Germany were beaten at the home of the world champions in their third Nations League game. Despite a strong and courageous performance, Joachim Löw’s men, who led 1-0 at half time, suffered their second consecutive defeat after two goals from Antoine Griezmann turned the game around for Les Bleus.
Löw made five changes to the starting XI that faced the Netherlands on Saturday: Niklas Süle replaced the injured Jerome Boateng at centre back, elsewhere, Thilo Kehrer, Nico Schulz, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané came in, while Jonas Hector, Thomas Müller, Emre Can and Mark Uth started from the bench. Löw set his team up with a back three of Süle, Hummels and Kehrer.
Only three days after the 3-0 defeat in Amsterdam, Die Mannschaft showed no signs whatsoever of being defeated and started against the reigning world champions with purpose. It took twelve minutes for the first big chance: Werner and Gnabry combined well to create the chance, but the final ball from Gnabry back to his teammate fell short of its target and was intercepted by Raphael Varane.
Just a minute later, Germany’s attacking courage was rewarded: Once again, it was the rapid Leroy Sané who stretched the defence down the right and cut inside with the by-line approaching. Presnel Kimpembe slid to prevent the danger, but caught the ball with his arm, forcing referee Milorad Mazic to point to the spot.
Toni Kroos stepped up and kept his cool from twelve yards. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris guessed the right way and got a touch on the ball, but it was struck well enough to find the back of the net for Germany’s first Nations League goal.
The lead could and perhaps should have been doubled just moments later. Leroy Sané charged forward on the counter and away from the French defenders, but instead of taking on the shot one on one, he opted to play a through ball for Timo Werner, which Lloris was alert to and rushed out to collect.
This wasn’t the first time Germany’s lively front three worried the World Cup winners, and it wouldn’t be the last. Time and again, Gnabry, Sané and Werner got the better of their defenders, but were unable to turn chances into goals, meaning Germany went into the dressing room at half time with a deserved, but slender lead.
Having survived the first half with just the one goal conceded, France came out of the tunnel for the second with vengeance, forcing Neuer into a spectacular save just seven minutes after the restart. Mbappé’s pace took him away from the German defence, but Manuel Neuer was quick off his line to deflect the ball wide with his foot.
Clear indications early on that the second half would be a tougher task for Löw’s defenders. In the 62nd minute Lucas Hernandez crossed from the left and found the head of Antoine Griezmann, who sent the ball over and past Manuel Neuer for the equaliser.
Serge Gnabry led from the front as Germany looked for an immediate response: The Bayern Munich man let fly from 18 yards, testing Hugo Lloris, but not beating him. End-to-end football ensued, the game was impossible to call. Both teams clearly wanted to win at all costs.
The deciding moment came in the 79th minute: Mats Hummels committed himself to a slide tackle against Matuidi, who went to ground, leaving the referee no choice but to award France a penalty. Antoine Griezmann sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way.
With just one point from three Nations League games, Germany remain bottom of the Group, but still have chances to change that in the final game against the Netherlands.