Germany, France goalless draw shows UEFA Nations League's limitations
MUNICH -- Three thoughts on Germany and France's 0-0 draw in the UEFA Nations League.
1. Nations League makes uninspired bow
It might have been the heavyweight clash of UEFA's dreams to launch the inaugural Nations League competition, but as the rain poured down in Munich, Germany vs. France had all the edge of a friendly on a wet Thursday night.
On paper, this game had everything required to kick-start the European governing body's initiative to eradicate the scourge of meaningless friendlies from the international calendar.
It was the newly-crowned world champions against the previous winners, with Germany returning from a group stage exit in Russia determined to bounce back from humiliation. Stars such as Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos were facing each other and the Allianz Arena setting was spectacular.
However, it ended as a 0-0 draw on a night when the two sets of players high-fived at set pieces and shared jokes when the ball was out of the play. If it was supposed to be a competitive game, it did not really feel like it.
Less than two months after a World Cup, though, and with both sets of players searching for match fitness early in the new season, perhaps it was too much to expect either side to set off fireworks on the Nations League's opening night.
Moreover, the elite countries have begun to play each other so regularly that familiarity is breeding a kind of malaise whenever the chips aren't fully down. Put simply, there are too many games in the football calendar and this venture is merely replacing the friendlies that proved so unpopular.
2. Mbappe shows Pogba that he is France's star
Kylian Mbappe is a genuine world star following his World Cup heroics with France and the teenager once again showed his class in Munich.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward is simply electric when he has the ball at his feet, while his pace and movement when not in possession are also a joy to behold. In a team of star players, Mbappe is on a different level and France can look forward to a decade of success if he remains fit and healthy and continues to improve at such a startling rate.
This France side relies on many important figures, with N'Golo Kante crucial in midfield and Antoine Griezmann a perfect foil for Mbappe going forward. At the back. Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane are a world-class partnership made to look even better by full-backs Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez.
But what of Paul Pogba? Where does the Manchester United midfielder fit into Didier Deschamps' list of indispensable players.
Pogba was largely anonymous on Thursday and gave the ball away too often for his manager's liking. Just as he guilty of doing for his club, the 25-year-old drifted in and out of the game and appeared restricted by his deeper role alongside Kante.
He certainly did not perform as though he was a crucial cog and, when it comes to top billing, Pogba was miles behind Mbappe.
3. German display shows size of Low's task
Jerome Boateng was so poor at the World Cup that nobody would have been surprised had the tournament signalled the end of his international career. That it did not is perhaps a sign of the times for Germany.
Mesut Ozil's international retirement has claimed the headlines, largely due to the controversy surrounding his decision, while Sami Khedira and Jonas Hector have also faded from the scene, but beyond that, coach Joachim Low has remained loyal to those players who suffered group-stage humiliation in Russia.
Many would argue that this crop of Germany players deserve a shot at redemption, but while that cannot be denied, there was a worrying lack of new blood on show for the home side in this game.
If Low is planning for Euro 2020, only midfielder Leon Goretzka could be regarded as a face for the future, but the Bayern Munich youngster is hardly an international newcomer having starred at the Confederations Cup in 2017.
Leroy Sane, surprisingly overlooked for the World Cup squad, was named on the bench, with usual faces such as Boateng, Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller and Marco Reus among the starters.
And against a France team full of youthful exuberance and energy, the Germans looked workmanlike until a rally late in the second half brought the Allianz Arena to life and forced several fine saves from French goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
Make no mistake, Germany still have some great players, but there is a lack of young talent coming through to put them under pressure and make them perform.