World champions France ran to a bore draw against Germany at the Allianz Arena on Thursday to take a share of the spoils in their inaugural match at the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League.
The last two World Cup-winning countries collided in Munich but failed to produce a victor as Didier Deschamps' men looked content to take a point from their first away trip of the maiden National League tournament.
The pair have been seeded in Group 1 of League A in the Nations League and will be two of the European heavyweights expected to feature in the finals of this competition in its maiden year. The return leg will take place on October 16.
Marco Reus Wasted as Joachim Low Tests Bizarre Tactics
One of the more quizzical changes implemented by Germany manager Joachim Low on Thursday was to see Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus moved into a central striker role while Timo Werner took up base on the left wing.
Starting out wide is no new thing for the RB Leipzig attacker, who does so frequently for his club. However, Reus was pacified beyond recognition, and it wasn't until the end of the game was in sight that Get French Football News noted his first real chance at goal:
Experimentation withstanding, the choice to limit Reus' dribbling and on-the-ball abilities by pushing him so far up the middle was a waste. Whereas Werner could have at least performed in that role and Reus could be optimised out wide, Low instead saw the former playing adequately out wide while the latter was effectively absent.
It seemed a particularly controversial selection considering Manchester City star Leroy Sane, arguably the best natural left-wing option Germany have at their disposal, didn't come on until late in the game.
Werner's performance in particular drew mixed reviews as he impressed with four tackles, for example, per WhoScored.com, but was also dispossessed twice, more than any other German player:
Reus has operated in a striker-like capacity for Dortmund in the past, but after an injury-struck season and against the defence that just won the World Cup, it wasn't a pleasant test in Munich.
Twitter user Haytham Mohamed noted Reus' struggles weren't the only obscure tactic utilised by Low, who field central defenders Antonio Rudiger and Matthias Ginter at left and right-back, respectively:
There was pace and power to their play, but it was clear in a lot of clutch attacking circumstances that two centre-backs were on the flanks, though it was a blueprint Low has been working on, per sportswriter Christian Falk:
The quality of crossing from both was poor on the whole, and numerous German attacking movements came to an end because possession wasn't properly utilised in those wide areas.
The lack of full-back options on the bench—where three other German centre-backs sat—suggest Low may persevere with this approach moving forward, though it's debatable if we'll see Reus back as a frontman.
Germany Well On Their Way in Post-World Cup Crisis Recovery
Their group-stage dismissal in Russia was treated as a disaster, but Germany showed some signs of encouragement on Thursday that they're ready to put what happened at the 2018 World Cup behind them.
Failing to make it past the first hurdle in their World Cup title defence was a critical blow to German morale, and perhaps the more important sign of recovery was given by those off the field with a rousing Tifo:
The attack was uninspired, to say the least, with there being confusion about who should have been positioned where—and yet, Germany almost doubled France's shots on goal, having 13 to their eight.
At the very least Low might have expected his defence to have been even better than before given two more centre-backs were in the mix, and they duly delivered by keeping Olivier Giroud quiet, per Squawka:
Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng were largely solid at its core, while slightly further upfield, Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich showcased some of the calm they can bring to the midfield. Leon Goretzka also had his moments but looked the least experienced of the trio at times.
Germany won't get back to where they were overnight, however, and for all the positives shown, Les Bleus still looked like the superior outfit, said ESPN FC's Liam Twomey:
That may have been the case, but matching the world champions and not conceding to Deschamps' attack puts Germany in a more promising position than that of two months ago.
Antonio Rudiger Lucky to Avoid Red in Pavard Stamp Incident
Rudiger's lack of familiarity in a full-back role wasn't to blame for his unfortunate scrap with France defender Benjamin Pavard, nor was it a lack of speed, but he was lucky a poor temperament didn't see his game cut short.
ESPN FC posted images of the stud marks Rudiger left on the Stuttgart star's neck after the Frenchman slid for a tackle on the German only to be trampled on (seemingly unnecessarily) in the process:
It was part of an awkward gallop from the Chelsea man that could happen to any player, but there was a worrying sign towards the end of the movement that suggested it may have been intentional.
Voters in a DW Sports poll thought so, at least, and largely agreed Rudiger deserved to be given his marching orders after the first-half challenge:
German football writer Jonathan Harding thought red was too harsh, however:
Rudiger was shown nothing for the incident but picked up a yellow in the 88th minute, and he should perhaps be thankful his disciplinary concerns ended there.
Germany only have a matter of days until their next international outing and face Peru in Sinsheim on Sunday. France, meanwhile, have a more serious matter on their hands the same day and will line up against the Netherlands in their second Nations League Group 1 encounter.