France and Germany settle for goalless draw in Nations League opener
World champions France were held to a 0-0 draw by Germany in Munich in a flat start to the new UEFA Nations League on Thursday, with French goalkeeper Alphonse Areola denying the hosts a redemptive win after their fiasco in Russia.
The heavyweight showdown at the Allianz Arena between the last two winners of the World Cup looked like the perfect game to mark the opening night of the new international competition.
However, on a rainy night in Bavaria, the meeting of the last two world champions never really sparked into life, although the French were grateful to goalkeeper Alphonse Areola for a couple of fine saves in the second half.
Areola was starting in goal in place of the injured Hugo Lloris, winning his first cap in the only change made by France coach Dider Deschamps compared to the side that started the World Cup final win over Croatia in July.
The Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper intervened brilliantly to deny Marco Reus and keep out a Matthias Ginter header, while Antoine Griezmann's well-struck shot that was saved by Manuel Neuer was as close as France came.
"I know that we are getting greedy, but a draw in Germany is a good result," Deschamps told French television channel TF1.
'Earning back the credit we lost'
Germany could have hoped for an easier opponent with which to make a new start after their World Cup debacle in Russia, having failed to beat France in their previous meetings.
Joachim Loew's side looked unusually cautious at the start, but will take encouragement after dominating all but a short period of the game.
"We decided beforehand to keep a clean sheet whatever happened. It's about earning back the credit that we lost in the summer," said German striker Thomas Mueller.
The Netherlands are the other team in Group 1 of League A, and Ronald Koeman's team travel to Paris on Sunday, when the French will turn out at home for the first time since their glorious campaign in Russia.
The top sides in each of the four groups in League A will advance to a mini final tournament in June next year, with the overall Nations League title at stake before the Euro 2020 qualifiers begin.
Below the elite league, there is promotion and relegation and also a potential path to the European Championship for those who do not make it via the traditional qualifiers.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)