International football giants France and Germany kick off their Euro 2020 campaign in Munich on Tuesday at 8pm (UK time).
Les Bleus head into this tournament as the hot favourites, which is understandable given the immense talent within their ranks and the fact they’re reigning world champions.
But, despite not even making it out of the groups at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Germany can never be underestimated at international tournaments and will offer a stern test for Didier Deschamps’ men.
Euro 2020 favourites with William Hill…
- France – 9/2
- England – 5/1
- Belgium – 6/1
- Portugal – 8/1
- Spain – 8/1
- Germany – 8/1
- Italy – 8/1
(Odds correct at the time of writing. 18+ only. BeGambleAware.org)
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Portugal also occupy Group F, so this opening clash could be a critical encounter. Read on for five predictions, including line-ups and final score.
1. France predicted XI
Although there are a few changes to personnel, France will field a very similar line-up to the one that secured World Cup glory three years ago, including their 4-3-1-2 system.
Hugo Lloris remains in goal and retains the captain’s armband, while Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez continue at full-back. Raphael Varane is still the first-choice pick at centre-back, but this time he’ll be partnered by Presnel Kimpembe, who enjoyed a fine 2020/21 campaign with PSG, rather than the often injury-struck Samuel Umtiti.
Paul Pogba continues to provide attacking thrust from midfield, while N’Golo Kante will call upon his endless reserves of stamina to influence the game at both ends of the pitch. One of the highlights of Deschamps’ tactical set-up in Russia was his use of Blaise Matuidi on the left, with the then-Juventus midfielder tucking inside to provide defensive cover when France pushed forward. Although Adrien Rabiot has been given a run in that position, it is Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso who has been preferred there more recently.
Antoine Griezmann will once again operate in the hole behind the forwards, providing for those in front, offering a link for those behind him and getting into spaces where he can get shots on goal himself. Of course, Kylian Mbappe will be one of the starting strikers but, instead of Olivier Giroud, it’ll likely be Karim Benzema who partners him. The Real Madrid star has returned to international duty after years in the wilderness and despite picking up a knock in France’s recent friendly against Bulgaria, Deschamps is confident of his ability to start.
“He took a good hit on the muscle above the knee, and he felt that it was getting worse so we took no risk,” said Deschamps. “That’s why he came off. It’s a knock, there are always worse things in life.
“The medical staff are of a high level. We will do the right thing and not spend every day wondering how he is doing. It’s hard to digest but you have to deal with it. Today, it’s nothing dramatic.”
Giroud may have also seen his chances of starting take a hit after expressing his unhappiness with the lack of service, something which reportedly angered Mbappe. However, Pogba has stepped in to insist there is no tension between the two.
“The only tensions are on the back, on the legs. The physiotherapists are there for that,” Pogba told reporters at a press conference.
“Frankly, I’m on the inside, there is nothing, there has always been a very good atmosphere with everyone. We will go directly to the subject – between Olivier and Kyky (Mbappe), there is nothing at all.
“I think that what was said may have been poorly conveyed. Kylian, his qualities, he can score and do a lot of assists, he does it, he plays for the team even though I always tell him that it would be good if he defended a little more!
“There is nothing, nothing has come out, I don’t feel any tension, nothing at all.”
2. Germany predicted XI
Perhaps in a bid to restore some defensive cohesion after some embarrassing defeats, Joachim Löw has recently shifted his Germany side to a 3-4-3 formation.
Manuel Neuer is still among the best goalkeepers in the world and remains between the sticks. In front of the Bayern Munich shot-stopper, Matthias Ginter, Mats Hummels and Antonio Rudiger could form the centre-back trio after impressive club campaigns with Borussia Monchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea, respectively. The latter, of course, goes to the Euros as a Champions League winner.
This formation means Joshua Kimmich will return to his old role on the right flank, where he’ll be expected to get dangerous deliveries into the box and shut down opposition forwards with his supreme defensive instincts. On the other side, Robin Gosens is well-versed in flying forward thanks to playing in Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta set-up.
Leon Goretzka is nearing a return to fitness after suffering a muscle injury but Die Mannschaft director Oliver Bierhoff has ruled the Bayern man out of this opening tie.
“He is able to train with the team, but he won’t be an option for the first game,” he said. “Leon is an incredibly important player and I’m sure that he will end up playing an integral role for us.”
Even so, a central midfield pairing of Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan provides a wonderful blend of passing prowess and attacking thrust, with the latter netting 17 times across all competitions for Man City this season.
Returning to the international scene, Thomas Muller (who has 19 goals and 39 assists to his name over the past two Bundesliga seasons) will start through the middle but with licence to drift to either flank or into the space behind the forward line. This is a ploy to create gaps for the top-scorer in qualifying Serge Gnabry (eight goals), while also allowing space for Kai Havertz to wield his playmaking magic. This trio is incredibly flexible, with each capable of interchanging with the other at any given time.
And if this potential forward line isn’t terrifying enough, it also leaves Löw the option of bringing Timo Werner and Leroy Sane off the bench.
3. Griezmann to play another tournament blinder?
Although Mbappe exploded onto the scene, Griezmann was undoubtedly the key to France’s success in 2018, coming up clutch with important goals and orchestrating his side’s attacks. This will likely be the case again at the Euros, a competition at which Griezmann won the Golden Boot in 2016, and if Les Bleus’ last meeting with Germany is anything to go by, Griezmann is primed and ready to do some damage.
France beat Germany 2-1 in the Uefa Nations League back in October 2018 and it was a second-half double from Griezmann that allowed Deschamps’ side to overturn a 1-0 deficit. That brace took the Barcelona forward to four international goals against Germany, with no other national team feeling his sting more.
Griezmann hasn’t really hit the heights expected of him over the past two seasons at Barcelona, but he’s never let France down. What’s more, he enters this tournament having scored in each of his last three games for club and country.
Antoine Griezmann to score two or more goals is priced at 16/1 with William Hill.
4. A fast start for Germany
If Germany are to defy the odds and beat France in this opener, then scoring early is going to be key. Indeed, they fare much better when they come out of the blocks quickly, having scored inside the opening 25 minutes in each of their last six wins. In fact, Germany have achieved that feat seven times across their last 12 games overall.
If Löw can mastermind another early goal here, his side has more than enough pace to sit back and hit France on the break, with Muller acting as the attacking pivot, while Gnabry races in behind and Gosens stretches the field on the left. As mentioned, they’ll also have the options of Sane and Werner from the bench, who are equally electric in their own right.
The main question, then, is whether or not they have enough to hold off the considerable threat of the French forward line. But there’s no doubt that taking the lead first early on has the potential to knock France off-kilter, while it forces them to come forward where they’ll leave spaces at the other end. Can Varane and Kimpembe match the speed and movement of Muller, Gnabry and Co.? This is one of the battles that must be won to emerge from the war victorious.
Germany to score in the 1st-15th minute is priced at 24/5 with William Hill.
5. France to take the win
But while Germany looked confident in their 7-1 friendly win over Latvia, their form prior to that hasn’t been great, with just two wins from five games prior, including embarrassing defeats to Spain (6-0) and North Macedonia (2-1). By contrast, France are unbeaten in their last 18 internationals and without defeat in their last five against the Germans.
The immense talent of Mbappe, Benzema et al. could be impossible for Die Mannschaft to deal with and although they’ll pose a threat themselves at the other end of the pitch, Germany’s forwards just aren’t as clinical.
France 3-1 Germany is priced at 25/1 with William Hill.