Munich: France manager Didier Deschamps believes they need to sharpen up when they play the Netherlands on Sunday in their first home match since winning the World Cup in July following their goalless draw away to Germany.
The French seemed to be nursing a post-victory hangover when they faced Germany in Munich on Thursday in their first outing since the final, creating only a few chances in the Nations League game compared to their opponents’ half dozen.
The Germans were eager for redemption after their shock World Cup group stage exit while France at times looked content with a draw.
“We can do it better,” Deschamps said. “We are returning home (for Sunday’s game in Paris) but we need to be more efficient.
“We ran out of steam towards the end and obviously the entire squad is not yet at the peak of their form. Not at this time of the season.” France’s passing was far from accurate and they seemed to lack pace, with forwards Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, who were so dynamic at the World Cup in Russia, posing no real threat for most of the game.
It was unlikely, however, that France would instantly pick up where they left off in July, with their players having had limited pre-season preparation following their lengthy World Cup campaign.
Deschamps’ team can expect days of festivities when they return to Paris but the players will know they need to pick up three points from their next Nations League match as well as put on a show for the French fans.
“It will be a great feeling because it will be our first match in France since we won the title,” Giroud said. “But we know we have to get the three points against the Dutch to stay in contention in the Nations League.”
The Nations League, brainchild of European football body Uefa, aims to boost interest in international football and features all 55 of Europe’s national teams divided into four divisions split into four groups, with games played between September and November.
In other matches, Gareth Bale starred in a big win for Wales.
Bale scored a stunning goal as an impressive Wales beat the Republic of Ireland 4-1 in Ryan Giggs’s first competitive match as manager.
Bale followed up his fine start to the season with Real Madrid by curling in a sensational strike from outside the box in the 18th minute of their League B encounter in Cardiff.
It was a 30th international goal for Bale, who is Wales’ all-time leading goalscorer.
Tom Lawrence had already given Wales the lead before that, and 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu set up Aaron Ramsey for the third goal before half-time.
Ireland’s 1-0 win in Cardiff last October had ended Wales’ World Cup dream, but Martin O’Neill’s side were dreadful this time.
Bale set up Connor Roberts for the hosts’ fourth after the break, before substitute Shaun Williams pulled a goal back for the Irish after robbing Ramsey of possession.
“We wanted to put in a performance in front of the fans and put out a statement,” Bale told Sky Sports.
Wales go to Denmark on Sunday, with the Danes expected to field a full-strength side in that game after sending out a team of lower-league and futsal players in a 3-0 friendly loss in Slovakia on Wednesday.
That was because leading stars including Christian Eriksen were absent due to a contract dispute over commercial rights.
Bale added: “The aim is to win every game we play. We know the format, we know it’s another way to qualify for the Euros, so we’ll be taking it seriously.”
Also in League B, Ukraine came from behind to win 2-1 in the Czech Republic with Oleksandr Zinchenko scoring the decisive goal in stoppage time.
In League C, Fulham’s Stefan Johansen scored twice as Norway beat Cyprus 2-0, and Bulgaria won 2-1 in Slovenia.
The first ever goal of the new Nations League was a stunner, scored by Giorgi Chakvetadze in distant Astana, as Georgia beat Kazakhstan 2-0 in Group 1 of League D.
In the same league, Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan had a penalty saved as his Armenia beat Liechtenstein 2-1.
Germany 0 France 0
Norway 2 Cyprus 0
Slovenia 1 Bulgaria 2
Kazakhstan 0 Georgia 2
Latvia 0 Andorra 0
Armenia 2 Liechtenstein 1
Gibraltar 0 Macedonia 2
Czech Republic 1 Ukraine 2
Wales 4 Republic of Ireland 1
Lithuania v Serbia
Romania v Montenegro
Azerbaijan v Kosovo
Faroe Islands v Malta
Italy v Poland
Turkey v Russia
Albania v Israel
Finland v Hungary
Estonia v Greece
Belarus v San Marino
Luxembourg v Moldova
Switzerland v Iceland
England v Spain
Northern Ireland v Bosnia-Herzegovina