It’s a long time since France and Germany clashed in any sort of meaningful encounter, so long in fact Les Bleus haven’t played a German side in any major tournament since they were West Germany, France were beaten 2-0 in the Mexican city of Guadalajara in the summer of 86 as the Germans went on to lose to Argentina in the final. This encounter was the first time the two countries had met since German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher had nearly decapitated French defender Patrick Battiston four years earlier, a man who exceeded Adolf Hitler as the most hated man in France according to a newspaper poll at the time. A footballing rivalry which was bubbling throughout the 80’s has almost been frozen in time, with French football reaching its peak at the turn of the millennium and German football plunging albeit briefly to the depths of despair in the intervening years.
As France were crowned World and European Champions in 1998 and 2000 Germany were experiencing one of their lowest ever periods, now often referred to as the dark days, highlights including losing 5-1 to the old enemy and Carsten Jancker. Crashing out of the World Cup in France to Croatia in the Quarter Finals and then failing to get past the group stage two years later German football was in need of some emergency surgery. They weren’t in the doldrums for long with the complete overhaul of their academy system in 2002 being the key to their revival, only a decade on and Germany now find themselves much fancied for the upcoming European Championships with one of the most exciting young teams in the world.
France have experienced a somewhat tumultuous time since those heady days, the all conquering young team which burned so bright feels a long time ago now with France having crashed out of the last two major tournaments at the group stage due to hapless mismanagement and open mutiny in the dressing room. Laurent Blanc looks to have steadied the ship since taking over from Domenech in 2010 with his team heading into tonight’s game in Bremen having not tasted defeat in 18 months. With both Karim Benzema and Loic Remy injured Blanc may hand Olivier Giroud a first start for his country after bagging 16 goals for Ligue 1 leaders Montpellier this season. Tottenham new boy Louis Saha has also been drafted in along with Marseille midfielder Morgan Amalfitano who could make his debut.
Joachim Low will be without a host of experienced internationals with Mertesacker, Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Podolski all missing through injury. Despite the absentees Low will field a strong if inexperienced team with Bayern left back Badstuber expected to partner Matts Hummels in the centre of defence. The chance to see Marco Reus on the international stage will be of most intrigue, with the Gladbach attacker expected to line up alongside Mesut Ozil and Leverkusen’s Andre Schurrle in attack. Miroslav Klose is likely to feature after enjoying a new lease of life in Serie A, the German striker is just five goals short of Gerd Muller’s all time record.
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