midfield and stringing more passes towards Mbappe and Benzema. At times, France’s 4-3-1-2 even became a 2-4-3-1, with Kylian Mbappe stretching the opposition defence really high up the pitch and being France’s furthest forward in the match.

In the second half, France chose a more pragmatic and defensive approach trying to protect their lead. They played a compact 4-4-2 with Griezmann dropping even deeper and Benzema and Mbappe leading the lines on counters. Full-backs Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez also chose not to push high in the game and were cautious.

The lack of an intense press signalled that Deschamps was content with letting Germany have the majority of the ball. N’Golo Kante was brilliant once again and won almost every 50-50 ball. Paul Pogba also had a great game in the middle and was the main creative source from midfield for Les Bleus.



German coach Joachim Low had an interesting approach to the game. They played a 3-4-2-1, which often became a 4-3-2-1 when out of possession. Toni Kroos was heavily involved in the middle of the park for Germany along with Ilkay Gundogan. Joshua Kimmich continued to push forward from the right-back position and also made horizontal movements, tucking in centrally in order to create a numerical overload against Benjamin Pavard and Adrien Rabiot.

What was fascinating about Germany tonight was their lack of a direct striker. Serge Gnabry, who plays on the wings for Bayern Munich, as a false 9 with Muller and Havertz behind him did not quite work as Germany had zero shots on target in the first half of the match.

Chasing the match in the second half, Joachim Low subbed in Leroy Sane, Kevin Volland and Timo Werner, almost completely changing his first-half approach. Both Werner and Volland played as out-and-out forwards while Sane was asked to utilize the wings. Germany came close on a few occasions to get back into the game but in the end, they were simply second best to France all game.



Mbappe, whose club PSG lost out to Manchester City in the Champions League, had easily been the highest goal-scorer in the French league. He was yet again in some mood tonight as he used his after-burners to get through on goal. He would have scored too had it not been for a terrific last-ditch tackle from Mats Hummels, who made amends for the earlier own goal.

In the end, France had too much pace and excellent awareness on the ball for Germany to push them. Germany, underlining why they aren’t among the favourites this time, will go back to the drawing board and prepare to take on Portugal in the next match.




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