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Saturday, 24 July 2021

Preview: France and Germany in rare early meeting at Euro 2020

The teams will meet in the group stage of a European Championship or World Cup for the first time on Tuesday when they open their Euro 2020 campaigns in Munich.

AP , Monday 14 Jun 2021
France
File photo, France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris holds the trophy aloft after the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia. France and Germany usually tussle in the latter stages of major tournaments. The heavyweights meet in the group stage of a European Championship or World Cup for the first time on Tuesday when they finally open their Euro 2020 campaigns. AP
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France and Germany usually play each other in the latter stages of major soccer tournaments.

Not this time.

The teams will meet in the group stage of a European Championship or World Cup for the first time on Tuesday when they open their Euro 2020 campaigns in Munich.

Their last match at a major tournament came in the Euro 2016 semifinals. Antoine Griezmann scored twice for France in the 2-0 victory over then-World Cup champion Germany in Marseille.

Germany has never really recovered, and though the French lost to Portugal in the final five years ago, they went on to win the World Cup two years later.

Remarkably, no player in Germany's current squad has ever scored in a European Championship match. Thomas Muller, who has played 11 tournament games, missed a penalty in the 2016 quarterfinal shootout win over Italy.

German hopes this time are pinned on a good start in Munich to set the team up for success in Joachim Low's last tournament as coach after 15 years in charge.

Low said Monday preparations at the team's base in nearby Herzogenaurach had been optimal.

``Team spirit is really excellent, really, very, very good. Everyone is of course very hungry for success at this European Championship and that actually makes me confident and lets me sleep well,'' said Low, who decided to step down after the tournament to let someone else lead the shakeup he started after Germany's failed World Cup campaign in 2018.

His former assistant, Hansi Flick, will oversee qualifying for next year's World Cup in Qatar.

Low _ or ``Jogi,'' as he's affectionately known _ said Leon Goretzka is able to play but Tuesday's game is too soon for the Bayern Munich midfielder to start. Jonas Hofmann (knee) is the team's only injury worry.

Germany will also face European champion Portugal on June 19, four days before its last game in Group F against Hungary. The Germans will play all three group games in Munich, where one of the tournament's quarterfinal matches will take place on July 2.

France plays Hungary on June 19 in Budapest, and stays in the city to face Portugal on June 23.

Low recalled the experienced Muller and Mats Hummels for this year's competition and their return appears to have had the desired effect. Germany looked solid in a 1-1 draw against Denmark and then filled up on confidence with a 7-1 rout of Latvia, when seven different players scored.

The goal conceded could prove to have been more valuable than those scored, however.

``These are situations, moments, not paying attention, not alert,`` Low said at the time. ``Our opponents will punish exactly that. We have to keep our concentration high for 90 minutes in every situation. There's definitely room for improvement there.''

France's fearsome front three of Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema _ the latter recalled by Deschamps after an almost six-year absence _ will be far more likely to capitalize on any German lapses in defense.

The 33-year-old Benzema has recovered from an injury picked up in France's 3-0 warm-up win over Bulgaria on June 8. He made his comeback in a 3-0 win over Wales four days before that, when he had a penalty saved and hit the post. Griezmann has also recovered from a minor injury.

France is bidding to become the first country to twice hold both the European and World Cup titles at the same time. France coach Didier Deschamps won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 as a player and could repeat the feat as coach.

Apart from France, only West Germany and Spain have held both titles at the same time.

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