Dubai: In the end it was a cruel own goal that granted France victory over Germany last night but to be honest, the World Champions didn’t need to get out of second gear.
Germany looked toothless in attack and lacked any potency or movement while at the back they were a little suspect too.
This is not the kind of team we are used to seeing - even when they struggle, Germany have more often than not found a way to get over the line, but we didn’t see that typical never-say-die mentality yesterday. The high press was missing, there hardly any overlapping runs and the passing was haphazard.
Cannot play together
I think the problem can be pinpointed to the centre of midfield; Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan are both fabulous however it was obvious last night that they cannot play together there. England had the same problem with Lampard and Gerrard – two of the best midfielders in the game but unable to complement one another when paired together.
Coach Joachim Low may have thought the duo would help the team control the game but Pogba and Kante were all over them. It was a mismatch in the middle of the park and France exploited it by quickly dispossessing the Germans and hitting them on the counterattack.
Also, the 3-4-3 did not work – especially with the wingbacks having poor games – while the attackers, Kai Havertz, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry could have done more but they just couldn’t get in the game as France’s defense - excellently marshalled by the robust Rudiger - proved too strong.
Overflowing with talent
Even Germany’s passing was too slow and in general it looked a disjointed performance. But then credit must go to the tournament favourites, France. I initially thought that they might struggle because their squad is overflowing with talent and sometimes that can lead to complacency, but there wasn’t any evidence of that yesterday. But with all the attacking options available to coach Dideir Deschamps, he adopted a bit of a conservative approach.
Clearly he did not want to lose this game but in the end it was Hummels, recalled from international retirement, who put through his own net and that settled the tie.
Germany don't seem to have an identity right now, they seem a collection of very good players just thrown together and expected to gel. Low, who will step down as coach after the competition, will be frantically trying to figure out a way to salvage the situation.
It’s back to the drawing board for him but despite this opening game defeat, I still think they will make it to the last 16. It would take a brave man to write them off - even after this disappointing display.