Germany will have no time to soak up the atmosphere in front of a home crowd at the Euros when they host world champions France in Munich on Tuesday, with coach Joachim Loew’s untested team facing the tournament favourites in their Group F opener.
Germany’s shock first round exit from the 2018 World Cup triggered an overhaul of the team. But in his final tournament before stepping down after 15 years, Loew has recalled some of the players he had axed after the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the overhauled squad failed to get the desired results.
With 2014 world champions Thomas Mueller and Mats Hummels back in the squad after more than two years, Germany will be considered as the underdogs when their largely untested line-up face their powerful neighbours.
What Germany will need to do first is lock down their defence against a formidable French frontline, arguably the best in the world at the moment.
With European champions Portugal awaiting next in their group before their final game against Hungary, avoiding defeat could prove decisive for Germany in their ‘group of death’.
“France would not have become world champions if they did not have top defenders,” said Germany forward Timo Werner.
“Players who go into the one-on-ones like N’Golo Kante or Benjamin Pavard. There is a reason why they are tournament favourites.
“And then in attack the trio with (Kylian) Mbappe, (Antoine) Griezmann and (Karim) Benzema is just world class. When you have players like that in a team then it is just outstanding.”
Benzema has recovered from a minor injury sustained in a friendly win over Bulgaria on Tuesday and is fit for their opener.
The Germans, who will have the support of up to 14 000 spectators, will most likely play a three-man backline with Hummels in the centre, while holding midfielders Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich will add further safety.
“We have to see what is good for us, what we need and what our strengths are,” said Germany assistant coach Marcus Sorg. “Secondly we have to see how we can take the strengths of the French team out of the game.
“We have to try , even against France to put our own strengths onto the pitch.”
What the Germans are unlikely to have is an out-and-out forward with Mueller set to operate in that role with Serge Gnabry and Kai Havertz on either side.
“At the end of the day it can be one single situation that could secure success for the team,” Sorg said. “That is why it is worth putting in the work, and our players have understood that.”